by Jen Busch.

Once seen as having a supporting operational role, CIOs have now moved center stage in shaping the future workplace. The pandemic has undoubtedly put CIOs, and IT teams firmly in the limelight as they help businesses navigate the crisis.

It’s been a crazy few months for CIOs. From supporting business continuity to facilitating the move to remote working, CIOs have been very busy. And the pressure is unlikely to ease up for IT leaders any time soon. Businesses that have survived the remote work experiment are now looking to the future. And it’s clear that technology has a critical role to play in the next normal.

In the next part of our blog series on the future of work, we look at how CIOs are shaping the post-Covid digital workplace.

Remote working and the digital workplace

Many CIOs have described the initial weeks of the Covid crisis as the biggest challenge of their careers. Most businesses were already moving towards cloud migration and more agile technology. But the sheer speed and scale of the transformation in how we work unleashed by Covid has been unprecedented.

However, CIOs quickly rose to the challenge.

CIOs and their IT teams ensured businesses continued to operate. They supplied employees with the software and hardware tools to support remote working. And they resolved issues and supported staff unfamiliar with the new communication and collaboration tools.

They responded to new cybersecurity threats. And they swiftly dealt with many issues, including problems with VPN bandwidth and poor internet connections.

This experience has cemented the pivotal role CIOs have to play in shaping the future of work within their organizations.

A recent survey from the tech giant, Cisco Systems, confirms this. Of the 300 CIOs surveyed, 88% believe that their role has expanded to have a greater impact across the organization. Now the focus of CIOs has changed from being reactive to proactively planning for the next normal.

So, what lessons have been learned? And how can IT leaders prepare for the future?

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52% would stay at homeDistributed teams and the digital workplace

It’s already clear that there will be no return to business as usual. The future workplace is likely to look very different post-Covid.

Workvivo’s recent employee pulse survey has confirmed the findings of similar research. The bottom line is that employees have enjoyed working from home and want it to continue.

Less time spent commuting and more time to enjoy with family or other interests has created a sea change in attitudes. In our survey, 52% said they want to continue working remotely permanently, while 36% want a mix of home and office working. 

McKinsey & Company are calling this new way of working the “hybrid virtual model.” Some employees will be working on-premises, while others work from home in distributed teams.

The office will no longer be the only workplace solution. And this presents challenges as well as opportunities for CIOs and the wider organization.

Digital tools for an agile workforce

If the Covid crisis has taught us anything, then it’s this: agility and flexibility are what’s required in today’s rapidly-changing world. Those businesses that have thrived during Covid are those that adapted quickly. And they also had the tools and systems already in place to support home working.

CIOs now need to plan and prepare for the hybrid model of working that is the next normal. And they have to do so against the backdrop of a global economic crisis that will see business costs – including IT – under greater scrutiny.

So, what digital tools do you need to support the agile workforce of the future?  And what platforms will deliver the required ROI?

Employee communications platforms:
Communication is at the heart of every successful business. Digital platforms came into their own during the pandemic. And they will be even more important in the hybrid model of distributed teams.

Online communications platforms provide all employees with a level playing field. Regardless of whether they are office or home-based, in a non-desk role or freelancing, every worker can connect, share, and engage.

Furthermore, employee communications apps encourage multi-directional communication – up, down, and across the organization. And they can also support those casual, water cooler conversations that are a lifeline to home workers. 

Located in the cloud, employee communications platforms provide the 24/7 access necessary for distributed teams. And they will also deliver ROI.

Single-sign-on, gateway access:
Some companies saw an explosion in do-it-yourself tech solutions during the lockdown. The speed of change meant that different teams went ahead and implemented software in response to pain points. The result? A messy proliferation of incompatible apps and platforms without central oversight or management.

Unapproved and unsupported apps are not only a cybersecurity issue; they can also be a budgetary problem. Licensing costs can very quickly add up.

CIOs should look to implement digital communications platforms that provide gateway access to all the organization’s enterprise systems. Whether it’s Zoom, Jira, Salesforce, or MS Office, single sign-on saves time, increases productivity, and supports employee adoption.

Integrated solutions:
Simplifying the digital landscape is a must for both employers and employees, especially within hybrid virtual teams.  Multiple systems and platforms just cause confusion and make for incoherent user experiences.

All-in-one integrated platforms make life simpler for everyone. They are the go-to resource and single source of truth all rolled into one.

An integrated platform is a game-changing must. From improved internal communications, and inter-team collaboration, to increased employee engagement, these flexible platforms will provide ROI.

Delivering the digital workplace of the future 

Adapting to the next normal of distributed teams requires CIOs to lead the charge. IT leaders should seize the opportunity to create an agile digital workplace capable of supporting the future workforce.

Want to find out more? Get in touch with Workvivo’s expert team and discover how our employee communications platform could support your future workplace.