How Should CIOs Handle A Hybrid Office?

CIOs need to find ways to allow the hybrid office to benefit workers
CIOs need to find ways to allow the hybrid office to benefit workers
Image Credit: International Monetary Fund

As all CIOs now realize: the world has changed. The Covid-19 pandemic changed everything for everyone. After having spent a year working from home, most companies have now once again opened their offices. However, not all of their workers have come back and in fact many of their workers don’t want to come back. This means that the office environment that we once knew where everyone clustered in a shared environment has now gone away forever. Say hello to the “hybrid environment”. How can CIOs make this new work environment work for everyone?

Dealing With Change In The Office

With the arrival of the hybrid workplace, your employee’s benefits are being put under the microscope. And many CIOs are realizing that the current crop of benefits may not make as much sense as they used to. A lot of CIOs are re-evaluating their benefits propositions. We need to understand that our employee’s values have shifted quite significantly because of the stressors of the pandemic and around childcare and other concerns, as well as just re-evaluating their life circumstances.

For many CIOs, this means expanding some benefits while making others less of a priority. In a survey 66% CIOs said they plan to offer more flexibility, with 63% planning to increase their child-care benefits and 41% planning to expand their senior-care offerings. At the same time, some benefits that were important in the pre-Covid days, including commuter benefits, on-site meals and on-site childcare, are starting to become less important. One lesson CIOs learned from the pandemic is that people often work best when they feel they have more control over their hours which can be tailored to their specific life needs at the moment. It’s best to focus on a worker’s output, rather than time that they spend working.

One result of all of this is that the notion of flexible time off – where there are no formal limits, and employees simply take time off when they feel they need it – is one policy that CIOs say has become more popular and will probably become even more so in the years ahead. According to a survey, the percentage of employers offering such “unlimited paid time off” to at least some employees rose to 20% this year from 14% five years ago. Traditional vacation policies assume that you earn it and then you use it on sort of a 9-to-5, Monday-through-Friday kind of basis. CIOs are now viewing this as being an outdated concept. A different approach is to use a much more fluid policy that’s trust based. This type of approach doesn’t put accrual limits and usage limits around it, and that acknowledges that work can happen at any time of the day.

Where Workers Are Is Changing

If the pandemic taught CIOs anything, it was that employees relish the opportunity to work for extended periods outside the office. The pandemic accelerated people’s focus on how they want to live their lives and how work can fit into their ideal life, and work from anywhere. Flexible work gives them more opportunity to do that. According to a survey of world-wide employees 71% said they feel their CIO should help cover home-office expenses while they are asked to work remotely, though only 44% of employees reported that their CIO covered home-office expenses for some or all employees.

Experts expect CIOs to offer employees more deals based on discounted rates companies negotiate with third-party vendors. Surveys have found that almost a quarter of all employers with 500 or more employees say they will add or expand such voluntary benefit offerings in this year. Two areas that were of particular importance to employees during the pandemic: pet insurance (for all those dogs and cats adopted during lockdown) and identity-theft protection. A recent study found that 47% of employers surveyed offered some form of pet insurance, with 69% saying they would offer it by the end of the year. The study found that 53% of employers currently offer identity-theft protection, with 78% planning to offer it by the end of the year.

Before the pandemic happened, many CIOs offered in-office catering, on-site gyms and other perks to attract and retain employees. In a hybrid context, CIOs are now exploring how to offer similar benefits for employees who are working remotely. This can be done in part through delivery and subscription and digital services. A survey found that 80% of CIOs were planning to increase perks this year. It further found that most CIOs suspended on-site perks, such as food, gyms, fitness classes and social events, and instead offered virtual perks, such as access to health and wellness apps and telehealth.

What All Of This Means For You

The office as we once knew it is probably gone forever. In its place is a new creation in which some of our workers will be coming into the office just like they always did while others will be working remotely. CIOs need to understand that this change has occurred, and we need to take steps to start to deal with it. How we will adjust to this new type of office environment is what we are all trying to figure out.

One of the biggest changes that the new hybrid office is causing has to do with employee benefits. Employee’s values have shifted, and this is requiring CIOs to emphasize some benefits while at the same time minimizing others. Workers like to have control over their time. This means that they want to have flexible time off. Since the pandemic, workers have discovered that they like having an opportunity to work outside of the office. Employees are looking to have their CIOs provide voluntary benefit offerings including pet insurance and identity-theft protection. In office services are no longer needed. Instead, workers now want delivery and subscription and digital services.

The most important outcome of the pandemic is that CIOs need to understand that change has occurred. Our office used to be where our workers would gather and collaborate. However, the pandemic changed all of that while it raged, and a lingering aftereffect is that workers don’t want to go back to the way that things were. CIOs need to take this into account, and we have to redesign how we interact with our workers as we adjust to the new hybrid office. The good news is that this can be done, we just have to take the time to do it.

– Dr. Jim Anderson Blue Elephant Consulting –
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Question For You: Do you think that having one day a week that everyone comes to work would be a good idea?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

CIOs need to understand that in order to be successful in communicating the importance of information technology, they need to work with others. The people that they need to work with may not work for their company, and in fact they may not be in the same country as the CIO. We need to have the ability to reach out and connect with others who understand what we are trying to do and can provide us with the contacts and resources that we need. The big question for the person with the CIO job is how to get in touch with these people? It turns out that the answer might be right before us: social media.