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Are We Ready for the Future of Work? Inside Our Roundtable Discussion

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The changes brought on by the pandemic have forced business leaders to rethink what’s considered “the office” and what’s considered office hours. I know I’m not alone when I admit we’re all still figuring it out.

Microsoft is calling it the Hybrid Paradox–where employees want flexibility and office interaction. They want it all and we’re trying to figure out the best way to deliver it–for our employees, customers, and our business!

We’re all still learning how to approach this new workplace reality, so it was great to sit down with a few Intel partners to discuss what they’re experiencing and how they’re adapting to the realities of a hybrid workplace.

Here’s a sneak peek into our candid conversation and some of my observations.

There’s No Magic Bullet

As we started our conversation, I realized how diverse strategies for the workplace of the future are. Some companies are offering flexibility in terms of where people work, while others are allowing flexibility as to when people work. One company talked with us about a plan to reframe the traditional definition of “nine to five” and is testing a four-day work week that didn’t require extra hours to earn a day off.

Everyone said they’re surveying employees to help frame their approach. Intel’s employee survey found 90% want a hybrid option. I am definitely all about hybrid, but no one wants to come into the office to sit on a video call for eight hours. The days when people are in the office, they want to be whiteboarding or having collaborative meetings.

Security on My Mind

Across the board, there is recognition that remote and hybrid work is increasing security risks. Gagan Singh, HP’s Vice President, Commercial Portfolio Product Management & Experiences says where we used to depend on corporate firewalls for protection, “the endpoint you are using is the first line of defense for threats coming in.”

HP’s security whitepaper Blurred Lines and Blindspots found that people aren’t as vigilant when they’re outside the office. “They are turning into friendly foes. They are inside the corporate network but they are opening things that allow other people to get in,” Singh says.

This finding is echoed by Dell in its C-suite research, which also highlighted the important role of hardware-based security to protect endpoints.

Investing in Good UX

“I’ve always felt (that) for companies to deliver a good customer experience, they have to deliver a great employee experience,” says Dilip Bhatia, Chief Customer Experience Officer at Lenovo. “It’s heartening to see almost a quarter of budgets in two years is going to be spent on employee experience. What we find is, employee satisfaction with technology as Stephanie mentioned, has the biggest impact on positive employee experience.”

“When IT embraces going digital and hybrid workspaces, we will naturally, not only see employee retention and employee happiness, but we will also see an increase in productivity which helps the bottom line,” adds Meghana Patwardhan, Vice President, Dell Latitude and Mobility Products, Dell Technologies. “Investing in technology that will enable hybrid work use cases is not just a good business decision - it is the right thing to do.”

Crossing the Chasm

When it comes to knowing what employees really want, Bhatia from Lenovo says there can be a disconnect between employees and IT decision makers (ITDMs).

“Sometimes there’s a chasm. They are not aligned with the technology that enables a positive experience,” he says. “You would be surprised how many times I talk to procurement managers and IT decision makers and I ask them, ‘do your employees like their PCs? ‘Do they like their technology?’ ‘How satisfied are they?’ A lot of them look blankly and say we really don’t know.”

“We need ITDMs to be aware and involved in knowing about the technology choices, knowing about the pain points and then mirror or matching them all together,” says Singh.

Patwardhan adds “IT leaders need to apply that more consultative approach and have conversations with our customers around what is not just the right technology, but the right implementation method as well.”

It’s All About People

“There is no one size fits all,” says Bhatia from Lenovo. “Each team member will be different. This is uncharted territory and I think each manager has to step in and do what’s right for their team.”

That’s perhaps what makes this future of work so challenging. I’ve heard it called the biggest change since the 9-5 workday, and this kind of a shift requires new leaders and new paradigms.

One thing that came through clearly during our conversation: Everyone is still figuring it all out. We don’t have all the answers but we are all open to trying new things and learning from the experiences of others.

And, just like IT leaders have done continually over the course of the pandemic, we’re continuing to pivot and evolve our approaches so we can enjoy (and deliver to our employees) the best of all worlds. It’s a world I am excited to be part of.


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About the Author
Stephanie Hallford is vice president in the Client Computing Group and general manager of Business Client Platforms at Intel Corporation.