The COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally changed the way that we work. Since March 2020, executive leaders have had to pivot their strategies to keep up with the evolving needs of their organizations and teams—and that includes CIOs.
In order to keep their teams and businesses moving forward in the wake of COVID-19, CIOs are having to change everything from the tools they use to the way they manage their teams.
But what, exactly, has the COVID crisis changed for CIOs? Let’s take a look at four key changes CIOs are currently navigating as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A shift to hybrid work—and how that impacts security
When COVID first hit in March 2020, the vast majority of knowledge workers started working remotely. And, as a result, organizations had to pivot to a fully remote model—many for the first time.
But even as restrictions are lifted and it’s becoming safer to share space and work together in person, not every worker is ready to come back to the office—at least not full time. According to the recent US Remote Work Survey from PwC, nearly three out of four employees want to continue working from home at least two days per week.
This hybrid work model is quickly becoming the preferred work environment for employees. Indeed, according to the Reimagining Human Experience study from JLL, 70 percent of employees want to split their time between working in the office and working remotely. And in order to stay competitive, more and more companies are making the shift to a hybrid work environment—which means major changes for CIOs.
A hybrid work environment creates a unique set of challenges for CIOs. To effectively navigate those challenges, CIOs are having to change their strategy, in particular their security approach.
When the entire team is working in the office, CIOs have more control over security. They can block applications or websites that present a risk or put extra security measures in place (like securing the WiFi network with WPA2 encryption) to protect sensitive data. But when employees are working remotely, it’s harder to monitor, control, or put safety parameters around employee internet usage. As a result, company data can be put at risk. For example, if the employee uses a public internet connection or lets their antivirus software get out of date.
To counteract those security challenges, CIOs are having to invest in new tools to create more secure connections, like VPNs (according to PwC’s survey, 70 percent of executives plan to increase spending on IT infrastructure to secure virtual connectivity). They’re also investing in robust employee training programs, ensuring their teams understand how to stay secure when they’re working outside of the office.
Bottom line? As COVID shifts many organizations to a hybrid work model, it’s also shifting the way CIOs approach security. This means they will have to make major changes to keep their organization’s data secure, no matter where their employees may be working.
The approach to employee workstations
COVID-19 and the shift to hybrid work is also changing the way CIOs approach the employee workstation.
In a hybrid work environment, some employees will be working in the office while others are working remotely. That means that CIOs are having to redesign workstations to allow for better collaboration between remote and in-person employees—for example, by installing video conferencing software, chat platforms, and other collaborative software. This trend is confirmed by the PwC survey, according to which 72 percent of executives plan to invest in tools for more effective virtual collaboration.
CIOs are also having to think about how their workstations are set up. While having a dedicated workstation for each employee may have made sense pre-COVID, in a hybrid work environment, CIOs are taking a different approach. According to the PwC survey, nearly half of executives are investing in flexible, communal workspaces within the office.
Designing workstations that empower an employees’ best work is one of the CIO’s most important responsibilities. And as the needs of the employee change in the wake of COVID, CIOs are also changing the technologies they include in the workstations to support their team’s success.
For example, as organizations shift to a hybrid work model and more flexible workstations, it’s important for employees to know before they come into work whether there are available spaces for them to work. Otherwise, they may commute into the office to find all the flex office spaces occupied by co-workers—which is a waste of time, energy, and productivity. In response, more CIOs are using IoT systems that allow employees to easily see who is in the office, where they’re working, and which spaces are available—which keeps workstations flexible, but also makes the setup more efficient.
Let’s use safety as another example. As the pandemic continues, many CIOs are exploring a variety of smart office technologies to keep their employees safe—like contactless entry into high-traffic areas and systems that track occupancy and adjust airflow and ventilation based on the number of employees in the office.
The point is, in order to create a safe environment for employees, CIOs need to incorporate smart technologies into their office design. This will allow them to create offices that are not only functional, but functionally safe for their teams.
The evolving role of the CIO
The COVID-19 crisis has permanently changed the way CIOs approach their role—including in the ways listed above. But the pandemic isn’t over. As the pandemic continues, CIOs will need to stay flexible and be willing to adapt their strategy to keep up with the changing demands of employees—whether that’s by evaluating and adding new tools to their tech stack to continually empower their teams (both remotely and in the office), exploring new ways to keep data and information secure, or by finding ways to innovate despite pandemic-related challenges.
Are you looking for new solutions to address the challenges brought about by COVID-19? Read our summary of the “Tech Trends 2021” report from Deloitte to get inspired:
Author: Deanna deBara