Hybrid Working Models to Define Business Strategy After Pandemic Disruption

After an unpredictable year, business leaders are eager to return to some semblance of normality. But what will that look like? The pandemic has changed the face of work, and hybrid working models are now the strategic focus of many business leaders, a recent CEO.digital investigation discovered…

Forward-thinking business leaders are increasingly looking to transform their companies into an Anywhere Operation, according to a new survey and investigation conducted by CEO.digital. Almost 60% of our respondents claimed Anywhere Operations was a top strategic priority for 2021.

Facebook, Dropbox, Slack, Twitter – many digital-native organisations have already committed to allowing employees to work from home in the future. Just this month, Spotify also announced it would allow its staff to work from anywhere, permanently.

But what we’re starting to see now is a wider appreciation among more traditional organisations of the changing face of work. For instance, in January 2021, Alan Jope, CEO of consumer goods group Unilever, confirmed that his office workers would never return to their desks full-time.

To learn more about changing attitudes to remote working, we interviewed a cross-industry selection of C-Suite thought leaders and uncovered five strategic areas of focus for the next 12 months. All of them geared towards establishing a hybrid work model that blends the benefits of office- and remote-based working to fuel growth and recovery as vaccine programs continue to roll out.

In our new report, we looked at the five strategic areas business leaders are currently assessing as they move to a truly Anywhere Operation: Workspaces; Culture; Cloud; Experience; and Cybersecurity.

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Workspaces: Striking the Right Blend of Office and Home Working

Offices the world over have sat mostly empty for the better part of a year now. But at some point in the not-too-distant future, these offices will open again and we’ll see some kind of return. Business leaders are keen to get people in the same building once more, having missed things like the watercooler talk that many believe leads to innovation.

But the era of mass remote working has arrived, and there’s no way to turn the clock back to the days of office-based working full time. Instead, there will be a mixture of the two. During our interviews, we looked at what hybrid working models may look like and how business leaders will balance the benefits of each type of working to make the most of both.

Insights included the role building analytics may play in optimising the office space so that when employees do come into the office, they’re at their most productive. We also looked at how business leaders can ensure remote employees don’t suffer a negative experience simply because they aren’t in the physical office space for a meeting.

The Anywhere Office of Tomorrow

We surveyed a global database of C-Suite leaders to learn about their priorities for the coming year. Following the survey, we interviewed a cross-section of business leaders to learn more about their strategic priorities – and the findings are available now!

You can view the full report, focusing on the five strategic areas defining the creation of hybrid working models right here, at CEO.digital.

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Culture: Building a Cohesive Corporate Identity with a Distributed Workforce

The office has always been at the heart of corporate culture, but in the past year businesses have had to adapt – and fast. But the advantage of having most or all of the team working remotely is that everyone was in the same boat. That makes it easier to streamline the cultural bonds between your workers. Even still, building a strong corporate culture and identity is difficult when you don’t share the same physical space.

As we move toward hybrid working models, how can business leaders establish an inclusive corporate culture and management approach that connects teams together, fosters innovation, and boosts productivity? The challenge is to ensure that a divide doesn’t form between primarily office-based and primarily remote-based workers. Our interviewees had a lot to say on this topic.

But they were also keen to highlight a positive outcome from the shift to remote working. Namely, that cultural resistance within the company to digital transformation has now been firmly swept aside. Going forwards, we’re likely to see more companies embrace digital technologies and methodologies to accelerate growth and aid productivity. As we do that, it’s up to business leaders to ensure everybody receives the training and input they need to make the most of new solutions.

For more on the impact of hybrid working on corporate culture, read our full report on the Anywhere Office of Tomorrow now.

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Cultural resistance to digital transformation within the company has now been firmly swept aside. Going forwards, we’re going to see more companies embrace digital tech. It’s up to business leaders to ensure everyone has the training they need to thrive.

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Cloud: With Office Working Reduced, Are On-Prem Data Centres Still Valid?

Pre-pandemic, one of the biggest debates among tech leaders was whether to embrace public or private cloud. Each had their benefits, but the business case for building on-premises infrastructure was easier to make when everyone was in the office five days a week.

That’s no longer the case. In the future, hybrid working models will mean that there are far fewer employees in the office on any given day. The result will be an office space that is too big for the workforce that is using it daily. In other words, businesses will pay rent for real estate they’re simply not using. Using the office as a storage facility for on-premises private cloud plus an infrequently used meeting room or two isn’t sustainable.

As a result, public cloud is becoming increasingly attractive. Combine that with the fact that distributed workforces could be connecting to company systems from anywhere, and it’s apparent there needs to be a rethink.

Not only that, but the pandemic has necessitated greater innovation among organisations. To stay competitive, to scale and to innovate, business leaders must turn to powerful, cost-effective public cloud solutions wherever they can. Our thought leaders weighed in on the issue for our report.

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Experience: More Digital Requires Better Experiences

Digital channels are no longer a rising star when it comes to how the world does business. For many people, they are now the only show in town. But the rapid shift toward digital channels, a lack of planning and too much reactionary behaviour (rightly so at the time, though unsustainable in the long run) has come at a cost: Poor experiences.

For some organisations, the onus at the start of the pandemic was on ensuring operations could continue as much as possible. It meant deploying new solutions, sometimes without properly designing or vetting them. These issues must be addressed – now.

Retailers and B2C services are at greater risk. Consumer habits have changed, with preferences for digital channels having accelerated and deepened following lockdowns, perhaps irreversibly. Of course, physical stores won’t disappear entirely. But to fuel recovery, they will need to create positive experiences that connect how customers interact with the brand in store and online. Communication is key, but so is designing digital products users want to use.

Likewise, business leaders will have to give more emphasis to the employee experience. Is the experience, connecting to and working within the digital channel as productive or more so than in the physical space?

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Cybersecurity: What to Do Now the Attack Surface Has Grown

Finally, we also investigated the ways that cybersecurity is evolving in the coming year as more businesses shift to an Anywhere Operation. The issue here is this: there are now more touchpoints within an organisation’s digital infrastructure than ever before. Workforces are connecting to systems from anywhere, and this is only set to continue. A truly Anywhere Operation could see people connecting to the system from unsecure networks. Organisations must ensure their security systems are ready to cope.

But it’s through cybersecurity training and awareness that the biggest battle to secure the organisation will be fought. During the pandemic, social engineering attacks skyrocketed, with malicious agents exploiting people’s loneliness to compromise accounts, steal funds, and more.

And it’s not just the general public, employees and organisations that are at risk. Even healthcare providers have been victim to cyber-attacks. There is no line fraudsters won’t cross. It’s up to the CISOs and IT leaders of the world to protect enterprise infrastructure, educate employees and resecure the company, ready for hybrid working models.

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Read the Full Anywhere Ops Report Now

Our full report, The Anywhere Office of Tomorrow, is available now! You can view the insights gathered from a cross-section of C-Suite thought leaders for free here.

If you like the report, remember to share it with your network. Be the first to get new insights for and from the C-Suite by subscribing to CEO.digital. And if you’d like to take part in future investigations, reach out to us to discuss opportunities.

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