Hybrid working is here to stay: Why companies need to double down on tech innovation

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Hybrid working is here to stay: Why companies need to double down on tech innovation
We’ve come a long way since March 2020.
Photo by Steve Ding on Unsplash

Don't stop innovating.

According to recent numbers from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, over the next six months from March 2021, 47 per cent of Australians expect the amount of work from home to remain the same, while a further eight per cent see even more home office work in their future.

The sudden shift to remote working brought on by the pandemic caused many organisations to consider productivity implications, especially when it comes to the management of information and how employees interact with it. Overnight, businesses needed to rethink their entire work model to reduce complexity and simplify workflows to meet the demands of a rapid change in workstyle while maintaining (or even increasing) productivity levels.

While the pandemic served as a catalyst for broader and faster adoption of technological innovation, those organisations that had already embarked on their digital transformation journeys were able to adapt smoother and more efficiently to remote working. For example, using our own solutions, our employees were able to shift to remote working overnight with no disruption. We've since supported many organisations across the globe including ATCO Australia, Tata Power, NIH and TDK Micronas as they have moved their operations remote.

Despite some of us returning to the office, now is not the time for business leaders to take their foot off the innovation accelerator and allow things to return to how they were pre-pandemic.

Learning from the best

When the world went into lockdown in March 2020, food giant Nestle faced an Everest-sized challenge. It needed to upgrade its tech to handle 50,000 workers suddenly being at home. Sabine Roduit, senior vice president of IT at Nestle North America, said in a digital session at OpenText World Europe that doing that job would have taken 12 months pre-pandemic. Yet Roduit and her team managed it in four weeks.

Roduit said the pandemic forced Nestle to take calculated risks, and the company and its IT operation ended up being faster and better than anyone expected. As a result, uptake of remote working was massive, and Roduit sees newfound enthusiasm in the workers of Nestle’s sub-brands, creating what she describes as a “connected factory” of more than 350,000 employees.

Driving these digital transformation initiatives is a shift to the cloud. This means workloads are moved online, and staff can access data and their work from wherever they happen to be, whenever they want.

In Australia, this is reflected by a recent survey from PwC that found three-quarters of local workers say their ideal work environment is a mix of remote and in-person working. An additional 16 per cent said they would prefer a wholly remote environment where they can contribute from any location.

Dealing with the risks

The shift towards hybrid working, however, brings with it a litany of risks to both the individual and to the organisation.

For individuals, this can manifest itself as mental health challenges. Staff are working longer and harder, and it’s coming without the in-person benefits of breaks and socialisation. In fact, the PwC survey referred to earlier found only a quarter of staff were encouraged to take short breaks throughout the day, while just 21 per cent said their employers allowed them to take time to incorporate wellbeing initiatives into their daily activity.

Ben Harmer, PwC’s Future of Work lead, said when you can’t see someone face to face, it can be difficult to pick up on wellbeing cues, particularly with work from home, when the line between work and personal lives is blurred.

As such, we prioritised employee wellbeing through several initiatives, including programs to support physical and emotional wellbeing, health assistance where needed, and additional time off from work for rest and recovery. We also introduced volunteer days to encourage employees to get involved in CSR initiatives. The promotion of employees’ mental wellbeing continues to be adjusted throughout the new climate of hybrid working as we recognise the challenges workers face.

Undoubtably, organisations need to do more to ensure the mental wellbeing of their employees. But work from home has its corporate risks as well. For CIOs, the network is now borderless. Threats such as phishing are on the rise, and all it takes is one person to click on a malicious link for an entire network to be infected. This can take down entire companies and even supply chains.

This means that companies need to double down on educating their workforce about cyber threats and having regular training sessions designed to open people’s eyes to the ways that they can be taken advantage of by cyber crooks.

In the face of such threats and as the new work environment continues to evolve, now is not the time to take your foot off the accelerator. We’ve come a long way since March 2020, but to maintain competitive advantage, organisations need to continue their smart application of technology so they can respond and adapt much faster when the next disruption arrives.

Albert Nel is vice president APAC at OpenText.

Copyright © BIT (Business IT). All rights reserved.

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