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How IT Supports a Future Hybrid Environment

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To support a future hybrid environment, a function must focus on people, process and systems. The technology team have those in spades.

In which ways do our leaders think that IT supports the future hybrid environment in their employees’ workplace(s) and what are the challenges they have encountered to make this operating model happen? 

After enduring a pandemic for almost three years, businesses had to switch to a working model which involved a future hybrid environment based on office and work-from-home hours.

With Rosalind Upton moderating this roundtable debate, the participants include:

  • Greg Morely, Group CIO, United Living Group
  • Ian Rutherford, VP Performance IT, CISCO
  • Natascha Polderman, IT Director, Schillings
  • Giles Lindsay, CTO, Nimbla
  • Michael Zimmer, CDO & Head of AI/ML, Zurich Germany
  • Preeti Gupta, Discover Financial Services
  • Phillipa Rickard, Director of Delivery, Covea Insurance 

Rosalind began by asking: how is this new operating module going to change into a more efficient future hybrid environment? 

Cybersecurity at risk

For some businesses like Preeti’s, the hybrid operating model has led the market for years working with global organizations. As she agrees, “it has helped making the operating module more efficient”. In fact, the pandemic made her company “think rather deeper what is that is important to run the business”, which she continues, “ is what the customer needs”. 

Nevertheless, for Giles, it seems like not all organizations were fully able to adapt to the hybrid environments as he believes there is one major risk: cybersecurity. The major problem for him is that the working-from-home equipment is not fully prepared against cyberattacks as the one at the office.

Moreover, Ian Rutherford also shares Giles Lindsay’s point of view, stating that “we are distracted from the unknown parts of the network, such as malware”. 

Peer cohesiveness and cost 

This change of working from home to a hybrid environment has also conceived a new struggle amongst companies while dealing with employees at the office and online simultaneously.  Future hybrid environment will need to tackle this head on.

Natascha Polderman from Schillings believes one of the main issues is “how to minimize overworking as we have a tendency to keep going” while being at home. That clash between office and work-from-home employees could be easily resolved by what Preeti Gupta defined as ‘cohesiveness’: “planning some ‘dedicated days where people are willing to come in’”. That is, organise face-to-face meetings with both working environments.

In addition, Philippa Rickard thinks there is a big cost when bringing office devices at home and vice versa. For that reason, Ian Rutherford from CISCO states that “it’s about investing in the correct equipment who will take the business forward” and “if 60% to 70% of the population wants to work in these future hybrid environments, we cannot ignore it, so we need to ‘attract people who accept they can work from wherever they like”. Therefore, Giles’ previous statement about cybersecurity relies on cost too, as he states, “I have everything to defend myself from those cyberattacks, but there are some other people who cannot afford it”.

Trust issues and mental health

There has also been a debate related to lack of trust from CEO’s who believe, according to Giles, “are they (employees) actually going to do a nine-to-five shift at their desks every day at home?”. For some others like Philippa Rickard, this hybrid environment has been an advantage as she believes having to work at home also changes one’s operating model, as now they must deal with home distractions such as pets or children. 

Nevertheless, this new hybrid model has also increased mental health concerns among employers and raises questions about the future hybrid environment to come. Michael states that “people working from home are usually less happy than the ones at the office who talk and interact to each other”. And continues “it is not a matter of IT, but socialising while being at the office – if I’m just sitting in video conferences, I can do it at home”. 

This argument is supported throughout the debate as also Philippa agrees on the loneliness of being alone versus spending time in the office. That is what Giles defined as “the serendipity of travelling in the lift or having a coffee break” as he began his journey to the office again due to the hybrid model. 

On the contrary, mental health illnesses have also shaped this opinion. Natascha points out that “not everyone wants to be in the office”, as she speaks directly to her co-worker with autism saying that “working from home gives him time away from the noise”. 

This roundtable on the future hybrid environment was created in partnership with Cisco.

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