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Covid-19 And The Future Of Work: A CIO’s Insights

Meerah Rajavel is CIO at Citrix and drives IT transformation and employee experience by delivering solutions that power a better way to work

Covid-19 has upended the way we live and work and has tested us all in ways we never could have imagined. Personally, I’m tired of being isolated from my family and friends and being unable to travel. Professionally, I miss being able to engage in person with my team and colleagues. However, within every challenge lies opportunity. As I look back on the past year, a few things are clear:

• Hybrid work is the future of work. Far from a pandemic play, remote work is here to stay. According to a recent survey we conducted with OnePoll, 52% of 7,250 employees in 12 countries “want a hybrid model where they can choose to work remotely or from the office each day,” and IT must support it.

• Employee experience has never mattered more. The technology that IT gave employees to enable remote work when the pandemic hit has done its job. People were able to safely and securely connect to the resources they needed to get work done. However, technology has increasingly been distracting them from their core work and can add to the frustration and anxiety the pandemic has brought about.

According to research from Deloitte, “the average number of systems workers must access as part of their day-to-day jobs has recently risen from eight to 11, and 27% of workers estimate they lose up to an entire day every week on irrelevant emails and messages.”

If they hope to attract and retain the people they need to fuel innovation and business growth, IT must remove the noise from work and give employees the tools that empower them rather than frustrate them.

• IT can’t go it alone. Hybrid work is a huge change that requires thinking and operating in completely different ways, and successfully enabling it takes more than just flipping the switch on technologies. Culture plays a huge role in adoption, and to drive it, IT must collaborate closely with HR to understand what employees really want and need to get work done — wherever it needs to get done. Rather than adapting work to the way systems function, IT needs to walk in the user’s shoes and adapt systems to the way employees work.

• It’s no longer about managing the work experience but the life experience. We’re all managing the challenges of the pandemic in different ways, but having a healthy work-life balance becomes more difficult if you don’t have the separation of going to a physical office each day. In a survey conducted by the Conference Board in September 2020, 46% of respondents indicated their work-life balance has decreased — and as the Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends study found, they want to bring it back in check. Gartner, Inc. found that U.S. employees value work-life balance more than health benefits.

We all know that taking care of ourselves can help us be more productive, creative and inspired at work. If left to our own devices, however, most of us won’t. Business leaders can help by taking a proactive approach to employee wellness that covers three critical bases:

1. Technology: Our interactions with technology have a profound impact on our well-being. If there are too many applications and systems required to get work done that are complicated to navigate, we can become frustrated and anxious — which drops our productivity. However, if things are intuitive and easy to use, we can focus on our work and achieve our goals. IT must always keep this in mind when designing environments and leverage solutions that remove the noise from work.

Digital workspaces can be used to organize, guide and automate work so employees can focus on innovating and creating value rather than managing technology. Equally important, they can be used to make well-being a part of the workday. Think of it like your car that asks you after you’ve been driving for a while if you’d like to pull off the road and grab a cup of coffee or stretch your legs. Your workspace might ask you if you need to take a walk or meditate.

2. Company policies: Sometimes, you need to lead a horse to water and make it drink. When it comes to taking time off, some employees today might need a little prodding. In light of the pandemic and the restrictions it has forced on everything from dining out to vacationing, many employees have given up on PTO. However, even if they can’t physically get away, they need to mentally shut down, and company policies can go a long way toward helping them do it.

Designating a week of companywide PTO is a great example. Specifying days where internal meetings are banned so that people can focus on work that matters can also be effective. Leaders need to lead by example and resist the temptation to be always on — and they need to encourage their teams to do the same.

3. Benefits: Traditionally, benefits have focused on physical health. However, the pandemic has sparked a whole new set of challenges, and companies need to rethink their benefits programs to address them. At the end of the day, employees are looking to their companies to manage their life experience, not just their work experience. If they want them to be and do their best, they must provide access to more holistic services that help them manage their lives — such as concierge services they can tap into to find child and adult care, legal and financial services, relocation assistance, return to work planning and even life coaching.

There are many changes the pandemic has sparked that I can’t wait to see disappear, but these trends have made my team and me stronger. I will continue to embrace them to unlock opportunities to move my organization — and the business we support — forward.

What do you think?

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