The great unplanned work from home experiment has advanced thinking on workforce strategies, work models, and business models by decades, writes Tim Minahan, Executive Vice President of Strategy, Citrix. And we’re about to see a massive explosion in innovation because of it.
Business today is a moving target. From talent shortages and supply chain disruptions to pricing pressures and the ongoing pandemic, it’s tough to predict what will happen in the next five minutes, much less the next year. But one thing is clear: work has changed forever, and there’s no going back. Unplanned investments made over the last year to accommodate remote work have torn down barriers and given way to new ways of operating that will fuel unprecedented levels of innovation and growth in the year ahead. Here are four things you can plan on:
Innovation will take centre stage
It’s been said that necessity is the mother of innovation. When the pandemic hit, companies had to find new ways to operate. And they took decades worth of steps forward, not only innovating how they work internally, but how they engage with customers. The technologies they used to digitize their business to survive have given way to new business models – from telemedicine and virtual learning to the metaverse – that will enable them to thrive in the new year and beyond.
• During the COVID19 crisis, Mass Brigham General, for instance, went from 9,000 virtual visits per month to over 250,000, and in March, crossed the 1 million mark.
• With more than 14,000 students unable to travel to Australia from China due to imposed travel bans, the University of Sydney pivoted to virtual learning and unleashed an entirely new channel that has allowed it to expand its reach and boost enrollment.
And the stage is set for continued growth. According to The Era of Hyper Innovation, investments in new technology and flexible work models over the last year fueled a $678 billion boost in revenue across industries. And 69 percent of business leaders around the world say they will increase investment in R&D in the next 12 months to sustain this growth.
The enterprise will go virtual
Remote work was admittedly a forced experiment. But employees have adapted, and research shows 90 percent want to continue to do it – at least part of the time – going forward. In 2022, they’ll get their wish. While sceptical at first, business leaders now recogniSe the positive impact flexible work can have on everything from employee engagement and productivity, work-life balance and mental health, to talent recruitment and retention, operating costs and the environment. And they will embrace the model and invest in tools and processes that empower employees to create and innovate, wherever they happen to be.
The digital workspace will become the new office
Whether at home, in the office, on the road or anywhere in between, employees must be able to securely engage and collaborate in a consistent and transparent way. In the year ahead, companies will reimagine the role of the physical office and design purpose-built digital workspaces in which employees can securely and reliably access the resources they need to efficiently and effectively execute work and collaborate with colleagues, partners and customers across any device, work channel, or location. And they will support them with policies that encourage equitable working methods to ensure no employee is at a disadvantage because of where they happen to be.
The social contract will be rewritten
Workers are leaving jobs in record numbers, and it’s exacerbating an existing talent shortage – especially for in-demand skills – like cloud, security, and AI and analytics, which are needed to modernize and digitize business. To stem the tide, companies will rethink the employee value proposition and give people what they seek: flexible work models, and equal opportunities to contribute to the business, advance their careers and work on their own terms. Rather than mandating where and how employees work, companies will trust them to decide based on what they need to get done.
If they need to collaborate or meet with customers and partners, they may choose to go to the office. If they want quiet time to focus on individual work, they might opt to work from home. Regardless, they will, through a common digital workspace, have a consistent, and equitable experience.
A new class of jobs will emerge
History often repeats itself. In 2009, a large swath of knowledge workers ditched corporate jobs for consulting and freelance work, creating the so-called “gig economy.” They did so for many of the same reasons workers are leaving today. They wanted flexible arrangements that would allow them to do the work they want for whom they choose, where and how they do it best. In an effort to lure some of this skilled talent back and give themselves an advantage in the fierce battle for talent , companies will leverage hybrid models for work and digital technologies to create a new class of “gigs with benefits” that provide the flexibility and autonomy freelance, contract and gig workers crave, along with the stability that has become increasingly attractive as the pandemic wears on.
The foundation for the future of work has been laid. And companies that embrace and build on the hybrid models and technology that will drive it can cultivate the flexible, agile and empowered workforce they need to propel their business into the future.