Making hybrid happen: decision time for companies

This WORKTECH Wednesday Briefing looks for guidance on hybrid working models from the tech giants and the big banks – only to find mixed messages. When will the picture become clearer?

The wires are buzzing on both sides of the Atlantic right now as organisations of all stripes wrestle with the challenge of giving some shape to the hybrid world of work. The big question is when and how to bring people back to the office.

If commercial firms and policymakers are looking to the tech giants for leadership, then prepare for some mixed messages. According to a leaked memo published by Bloomberg, Apple CEO Tim Cook wants his workforce back for a minimum of three days a week from September in order ‘to optimise our time for in-person collaboration.’ Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays are precisely stipulated for attendance so there is no risk of turning up at the office when your collaborators are still at home.

‘A relaxed attitude to remote work doesn’t mean Google has gone soft on providing office space …’

Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg, however, has told all full-time employees that they can continue to work remotely if their job allows it, something he intends to do himself 50 per cent of the time. Google has also taken a less rigid approach to hybrid work with an expanded range of options newly announced by CEO Sundar Pichai to start on 1 September. The company anticipates that 60 per cent of its global workforce of 140,000 people in around 60 countries will return to the office for about three days per week; 20 per cent will have the option to change offices and a further 20 per cent will be able to work fulltime from anywhere, including home.

This relaxation of Google’s previous approach to remote working doesn’t mean that the company is going soft on providing office space. The company has just signed a landmark deal with the city of San Jose to create a new mixed-use campus right in the heart of California’s third largest city. Downtown West will provide 7.3 million square feet of office space for 20,000 Google workers, alongside green parks and social amenities for the community, and complements another ambitious Google campus that is underway in nearby Mountain View.

Look beyond Silicon Valley at the big banks and there are different strategies at play. Goldman Sachs is on record as describing remote work as ‘an aberration’ that should be corrected as soon as possible. JP Morgan Chase, which is worried about impact of the remote work on training and mentoring, is proceeding with a landmark new HQ in New York where more of its employees will be consolidated. Citigroup, meanwhile, has committed to ‘Zoom-free Fridays’ and a new working model with hybrid, office resident and remote options. The vast majority of roles globally, says Citigroup CEO Jane Fraser, will be hybrid with people will working from the office at least three days a week.

Confused? The smoke is likely to start clearing over the summer as more big employers announce their hybrid working plans. One thing seems certain: whatever formula is chosen, few companies will revert entirely to the pre-pandemic five-days-per-week office model, which has been described by Unilever chief executive Alan Jope as ‘very old-fashioned’.

Work from Anywhere

While corporates grapple over how to best lead their workforce through this new era of hybrid working, there is an adjacent movement which is also gaining traction in the post-pandemic workplace: Work from Anywhere (WFA). This movement may still be in its infancy, but it is rapidly gaining popularity as employee expectations shift. In response, WORKTECH Events is presenting a brand new virtual series: WORKTECH Work From Anywhere.

The inaugural event will take place on 7 July 2021, from 13:30 – 18:30 BST. It will highlight the movement towards flexible work and focus on what life will be like when we bring the office back into the working mix. Attendees will hear from industry experts, practitioners and thought leaders who will share latest thinking with global case studies, best practice, and new research. Confirmed speaker Kristi Woolsey of Digital BCG will share her insights into the work she has done with a number of fortune 500 companies across different industries to define hybrid work and its implications for collaboration in the workplace.

Book your place at the event here.

Security through obscurity

Never has the topic of smart and secure workplace been more relevant. As corporates try to work out how to enable smart space, they need approach to be secure. The latest WORKTECH Webinar, in partnership with Schneider Electric, discussed the approaches to implementations of smart technology that is also secure and safe.

The panel, chaired by WORKTECH founder Philip Ross, discussed the frameworks and principles that now need to be in place to meet the new expectations of the workforce and drive new requirements for building standards and benchmarks. The panel consisted of Hugh Lindsay, strategy director and global segment architect at Schneider Electric; Dee Kimata, cybersecurity offer director at Schneider Electric; and Andre Ristaino, managing director of the International Society of Automation.

In this webinar Hugh Lindsay first suggested the idea of designing security through obscurity. He sited research from IBM which found that 84 per cent of building management systems are connected to the internet, yet there is very little awareness that they are connected. This figure is made more alarming by the fact that only 29 per cent of building managers are looking to improve their knowledge of connected systems. Lindsay suggests that we have now reached a pivotal point where we can no longer ignore the risks associated with poor cybersecurity.

This idea is supported by Dee Kimata and Andre Ristaino who discuss the journey to digital transformation. Kimata highlighted that while people get very excited about the benefits of smart, it is imperative to get the cybersecurity baseline in order to leverage those benefits. Watch the full discussion here.

The rise of flexible buildings

Flexibility has emerged as an essential component of the hybrid working model, and flexible buildings are increasingly becoming part of the conversation to complement new ways of working. An upcoming WORKTECH webinar on 28 June 2021 in partnership with Schneider Electric aims to explore what flexible buildings are and why they are important. An expert panel will discuss a new report co-authored by Schneider Electric and WORKTECH Academy called, ‘Flexible Buildings: Five elements to create buildings ready for the new world of work’. Find out more here.

In our WORKTECH Wednesday Briefings, we reach out to our 10,000-plus Academy members, WORKTECH attendees, speakers, partners and sponsors while WORKTECH’s professional conference series continues through our virtual platforms. This edition is posted 23 June 2021.
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