With firms opening doors to welcome employees ‘back to work’, here’s what CXOs have to say about the future of hybrid work in 2022.
The saying, ‘The only constant in life is change’ has been apt for the modern workplace since the onset of the global pandemic. Companies have realized that there’s very little possibility of a return to the way things were, as workers globally navigate a new culture and a rapidly evolving workplace. Currently, as organizations are opening their doors to welcome employees ‘back to work’, amidst continued uncertainty relating to the COVID-19 and other variants, the shift to a hybrid workforce model is inevitable.
It’s now time to ask some important questions: “What’s the purpose of the office, anyway? If millions have proven they can do remarkable, innovative work outside of a typical office atmosphere—even the ones stocked with snacks, water coolers, coffee and ping pong—what’s the point of having the physical office space?”
“Would teams continue to work from anywhere and look at their office as a hub where they can visit only for specific purposes (say, an important meeting or a collaboration session) or a space only to tackle a particular challenging problem? In that sense, is the workplace a resource and comes to play only when teams need it, but not a requirement to get work done?”
At this stage, a lot of these questions and more are still ambiguous or are left unanswered… Without a well thought-out plan, the hybrid workplace will create confusion for employees and frustration for management. Hence, CXOToday reaches out to business decision makers, analysts and industry experts to understand how companies should begin rethinking the future of work, and as 2021 comes to a close, how the conversations around hybrid workplace and the new hybrid work experience can be made more real and meaningful.
Here’s what they have to say about the future of hybrid work in 2022 and beyond.
“IDC predicts continued adoption of hybrid work models in the next few years with an increase in human-machine collaboration. We believe that a broad adoption of automation and AI / ML technologies in daily work practices will drive productivity improvement and help Organisations enhance customer experience and increase employee retention. Based on specific nuances of each industry, Organisations will calibrate the right amount of technology interventions and mix of physical and digital workplaces. In the next 5 years, specifically in tech enabled industries, the work environment will be unbounded by time and space. In the medium – long term, we expect Organisations to provide a lot more empowerment to employees, greater flexibility & empathy, higher investment in training and upskilling and more focus on overall health & well being of employees. To enable this, Organisations must rethink their people leadership paradigm. Organisations that fail to adapt to this new reality will find it difficult meeting employee and customer aspirations, which will have longer term impact on business growth.” – Vasant Rao- Managing Director, IDC India
“The Hybrid Work model has transformed work as we know it. This revolutionary force has converged people, technology, and places and can positively impact everything from work-life balance and organizational agility to sustainability and global opportunity. One thing is clear that a robust digital infrastructure will form the very foundation of a successful hybrid work experience.
With 75% employees seeking support with flexible, seamless access to resources and applications, whether they are working off-site or in the office, there is no doubt, in the future workplace, every employee will be hybrid — and equally deserving no matter where they work. People-first and flexible are the collaboration watchwords of the moment. And that starts with embedding inclusion into the collaboration platform. Most importantly, the tools and technologies must be secure by design, private by default because, without security, the hybrid-work future will never succeed.
The hybrid future of work demands that we reimagine the hybrid workforce and the hybrid workspace. They need to address three components – empowering the remote worker, enabling a safe return to the office with intelligent workspaces, and easing IT management. Therefore, moving forward, we have an opportunity to build a future of work that is more inclusive, creative and sustainable than ever before with a virtual experience that’s even better than in-person.” – Minhaj Zia, Director for Collaboration Sales, Cisco India & SAARC
“The evolution of the workplace to a Hybrid one ushers in a new dynamic that will force companies to rethink and redraw their work culture strategies. When the pandemic started, and lockdown first began, complete digital transformation was on everyone’s mind. But as the world continues to figure out, by trial and error, the landscape of work seems to be strongly heading towards a hybridized ecosystem. For one, the new paradigm will be a combination of WFH, intermittent office presence and one employee set being completely remote. So this becomes an interesting mash-up that companies will have to learn to contend with. This has led to cloud adoption growing at an incredible pace. Enterprises had to provide their employees the right tools to be productive and complete day-to-day tasks while catering to modern customer expectations. Ultimately, this will lead to a smart adoption of technologies to help enable and empower this new direction. For example, IT security will set a new paradigm. Remote Trust Toolsets will ensure that unwarranted and malicious actors don’t get access to enterprise IT assets. Service desk software will assume prominence to minimize the effect of incidents from both internal and external customer perspectives. This will help to keep enterprise functions at peak performance. HRMS tools for employee onboarding will play a crucial role as often employee engagement will move more towards an online mode. And managing this amorphous workforce will have its own set of challenges that such tools can easily mitigate. Today the key is to ensure total adaptability that’s driven by the unexpected disruptions. With the right tools and software, no employee will get left behind on the road to the eventual all-encompassing digital transformation.”
