How Southeast Asian CIOs are embracing the hybrid workplace and hybrid workforce

Remote work was just one part of the new approach to digitalisation that the pandemic has boosted across the region.

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The COVID-19 pandemic has had twin effects on the workforce globally: One, it has accelerated the transition to remote working and the hybrid workplace. Two, it has catalysed the faster adoption of a hybrid (human plus digital) workforce.

“At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, enterprises in Southeast Asia were scrambling to ensure business continuity while implementing work-at-home policies,” said Sherrel Roche, an Asia-Pacific IT analyst at Frost & Sullivan. “This was more pronounced in the Philippines, Indonesia, and Thailand. Enterprises were under immense pressure to provide efficient customer services during the pandemic while simultaneously exploring digital solutions. Enterprises were overwhelmed as their day-to-day operations were disrupted and their business-continuity plans were tested.”

“We are looking at a prolonged period of hybrid working—from home and office in different proportions,” said Indranil Roy, executive director of the Human Capital practice at Deloitte Consulting.

Some companies adapted quickly, such as Singapore’s DBS Bank. When the pandemic started, because of their early adoption of the cloud- and mobility-first strategy, the bank’s employees were able to immediately transition to home-based working arrangements with no productivity loss. Likewise, AcePLP, a Singapore engineering consultancy, shifted from its traditional face-to-face courses to an online learning platform to enhance the skills of its employees. “Remote working is reshaping the future of learning; it forces technology-averse executives and employees to adapt and equip with digital workflows and skills,” said Ivan Tang, operations manager at AcePLP.

But the hybrid workplace is just part of the shift under way. The hybrid workforce is also emerging, combining digitally savvy people and automation systems such as chatbots and robotic process automation augmented with artificial intelligence that do work people used to do, as well as new kinds of work. The hybrid workforce will be found in all realms of business, said Sneha Kapoor, an Asia-Pacific research manager at analyst firm IDC Financial Insights.

“Intelligent automation is capable of augmenting and automating work while building opportunities to achieve new value within organizations. Front-office automation will accelerate further,” she said. “We are also seeing increasing adoption of shiny new features, such as process mining, process discovery, digital assistants, and bot resilience and health.”

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