CIOs need to understand that things have changed. The workplace has undergone a once-in-a-lifetime change and now the number of workers who are working from home has skyrocketed. What the person with the CIO job needs to understand is that many of those workers aren’t going back anytime soon. A survey of corporate leaders found that in the future, 82% plan to allow remote working at least some of the time; 47% said they intend to allow full-time remote work going forward. A recent survey of managers yielded the same result: 82% said they will have more flexible work-from-home policies after the pandemic. CIOs need to quickly learn lessons about the varied necessities of remote work, from appropriate tools to new styles of management. Here are five rules that every CIO needs to adopt.
Rule #1: Find ways to use new tech options
As more and more workers start to work from home, the person in the CIO position is faced with the challenge on how best to make sure that they have the tools that they will need in order to perform their jobs. When workers first started to work from home there was an uptick in consumer spending on laptops and related work-from-home gear. However, the overall sales forecast for laptops is gloomy. Despite that immediate post-pandemic bump in spending, sales are going to be dead for the rest of the year. The reason is because whatever people bought for their home offices doesn’t make up for what businesses didn’t buy, amid huge drops in demand in many industries, from airlines and hospitality to heavy industry, manufacturing and retail.
The good news is that CIOs have additional options to deliver the importance of information technology to the company. CIOs can opt for a previously obscure subset of the cloud computing market: “desktop as a service.” This technology means employers can give their workers whatever laptops are on hand, then have them connect to a more powerful remote computer to run necessary software. Microsoft Corp., Citrix Systems Inc. and Amazon.com Inc.’s Amazon Web Services all offer desktop as a service.
Rule #2: Remember that people crave contact
CIOs need to keep in mind that when workers switch from working in an office to working at home, they all need different sets of tools. CIOs may not immediately know what those tools should be, or how to stitch them into workflows. An example of these types of workers is pair programming where coders sit together at a single computer to bring more intellectual firepower to challenging problems.
Although many remote communication tools were in wide adoption before the pandemic, purpose-built hardware to facilitate this style of work is fairly new. Once workers have found their individual work-from-home rhythms, managing them requires different sorts of communication. Workers are discovering that over-communicating is important when everyone is remote, because online communication only conveys a fraction of what people pick up in person.
Rule #3: What a workday is will be changing
CIOs so far have not seen any drop in productivity during this period in mass work from home. This makes sense when you consider that one benefit of skipping the daily commute is that those drive-time hours are now more available for calls and meetings. The nature of meetings has also changed, since they’re now happening on software like Zoom, Slack and Microsoft Teams, which saw daily active users rise from 32 million to 75 million. Data from within these services provides a unique view of how work is changing.
Microsoft Teams saw a 15% to 23% increase in usage between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. A similar rise occurred between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. The number of chats happening on weekends increased more than 200%.
Rule #4: To attract new talent, CIOs might need some new perks
Some CIOs are spending big to equip workers stuck at home, especially knowledge workers. If needed, CIOs can equip newly homebound workers with an ergonomic chair and desk, microphone, laptop and second monitor. The goal is retain employees and keep them as productive as possible. If CIOs see a need, they can opt for sending each employee their own coffee machine and coffee-bean subscription.
Rule #5: Attempt to take it slow
With the surge in working from home, CIOs need to realize that things have changed. Almost overnight, work morphed from a place people go to a thing people do. The mobile and cloud-based technologies that made our jobs bleed into our nights and weekends also eased the transition to full-time work from home. CIOs have to realize that for many, the shift has been too abrupt.
Many CIOs may be moving quickly to adopt individual technologies, without considering the interdependencies between employees, managers and those tools. Companies will probably have to pivot their workforce system a few times before they get it right. As states and countries reopen for business, most companies are settling into a hybrid mode of work, where at least some people come to the office some of the time. CIOs have to understand that this is even harder to manage, because employers have to figure out how everyone can communicate at the same level, whether they’re home or at the office.
What All Of This Means For You
CIOs understand that the world has changed. Evidence that hybrid work is a new norm can be seen in the use of conference-room videoconferencing systems that had been abandoned during the early stages of the pandemic. Microsoft says it sees workers using them again, indicating that people are back in the office, communicating not just with other offices but also, presumably, with colleagues who remain at home.
The mass shift to remote office work presents opportunities for CIOs to incorporate innovation and rethinking the nature of work the likes of which we haven’t seen in a generation. But this terrifically big impact on productivity and work-life balance is one that companies will be untangling for decades to come. It’s the responsibility of the CIO to find way to make sure that all of the workers who have started to work from home remain both productive and connected with the rest of the company.
Question For You: How can CIOs stay on top of work from home productivity?
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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time
As the person with the CIO job, one of the things that takes up a lot of your time is trying to keep the company’s valuable data and knowledge safe because you understand the importance of information technology. You try lots of different ways to make this happen: you install firewalls, you require everyone to change their passwords every 90 days, and you make sure that everyone has been trained about the dangers of phishing. However, in the end, it just might turn out that your greatest threat doesn’t come from the outside. Rather, the people who work for your company might be the ones that you have to guard against.