– R. Arun Prasath, CIO at EverestIMS Technologies
“Globally, businesses are beginning to consider alternative strategies for reshaping work communication, working hours, and physical presence over the long term. With the ongoing uncertainty, many are converging on hybrid working: combining remote work with office work. In fact, according to a recent Equinix report, 51% of global businesses have re-architected their IT infrastructure to meet new remote and hybrid working demands, with tech budgets increasing to accelerate digital transformation.
In order to support hybrid working, companies must implement a permanent flexible working arrangement. Whether it is accommodating individual employee needs or working remotely due to social distancing, the future of work must adapt to change. Therefore, adopting a hybrid work model will likely allow businesses to be more agile and adaptable to future disruptions.”– Manoj Paul, Managing Director, Equinix India
“As organizations adopt a hybrid work culture, it’s important for employees to be able to free a large percentage of their time for tasks that require critical and creative thinking. A digital helper who can complete simple, repetitive tasks, will allow the workforce to invest their time and energy on solving critical business problems and innovating further. To achieve this, companies are accelerating their adoption of automation as a strategic business imperative.
Automation has increasingly become a boardroom conversation, and today, an integral aspect of a company’s Digital Transformation journey. Software robots are simple to build and straightforward to use and help in automating repetitive tasks. This in turn helps increase accuracy, reduce costs, and improve employee efficiency. Further infusing AI with automation will allow the robot to learn and apply new algorithms on the fly. Organizations are now striving towards automating as many tasks as possible, thereby, easing the burden on physical workers. With an end goal of being fully-automated enterprises, companies will move towards automating everything that can be automated. With automation coupled with the explosion of cloud usage, there will be a reduced dependency on physical office campuses, and multi-application adaptability will help drive tasks from any location.” – Anil Bhasin, Managing Director & Vice President, UiPath India and South Asia
“In the post-Covid future of work, 9 out of 10 companies will be combining remote and on-site working. As we approach the end of 2021 and gear up for the ‘great hybrid experiment,’ there is an increasing debate whether or not the physical workplace is still valuable. However, the fact remains that offices are here to stay and only being re-envisioned for hybrid work. The aim of this reinvention will be what great organizations have always wanted: a safe environment where employees can enjoy their work, collaborate and innovate with their colleagues, and immerse in the culture of the organization. To ensure a successful hybrid workplace, both managers and employees must have a clear understanding of the organization’s hybrid plans. There’s a need to formulate policies that define what tasks happen in the office and remotely. Leaders, too, must communicate honestly and consistently with their teams and ensure all employees receive the same information at the same time. After all, whether in the office or remote, employees don’t want to feel disconnected to the organization.” Smitha Hemmigae, Head of Marketing, ANSR
“A hybrid workplace is one element of three key dimensions that will define the “future of work”. The future of work will be centered around:
- The work- what work is being done. The future of work will be about enabling humans and technology to collaborate more effectively in order to unlock human potential at scale and over time
- The workforce- who/what is doing the work. How can we access needed capabilities across a broader talent ecosystem, curate personalized and elevated experiences for the full workforce, and engage them for maximum impact
- The workplace- where is the work being done. How can we understand and optimize the environment that maximizes the potential of workers by empowering them with technology, tools and the ability to choose where and how work gets done.” – Sankalp Mohanty, Partner, Deloitte India
“Employees are expecting an extremely flexible and hybrid workspace in this post-pandemic world. If a company insists on returning to full-time onsite work, they might risk losing good talent. In this hybrid world, I believe companies will reimagine and focus on 2 major areas – Hiring & Retention.
Post COVID, several employees have shifted to remote locations or Tier 2 cities with their families. Employers need to redesign their entire hiring cycle to include remote hiring and tap into this talent.
Meanwhile, the well-being of existing employees is equally essential for a successful hybrid work model. HRs need to prevent virtual exhaustion among employees and help them set a healthy work-life balance. This would require the leadership to set a healthy precedent since it counters business goals that would benefit from those extra working hours.
Ultimately, employee feedback needs to be critically monitored to make sure the hybrid model is working. One-on-one manager conversations, team meetings, or HR Connect will be crucial during this time.” – Satya Sharma, CHRO, To The New
“Borderless workforce is the future of work. From hiring to retiring, organizations need to reinvent their policies, process, and initiatives to align with the new world of work. Digital HR transformation helps organizations create a culture of work that is equitable, diverse, and fully engaged employees. Being Humane is as important as HR Tech in building a seamless employee experience.
