Wednesday, 27th January 2021

How cloud will drive the future hybrid workplace

Recently, Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield suggested that tech leaders need to make peace with permanent remote work. He predicted that Slack’s future workforce will remain 20-30% remote: the majority coming into the office 1-2 days per week for face time with their teams, home working the rest of the time. By Ed Butler, CEO & Founder, Amito.

Recently, Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield suggested that tech leaders need to make peace with permanent remote work. He predicted that Slack’s future workforce will remain 20-30% remote: the majority coming into the office 1-2 days per week for face time with their teams, home working the rest of the time.

As tech companies geared up to re-introduce their teams back into the post-lockdown workplace, once again cloud infrastructure emerged as a key performance indicator for success. Amito’s recent whitepaper, Leaving Lockdown: A major reset moment for IT, involved discussion with a number of scale-up tech leaders found that just as businesses with mature cloud strategies in place were able to adapt to new working processes faster in lockdown, those navigating the emerging hybrid workplace have done the same.

And as tech leaders adapt to the long-term of this new state of play, this is how well-designed cloud infrastructures will drive the successful hybrid workplace.

Cloud is a key advantage in mobilising workforces Organisations with a future-focused cloud infrastructure are well placed to thrive in the hybrid workplace over the longer-term. Lockdown 1.0 essentially accelerated home working strategies with robust remote working plans and policies, and teams equipped with laptops and suitable wifi and VPN connections. We saw how the companies who were best placed to respond in a resilient and agile way were those that were furthest along in their cloud journey:

· Remote working policies had already been stress-tested as part of business continuity planning

· Teams were comfortable with a “work anywhere” mind set

· Existing investment in cloud infrastructure enabled the flexibility to dial up capacity and bandwidth on demand to deploy services quickly.

Conversely, where businesses were unable to scale their cloud adoption to keep up with business needs, they found their growth potential was hampered and new opportunities missed.

As organisations adapt to a wider home-working model, cloud infrastructure will remain vital.

Focus on early people engagement

Businesses that have adapted best to the shifts in the hybrid workplace are those that have brought their people along on the journey, according to our whitepaper findings. While technology can support major change, the real key to a successful new working shift was how employees used those technologies to connect, communicate and collaborate.

This required leaders to actively involve their teams in discussions about the best way to do things and invite input for return to work strategies – and what the hybrid model looks like to suit different employee profiles.

Developing an engaging employee experience has also been essential as companies shift towards longer term strategies including prioritising employee wellbeing and mental health.

As leaders it’s our job to stay close to our teams, understand how they feel and provide support – from day one. Again this is where the tech truly comes into its own, supporting cloud-based communication and collaboration tools to help teams connect on a personal level.

Creating a long-term hybrid culture

From a strategy perspective, innovative businesses are exploring how they can make greater use of technology to drive growth within their organisations. This going beyond Zoom quizzes and building on the productivity gains of the new hybrid workplace, meeting customers’ evolving needs through better products and services as well as being creative as to how we continue to improve our teams’ work lives, establishing positive boundaries and habits.

The IT leaders we spoke to were all too aware of the challenges around the effective management of hybrid workplaces; companies need to look at how they optimise the user experience, as people dial in and log on from multiple different locations, devices and networks. At the same time, leaders are managing new employee behaviours and habits accrued from months of home working. Now’s the time to review culture strategies over the longer-term, and potentially revisit values in the context of the new hybrid model.

From a tech perspective, this also means reviewing the place-holder IT solutions that were put together quickly and reactively back in the spring. For example, where businesses were caught out with kit in the office, it’s now essential to start having those detailed conversations with your provider and move it into a datacentre. Forward thinking companies are investing in more robust tech platforms as they adapt to this model of working for the long-term and shift more workloads into the cloud.

Navigating security risks The hybrid model brings new vulnerabilities and threats potentially emerging as team members blend home and office networks.

This places more pressure on security systems as businesses need to be constantly vigilant; it’s necessary to verify everything that tries to connect to your networks and systems. It’s about making sure all endpoints are secure, and that the right systems, software and firewalls are in place with employees receiving continuous education in security awareness.

Reset for a better normal

For many SME tech leaders, the pandemic gave rise to a cultural, behavioural and operational re-set, a questioning as to why they do things a certain way. Leaders cited the opportunity to become leaner, more efficient as well as simplifying operations. Critically it’s changed how many of us interact with our customers for good, with a transition to online selling, possibly making speculative customer site sales visits a thing of the past.

What started as a plan B has rapidly become a preferred approach, with remote working opening minds, catalysing a reset and challenging the need for presenteeism, accelerating the future of work.

And as we adapt to the reality of a hybrid workplace, the best strategy for both future resilience and future growth is to continue to push digital transformation, and speed up the shifting of infrastructure into datacentres and public and private cloud environments. Just as the companies with more mature cloud strategies were better positioned to adapt to the impact of CV-19, so they’re better placed to innovate their way into this new, better normal, bringing the benefits of a dynamic, highly scalable and secure infrastructure.

The hybrid workplace will see technology setting a new course that improves future resilience, deliver growths and sustainability against a back-drop of multi-cloud architectures.

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