The pandemic has led to one of the biggest reshufflings in the concept of ‘work’. Today, a workplace is no longer just a physical location, a workforce is no longer just a group of people operating at the same time and space. The defining trait of this new world of work is that there is no single standard or blueprint for operating.
The pandemic affected each of us differently. Therefore, every organisation and every individual will need to create their own unique road map as we move forward. This diversity of experiences and perspectives is best summed up by what we call the ‘hybrid work paradox’. Microsoft’s Work Trend Index survey, which reveals insights, challenges, and motivations that will shape the future of work, found that nearly 74 per cent of employees in India want more flexible, remote work options, while at the same time, 73 per cent of them are also craving more in-person time with their teams. In summary, more than half the workforce wants to work from anywhere with physical connect at the same time. This necessitates organisations and individuals to redesign and refresh their work contracts with each other.
The data is clear: extreme flexibility and hybrid work will define the post-pandemic workplace. The narrative on “the great resignation” is just one aspect of this broader change. For organisations to take a broader and longer-term direction they should think of this change as “the great reshuffle” and the early movers and broader thinkers will have the opportunity to shape and manage it to their advantage. Organisations will need to empower employees with the flexibility to work when and where they want, with the tools they need to equally contribute. Hybrid work will require a completely new operating model, spanning people, places, and processes. And technology will be critical to power this changed world, enabling flexibility, inclusion, and wellbeing for everyone.
Empower people: Among the biggest shifts the pandemic accelerated that will shape the future of work is the deep focus on flexibility, wellbeing, and effective collaboration between remote and physical workers. Digital overload is real and rising. Our Work Trend Index data shows that more than half (57 per cent) of Indian employees feel overworked and 32 per cent feel exhausted. We need tools that not only keep us ‘always on’ but that help us pause when needed and prioritise our health and wellbeing. Data and analytics are powerful tools for organisations to understand the needs of employees in a hybrid world and enhance employee experience.
Technology is also a key enabler of inclusion for everyone in the hybrid workplace, including people with disabilities. For example, turning on captions in Microsoft Teams enables not just deaf users, but everyone to participate more effectively. Or as simple a feature as recording meetings can help users not in the room come back to it at a time that works for them and even search to find out if their name was mentioned so that they can pick up any actions due for them. The world around us is changing fast and technology is helping everyone participate equally.
Redesign workplaces: Creating equitable, inclusive experiences starts with designing for people not in the room. Every organisation will need a new digital fabric for collaboration that brings together both digital and physical spaces and empowers everyone to participate, whether they are in the office, at home or on a factory floor. Culture will be a key determinant of success in a hybrid world. Building culture at a time when half of the people are working from anywhere and the other half are at the office is no small challenge. Organisations will need to find new and unique ways to keep employees connected and engaged to sustain culture across the organisation. Technology will play a major role in creating this unified hybrid experience, enabling secure and accessible collaboration for all. Technologies like AR, VR and mixed reality are enabling organisations to create a ‘real’ experience of being together for employees across different geographical locations. The use cases of immersive tech in hiring and onboarding experiences have immense potential.
Rethink processes: Every business process will be impacted by the move to hybrid, and every business function will need to transform with technology at the core. In the era of hyper-connected businesses, data and AI are powering the next level of real-time insights that will be crucial for transforming the hybrid workplace experience. Data-driven employee experiences will be key to moving from merely adapting to thriving at hybrid work and creating a truly inclusive workplace. One area of paramount importance is security. Today entry points for attacks— identities, devices, apps, networks, infrastructure, and data—live outside the protections of traditional perimeters. The modern digital estate is distributed, diverse, and complex leading to an exponential increase in attacks. Data from CERTIn finds that cyberattacks in India rose by almost 300 per cent in 2020 as compared to 2019. As corporate networks are suddenly without firm borders, there needs to be a change in our approach to security. Embracing a Zero Trust architecture is now more important than ever. Organisations need end-to-end security tools to build cyber resilience and protect their workforce and data.
We are already in the midst of a monumental transition in the way we work. It will require organisations to create a completely different playbook in the way they look at collaboration, productivity, inclusion, and learning. This will shape the future of work and the great reshuffle is the path to get there. Technology in this world will play an even more fundamental role to empower every person and every organisation on the planet to achieve more.
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