Almost all organizations are at the nascent stage of hybrid work. We will experience teething troubles, terrible twos, and even adolescent tantrums before we have a matured, streamlined process that powers our business. What policies to put in, whether those policies are helping or destructive – all of us are going through a learning curve. The world as one is undertaking the shared journey towards hybrid work. In the hyper-connected world, we gain from each other’s success and failures and will reach our destination at a rapid pace.
AI-based revolutionary technologies provide the infinite potential to chart robust data-driven HR strategies to empower, engage, and build a culture of trust among borderless employees. Digital HR transformation will be accelerated. Niche software that caters to Performance Management, Employee Engagement, and Learning Development will be favored for its in-depth features and customization. Organizations will strategically and culturally benefit from workforce diversity and scale new heights.” – Shankar Krishnamoorthy, Co-Founder and CEO, Synergita Software
“Hybrid work will define the post-pandemic workplace in 2022. Since last year, on one hand, workers felt more included because everyone was in the same virtual room. On the other hand, they also fell victim to the silos created in the absence of day-to-day fluid interactions at the workspace. While balancing the two scenarios, a hybrid approach will need to ensure that employees are empowered to work when and where they want, equipping them with all the tools they need to be able to contribute fully. Also, Digital Adoption Platforms (DAP) have become vital for SMBs to large enterprises. The pandemic and the move to remote and hybrid work has made digital transformation critical. Given the rapid pace of digitization in the last two years, it is certain that the hybrid world will require a new operating model that takes into consideration people, places, and processes. In order to facilitate hybrid collaborations, a new vision is needed to enable meaningful and naturally engaged collaborations that bridge the gap between physical and virtual work. According to a recent Barco survey, 81% of Indian employees think their employers should start preparing for hybrid work. With the advent of the hybrid workplace, business leaders can reshape work cultures, reinvent the workplace, and adopt technology that matches today’s needs.” – Khadim Batti, CEO and co-founder, Whatfix
“The pandemic has slowly changed the perception of automation – from one that brought fear, to a more positive outlook, where automation is an enabler for positive change. While we continue to establish new ways of working, the future of work will be defined by how enterprises are shifting their technology investments to meet the changing needs of the hybrid workforce. According to Gartner, by 2024, organizations will lower operational costs by 30% by combining hyperautomation technologies with redesigned operational processes. We anticipate a sharpened focus on various forms of process automation such as Intelligent Document Processing, Rules-based and AI-based Decision engines, etc. that will drive greater efficiencies and improve customer journeys. Companies need to focus on developing an operating model that enables scaling, making automation a strategic priority. To enable this transition, companies need to develop internal expertise across the automation landscape. Hybrid working has already driven a change in how Digital Workers are used. This can result in a greater focus on the interaction between human and digital workers, with a focus on ‘human-like traits of the Digital Worker – for example, a greater reliance on Natural Language Understanding (NLU). AI & ML skills will continue to add value to the capabilities of digital workers, helping enterprises unlock new scenarios to adapt as you go.” – Peter Gartenberg – Managing Director & President, Blue Prism India
“For many business leaders around the world, there’s been no hard-and-fast decision on whether or when the majority of employees will return to an in-person office space. Companies are hearing a variety of concerns from individuals who previously worked in-office, ranging from conditions related to the COVID-19 pandemic to the desire for a better work-life balance. At the same time, organizations with hybrid work models are able to draw from a larger talent pool, helping them access the best employees for the role. Because the work forecast is so murky, it’s difficult for IT teams to figure out whether they should be preparing for a mass return to the office or maintain a permanent hybrid model. IT leadership and their teams have been tasked with planning for the next 12-24 months based on a range of potential in-person and work-from-home scenarios, the balance of each depending on geography, capacity, public infrastructure, and many other variables. The reality that businesses should prepare for is that there will be no “one size fits all” approach moving forward – even businesses that return to a majority of in-person work may still have some people working remotely, either on a long-term or short-term basis. So, organizations must have a security solution that can fit any of these approaches – one that can adapt to any type of hybrid work model.” – Rajesh Maurya, Regional Vice President, India & SAARC, Fortinet.
