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The Future of Work Is a Human-Centric Hybrid Workplace

COVID-19 has convincingly demonstrated that there is no going back to the pre-pandemic workplace. Organizations and individuals will have no choice but to discover new ways of working. Leaders should begin to rethink steps to consider what the workplace will look like and design the future of work accordingly.

In a recent interaction with CXOToday, Rajesh Varrier, SVP, Head of Digital Experience and Microsoft Business, Infosys, explains why the future of work needs to be a human-centric hybrid workplace and how with the help of digital technologies can one survive and thrive in the digital workplace of the future.

What kind of digital workplace do you foresee in the post-pandemic era?

It has become more crucial than ever to provide employees with consumer-grade experiences for rapid time to value. We believe that the future of the digital workplace is employee-centric, sentient, persona-driven, and powered by hybrid cloud technologies. These workplaces would possess collaboration capabilities with the ability to sense, process, and respond in real-time.

The idea should be to create connected workplaces which would pave the way for contactless offices, immersive collaboration using IoT, AR/VR and human-device augmentation. At the core of the workplace, there should be zero trust security that balances business risks and employee experience.

Today, organizations should look at building hybrid workplaces that focus on borderless work styles with “follow-me” principles for freedom of choice and flexibility, by leveraging modern device management and virtual desktops.

What are the challenges of the digital workplace? How can organizations address these challenges?

The key challenge is that of a reduction in social capital due to lack of in-person interaction. This in some sense will be addressed as we move into hybrid working models. Enterprises however need to continue to improve adoption of a digital mindset, improved digital dexterity, foster collaboration that helps deliver an immersive experience for both digital and physical users, invest to build capability for teams to have a community feeling and above all be nimble to quickly adapt to the changing workplace needs.

What are your views on hybrid workplace? Is that the future of enterprise and why?

The pandemic has, in some sense, taught several sectors that they can be effective with remote working and collaboration.  There is a significant upside in this as it has ushered in a rapid change in business models and adoption of newer technologies faster. These changes helped re-affirm that remote working is productive and cost-effective. However, not every sector can adopt remote working and the need for hybrid workplaces is a necessity.

The future of work, in my view, needs to be a human-centric hybrid workplace that encapsulates several aspects. It should be secure, foster collaboration, provide employees persona-driven immersive experience with digitized processes and workflows. The working culture should address employee wellness both physical and emotional too.

Based on the trends we see today, the future workplace will evolve into a hybrid one that is flexible and fluid. It will have empowered employees who get to decide where they want to work from. Various surveys estimate that a large section of Gen-Z is likely to prefer either working from home or splitting time between home and work.

Employers too will have access to diversified talent. The hybrid work style has opened up possibilities of talent availability from any geography without constraints of physical office locations.

What areas should the CIOs be attentive to in a digital workplace? Which areas need a rethinking?

During the pandemic most organizations have enhanced their digital workplace foundational capabilities that ensured minimal business impact and a well-informed and connected workforce. However, CIOs will need to now build on these to improve, enhance, and optimize through continued investments in building resilient hybrid workplaces – purpose-driven smart spaces and experiences that amalgamate the physical and digital worlds. There should also be more spend going towards collaboration platforms on cloud like Microsoft Teams or Infosys Meridian, a Live Enterprise workplace platform that helps companies reimagine experiences in the work-from-anywhere era

Improving employee experience across all interaction layers of the digital workplace is core to organizational success in the present scheme of things. Advancements in AR/XR technologies provide opportunities for organizations to re-consider the future mode of collaboration experiences that could help accelerated decision-making and speed of problem-solving. Elevating service experience through self-service, self-heal, AI, and automation will help support hybrid working models. Business process digitization by leveraging new age low code no code AI-enabled intelligent apps will enhance employee productivity. It is also critical to strike the right balance between data security and employee experience, especially in the era of remote working.

In addition to these, organizations should start re-imagining the “one-size-fits-all” digital workplace. They should aim at building more persona and business-centric digital workplaces enabling hybrid work styles that cater to specific needs of employees from frontline to shop floor to healthcare etc. As lines between these functions are increasingly becoming hazy with remote work taking center-stage, CIOs and HR Leaders need to collaborate more to create a truly sustainable hybrid digital workplace.

How is Infosys working with Smart Spaces using IoT, 5G, and Microsoft Field Services as an application? Which markets, verticals are you tapping?

The Smart Spaces market has rapidly changed and is continuing to disrupt the overall landscape of all spaces across real estate, property, and facility management, and resident/customer experiences across utilities, telecom, etc. Infosys Smart Buildings and Spaces offering provides application solutions to enterprises that integrate the physical and the digital (PHYGITAL = Physical + Digital) divide through various digital technology intervention based on our proven Infosys’ SCALE (Sustainable, Connected, Affordable, Learning Systems and Experiential) framework that brings a structured way of assessing, implementing, and operating smart spaces.

What are your plans on digital workplace transformation in 2021 and beyond?

We will continue to invest and bring in the best-in-class technologies to respond to the changing dynamics on the workplace side. Our strategy is well aligned to address the future demand theme.  Our comprehensive offerings under the Infosys Cobalt brand ensure that we provide end-to-end Workplace-as-a-Service solution. Our solutions are cloud-centric, persona based, bringing in all aspects of self-service, collaboration, self-heal, AI, and automation capabilities, besides being focused on zero trust security.

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Sohini Bagchi
Sohini Bagchi is Editor at CXOToday, a published author and a storyteller. She can be reached at sohini.bagchi@trivone.com