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How CIOs can succeed in the post-COVID world of work

Yogi SchulzCIOs can lead their organization as it changes to succeed in the revised post-COVID world of work. The most significant shift has been the widespread and routine acceptance of videoconferencing when previously it was seen as an undesirable, last-resort alternative.

Here are some post-COVID work trends with productivity and morale-boosting responses that CIOs meeting in Calgary touched on recently. These ideas will reduce the quiet quitting behaviours evident in some organizations.

Smooth virtual employee and customer interaction

Pre-COVID, most employees and customers preferred face-to-face interactions for operations, sales and service. Amazon and other eCommerce merchants replaced in-person, brick-and-mortar interaction with the convenience of front-door delivery for millions of customers. However, in-person interaction was still the dominant way of working and conducting business.

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The COVID pandemic abruptly cancelled in-person interactions and forced everyone to interact through videoconferences, email and websites. Voice communication via landlines and smartphones has almost been abandoned. That dramatic shift has lowered expectations of employees and customers for face-to-face interactions.

Post-COVID, many employees and customers want to continue virtual interactions in the interests of convenience and productivity when geographic locations are irrelevant.

CIOs can lead the organization to leverage the demand for virtual interactions by:

  • Offering more eCommerce capabilities.
  • Improving the online customer experience.
  • Enhancing the videoconference experience. For more ideas, read Do your hybrid meetings need an upgrade?
  • Revising business processes to move technology from its previous supporting role to a central role.
  • Making the call center experience less painful.
  • Enhancing the ability to share data with suppliers.
  • Including virtual processes and technologies in the risk assessment process.

Better work-life balance

Pre-COVID, most employees associated work with an office or perhaps a vehicle.

COVID forced many employees to work mostly from home for at least one or two years. Employees discovered lots of flexibility in scheduling personal tasks and pursuits while still fulfilling their work duties.

Post-COVID, employees now see remote work as essential to work-life balance. That’s a significant shift from pre-pandemic expectations and attitudes toward work.

CIOs can lead the organization to enhance the remote work experience of employees by:

  • Recommending hardware and software for home offices.
  • Providing easy remote access to data and applications.
  • Providing superior remote technical support and cybersecurity defences.
  • Initiating demonstration projects that integrate digital technologies into everyday work practices.

Reduced commute times

Pre-COVID, employees saw tedious and sometimes stressful commute times as an inescapable aspect of their jobs and suffered through it.

COVID cancelled commuting and opened the eyes of many employees to the personal and professional possibilities that dramatically reduced commute times offered.

Post-COVID, employees want to keep the reduced commute times as a benefit of remote work that improves work-life balance and reduces GHG emissions.

CIOs can lead the organization to enhance the remote work experience described above.

Effective collaboration

Remote work is practical for many routine tasks performed by a single individual or even a small group working together through videoconferencing.

However, creative tasks are essential to the smooth functioning of every organization. In an environment dominated by remote work, there is a risk that creative tasks will receive insufficient emphasis. Creative tasks frequently require the in-person collaboration of a small group of people.

CIOs can ensure creative tasks are well supported by:

  • Implementing workrooms that are well supported by collaboration technology.
  • Encouraging some in-person work and not swinging to 100 percent remote work.
  • Celebrating and encouraging innovation.

Changed management style

Pre-COVID, many managers managed and evaluated their employees primarily based on presence, even though they were reluctant to admit it.

COVID forced managers to shift to managing remote employees based on outcomes. That was a wrenching adjustment for many. It’s demanding because it requires reliable ways to track those outcomes.

Post-COVID, employees are keen to continue being managed based on outcomes to enjoy the associated flexibility.

CIOs can lead the organization to embrace a changed management style by:

  • Leading in management and reporting of outcomes.
  • Introducing software tools that support and reinforce management by outcomes throughout the organization.

Hybrid conferences

Pre-COVID, most conferences were in-person events.

The COVID pandemic cancelled many conferences, forcing the rest to become virtual events.

Post-COVID conferences are becoming hybrid events where local attendees and a few others attend in person. However, most of the audience participates virtually via video.

CIOs can lead the organization to enhance the conference experience of employees and customers by:

  • Increasing production values.
  • Emphasizing interaction capabilities through smartphone apps.
  • Insisting that presenters attend sessions with a speaking coach.
  • Ensuring that post-conference access to recorded materials is readily available.

Reduced real estate occupancy costs

Pre-COVID, employees expected an assigned cubicle or office. The space solidified the relationship between employee and employer. In some cases, the office was also a symbol of rank and prestige.

During COVID, the world experienced many empty skyscrapers as everyone scattered to their homes.

Post-COVID, organizations see an opportunity to reduce real estate occupancy costs. Employees have become accustomed to the benefits of remote work.

CIOs can lead the organization to reduce real estate costs by recommending the use of the following:

  • A pool of cubicles for use by employees for the day and then vacated.
  • Renting shared office space where needed from short-term office rental companies.

Improved technology for remote work

Pre-COVID, some employees worked remotely based on an informal arrangement with their immediate supervisor. Often, employees did not receive much support from their organization’s IT department.

During COVID, remote work suddenly became the norm, and IT departments scrambled successfully to support employees.

Post-COVID, employees are keen to continue working remotely and expect their employer to keep supporting them with appropriate technology and work processes.

CIOs can support practical remote work by providing the appropriate information technology infrastructure. It includes:

  • Sufficient Internet bandwidth and reliable connectivity.
  • More functional remote collaboration software.
  • Shifting from fat client to browser access for applications.
  • More reliable information technology at home.
  • Enhanced cybersecurity defences.
  • Increased IT literacy.
  • More capable applications with less paper or Excel between applications.
  • Higher application availability.
  • More reliable access to technical support.

The organization values CIOs who deliver the technical infrastructure that makes the post-COVID hybrid work environment successful for everyone.

Yogi Schulz has over 40 years of information technology experience in various industries. Yogi works extensively in the petroleum industry. He manages projects that arise from changes in business requirements, the need to leverage technology opportunities, and mergers. His specialties include IT strategy, web strategy and project management.

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