‘‘Remote work has been the SOP for global businesses over the last two years. However, as per our 2021 Global Workplace Report, about 89% of the Indian respondents believe that organizational performance has been impacted during this period. To address this concern, as employees return to work, there will be a need for safe and efficient workspace that use advanced technologies to overcome productivity challenges alongside ensuring safety from the pandemic risks. Another area of concern that emerged during the remote working period is the lack of constructive communication and collaborative support. This is where there is a need to build hybrid workspace. The right tools and processes can ensure seamless and adequate collaboration and communication between the remote and on-premises workforce, thereby enhancing productivity and efficiency. For this, the conventional siloed approach needs to be eliminated and greater focus must be placed on cloud tools, HD audio/video calls, screen sharing etc., to facilitate real-time collaborative working. Lastly, there is a need to redefine SLAs based on experiences wherein companies don’t focus only on tasks done, but also the quality of work delivered.” – Johnson Varkey, Sales Director – Intelligent Workplace, NTT Ltd. In India
“The office is no longer just a place of work. Now, more than ever, it needs to be looked at as a catalyst and instrument for culture building and co-creation. With individual choice coming into focus, and employees re-evaluating their relationship with work, designing workplaces needs to become a more collaborative and inclusive process rather than be done top down. The three areas firms need to focus on to build a successful hybrid strategy include:
Fluidity in workstyles. There is a need to reconfigure the existing office spaces into one-on-one collaboration zones, meeting rooms, social spaces and training areas, keeping in mind that all participants might not be physically present in the room.
Foster a sense of belonging.Employers will have to figure out how the office can enable the positive human interactions of a physical workspace within a hybrid scenario too. Flexible, configurable spaces designed for multiple uses can be a great way to do this.
Creating immersive experience. To enable meeting, on-boarding and other experiences, the hybrid office has to offer something that makes a face-to-face interaction worthwhile. This is where organizations can use technology such AI, AR/VR, to their advantage, to create truly immersive experiences in the hybrid workplace. In a similar way, businesses can create experience zones, innovation centers and virtual sales floors, all within their hybrid offices.” – Akshay Lakhanpal, CEO, India, Space Matrix
“We are universally shifting towards a hybrid work environment, building on the lessons learned over the past two years to create a workplace where everyone can flourish. The Future of Work will revolve around empowering employees to drive business success, with more autonomy on the where, how, and why.
Remote working has made the hiring process more inclusive, and we will continue to see an influx of hiring from Tier 2 and 3 cities which will bridge not only the IT talent gap but speed up the technological gentrification in these locations.
In 2022, industry leaders will be more cognizant of the power of tech in revolutionizing all HR functions from recruitment, training, and benefits, employee development initiatives, etc. Upskilling, reskilling initiatives will be cemented as an essential tool to increase employability; hybrid work policies will come into play to mend the social silos of interactions that cropped up during the two years of remote working; workplace management will aim to create a culture of purpose and wellbeing instead of just focusing on business profits.
The Future of Work is employee-driven, and companies must constantly think about creating a flexible environment that is inclusive of collaboration, learning, and wellbeing for people to achieve their career goals, be successful, and continue to grow and learn and perform.” – Ramesh Kalanje, Vice President, Center of Excellence, Commvault
“The Future of Work is the next big disruption for businesses across the world. The pandemic has reshaped how we work today, and the hybrid work model is here to stay.
Since the onset of the pandemic, organizations have largely understood the nuances of remote working and are investing in the space and technology to build on the lessons learned over the past two years to create a workplace where everyone can thrive.
With the return to office announcement from major IT companies in India, will see a renewed interest in the security and surveillance industry to secure it with the topmost quality vigilance to ensure employee safety as well as perimeter security. Added to that we will also see an upsurge of Touch-free solutions in 2022 to reduce physical contact.
