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Strategic CIO
Commentary

How CIOs Can Best Prepare for the Future of (Hybrid) Work

With modern employees seeking out hybrid and flexible job options, how can CIOs help both their businesses and employees thrive?

It’s been over a year and a half since the pandemic forced organizations to send employees home. While some have since allowed workers to re-enter the office (albeit in a limited capacity) many still are teetering back and forth on the “return to work” scale, unsure of their next move.

CIOs, too, are wrestling with developing new models of work to meet business needs and employee desires. The phrase “future of work” has become synonymous with “hybrid work,” where flexible office settings are non-negotiable for the modern employee.

With 65% of employees looking for a new job, and 88% of executives citing a higher turnover than normal, it is critical for CIOs to adjust their working models to compete for talent in the new, hybrid work normal. However, as they make these adjustments to attract and retain talent, they must consider challenges that lie ahead, the tech worth investing in, and how they can reinvent their current working models.

Understanding the Challenges Ahead

Leaders need to come to terms with the fact that the future of work is now a hybrid working model that comes along with its own set of challenges. One of the biggest obstacles CIOs must consider while developing hybrid strategies is ensuring security across remote offices and employees.

Remote work has expanded an already growing attack surface where employees using a mix of personal and business-owned devices leave them more susceptible to threats. It also opens the potential for compliance and data privacy concerns as the lines between home and office blur.

It is, therefore, unsurprising that, PwC’s Next in Work survey reports that CIOs and CTOs rank data privacy, cybersecurity, and compliance concerns at the top of the list of technology challenges they face with the hybrid model (43% see it as the biggest challenge they face). This means securing the new workplace is a critical component in prepping for the future of work.

The recent slew of tech investments has unveiled another challenge: upskilling employees on how to use them. While CIOs pushed for increased tech adoption to streamline operations for remote workers, they didn’t necessarily consider the next step -- investing in employee education. This also plays into cybersecurity, one of the most needed skills in the midst of the tech talent shortage. As CIOs invest in new technologies and begin implementing upskilling programs to prepare for continued, and more permanent, hybrid working, they must also prioritize filling cybersecurity positions to ensure effective threat prevention and risk mitigation.

The Tools Worth Investing In

Never before has there been such an abundance of tech choices for CIOs to make to prepare their workforce. This explains why executives are mixed on what will provide the most value.

There are a few top contenders when it comes to the technology CIOs should consider. Leveraging AI can help inform better organizational decision-making and more automated operations. It also enhances collaboration and communications among employees working on-site and those working remotely. In fact, more than one-third of CIOs see AI as crucial for the future of hybrid work.

Investing in cloud tech is also valuable for organizations as they consider new approaches to the future of work. Building a cloud-centric environment with apps and platforms that provide flexibility and scalability are critical in supporting a growing digital business, especially ones working in a hybrid or fully remote capacity.

Yet prior to making any investment, it’s vital for CIOs to remember that it’s not about any particular technology, but more so about how it aligns with the business objectives of the organization. The tools CIOs choose to invest in to better their hybrid working models need to support overall business goals in order to drive growth and support employees.

Reinventing Current Working Models

As we enter this next phase of work, CIOs must adapt their current working models, while also thinking about how they can continue to reinvent them.

Many executives have already started this reinvention cycle. Due to concerns over the pre-pandemic skills gap and an increase in resignations, almost half of CIOs plan to make their organization less dependent on employee institutional knowledge. By implementing automation tools, organizations are freeing employees to shift their focus from time-consuming rote tasks to more strategic activities.

Additionally, more than a third of CIOs and CTOs are planning a major redefinition of their operating model, including roles and team alignment in order to meet the needs of remote work.

While some companies are reconsidering their reopening plans as a result of the surge in COVID-19 cases, these tech adoption strategies must take into account the workforce’s growing embrace of remote opportunities. As CIOs re-examine their return plans and navigate uncertainty, they’ll need to revamp their current working models with consideration to the tech that will best enable the success of their workforces.