In the era of staying ‘simply connected’ through the combination of cloud, on-premises server and edge technologies, the question of architecture will be unique to each customer. Going forward, the surveillance industry will aid the customers with toolkits and flexibility to select the best solution that aligns with their situation.” – Sudhindra Holla, Director, Axis Communications, India and SAARC
“Globally and in India, the workplace dynamics have shifted dramatically in the last few years. As priorities for the workforce have shifted in 2021, business leaders and CHROs were prompted to devise innovative practices for employee engagement. Remote working became the new normal and is expected to continue in 2022 as well. According to a recent Oracle study, AI@work survey, the majority of Indians (96%) said the meaning of “success” has changed for them since the pandemic and explained that success is now more aligned, more than half (52%) are achieving work-life balance, (44%) are prioritizing mental health, (49%) want flexibility over when and where they work, and (44% ) say having a meaningful job contributes more to their success than. These statistics show that there has been a greater emphasis on factors such as employee wellbeing and safety, work-life balance, flexible working and autonomy. Popularity of models such as work-from-home and hybrid working grows, organizations will relook at ways to ensure that employee engagement and communication flow efficiently. Employers and employees are looking for new skills and innovations that are becoming required as fast as new technologies are emerging. Employees are re-evaluating their needs and are more likely to engage with organisations that offer them opportunities to grow and evolve. The survey also revealed that more than 90% of Indian respondents believe that robots can support their career development better than humans. In the year 2022, the role of digitization in the HR landscape will further evolve and the need for HR technology and solutions is expected to rise exponentially.” – Shailesh Singla, Country Head & Senior Director, HCM Cloud, Oracle India
“After last year’s shift to remote work, companies are navigating into unprecedented territories this year with more permanent hybrid work arrangements for their employees. Hybrid work environments that support a mix of at-home and in-office arrangements are emerging as COVID-19 restrictions are gradually lifted. Besides factors such as productivity and collaboration, security is a critical component when establishing a hybrid workspace. When establishing a hybrid work paradigm, businesses must be aware of possible security risks and obstacles. Otherwise, sensitive data might quickly get into the wrong hands, resulting in severe business harm such as compliance penalties, lost IP, or brand reputation. When implementing a hybrid work paradigm, the security team should pay careful attention to the devices used by workers to limit the danger of external attacks; these work gadgets should be maintained up to date with the most recent antivirus and anti-malware software. This creates new cyber security and data protection challenges for businesses as they transition to hybrid work environments. The key security recommendations for any organization looking to adopt hybrid work arrangements for their employees include – Enforce device security, Optimizing productivity and collaboration, embracing zero Trust and Secure cloud-based solutions & services, and, most essential, Training the workforce.” – Filip Cotfas, Channel Manager, CoSoSys
“The changes we have seen since the onset of the pandemic have pushed firms to make added efforts in reinventing and strategizing on the priorities, business and employee wise. The substantial shift in work culture has positioned HR into the forefront to be able to make conscious efforts to address employee well-being, linear and non-linear growth of employees, and the future of the new working environment. Businesses have always run based on numbers, profits, and revenue, and it is the onus of leaders to prioritize their employees and build a culture of empathy and compassion. We have started to witness leaders across industries making conscious effort to understand and prioritise work flexibility, and creating a redefined leadership strategy for a new era. Understanding work-life harmony and being empathetic towards employees is the key factor to drive any initiatives focused on employees in this new Hybrid world. As leaders, we strongly believe that our employees are our nucleus, and we will always strive to prioritize their well-being and provide them the flexibility they need. We hope to drive and enable real connections with our employees and for our employees and their aspirations so that they in turn can drive real business impact.” – Sahil Mathur, CHRO, InMobi Group
“The future of work in 2022 will earmark human-centric and collaboration-based management for the employees. Building innovative solutions which are automated, to align communications across the organization will be essential to keep the work atmosphere more agile. Blended work approach is here to stay, making it vital for organizations to ensure adequate hardware and software infrastructure to ensure seamless functioning of operations. According to Future of Work Study by Accenture, 83% of employees prefer a hybrid work model, due to which the focus will be on building a robust hybrid work environment through AI tools that will help connect employees across business functions and geographies. There will be an increased focus on enhancing communication and collaboration within the organization horizontally and vertically to give each employee a more personalized experience. Remote working has brought about the opportunity for organizations to enhance well-being and work-life balance of employees. Hybrid work environment will continue to bring an emphasis on employee centricity and the importance of formulating plans for business continuity for various challenges. An increased focus on employee’s skills to address the core business challenges will also be crucial going forward. An organization following people-centric approach will result in better business results as well, in the longer run.” – Priti Nagi – Human Resources Director at Blackhawk Network India
“The future work model is destined to be hybrid. Employee outlook has changed in the face of recent times. Studies show a clear split with over 70% of workers wanting flexible remote work options to continue, while over 65% crave more in-person time with their teams.The remote work model ensures talent can be spotted and recruited at any location. Thus, youth from tier 2 and tier 3 cities now have better career opportunities than ever before. Moreover, people who were previously missing out on good opportunities due to migration challenges are today getting lucrative job opportunities right from the comfort of their homes. But the negatives of remote working also play a critical role. With the increased isolation affecting mental health for people, a balance is essential. People have also reported that working from home can be unusually exhausting leaving them feeling overworked. So clearly, a middle road is vital for workforce vitality.Work-from-office increases interactions between co-workers, thereby improving collaboration, teamwork, and team bonding. To drive career advancement for all workers, the future of hybrid work must include collaboration, learning, and well being. While also ensuring the flexible benefits of work-from-home.” – Paridhi Khaitan, Managing Director, ProTeen