Re-examining Priorities for CIOs & CTOs: In-Person and/or Remote Operations – How to Balance?

Since early 2020, about every organization has taken a hard look at operations, determining what can and should be remote. Some organizations remain fully remote. Others shifted back to in-person operations. Still, others take a hybrid approach, which requires research and transitioning on the part of CIOs and CTOs. 

One of the biggest shifts organizations are experiencing has to do with that remote capability. Many realized that remote work is not only doable, but that it also generates excellent results. Organizations large and small are taking this approach. Notable examples include Google parent company Alphabet, and Amazon. 

Organizations previously avoiding WFH systems have embraced them and are considering ways to keep the WFH benefits going permanently. Here’s how to examine your organization’s priorities in this light, and how to balance in-person and remote operations.

Why Balancing Remote and In-Person Matters

Ideally, we won’t be managing the impacts of a pandemic forever. However, we can and should learn much from the events of 2020-21. Forced to provide work from home options as a public health measure, many organizations now want to keep that option going. While every organization had to manage changes thanks to COVID-19, many also realized cost savings thanks to WFH systems. 

Organizations save on real estate and other overhead costs without needing to keep as many people set up on site. In turn, workers gain more flexibility and control over their work-life balance. Research shows that working from home can increase employee productivity, which means everyone gains through a WFH or hybrid approach.

Organizations Avoiding a Fully-Remote System

If your organization is not interested in moving to a fully remote system, you are not alone. While many work to amplify the benefits of WFH in a hybrid approach, it’s clear that it’s a balanced hybrid. 

For instance, the previously-mentioned Amazon is allowing for WFH while also investing in corporate office space in six US cities as outlined in Forbes. The article notes some of the reasons why organizations are taking a hybrid approach, largely centered around flexibility. Those who want or need WFH can do so. Those who benefit more from in-person work can return, with technology to support their activities.

Microsoft is a good example of this. The tech giant allows employees to work from home permanently for less than 50 percent of their working week. Additionally, managers can approve permanent remote work if staff request it. 

Microsoft is making this easier for workers by covering home office expenses for permanent WFH and allowing relocations where approved. Some roles will require company offices, showing how Microsoft is being careful about access to hardware labs, data centers, and in-person training.

As a CIO or CTO, you will need to think about how your hybrid approach will work. Perhaps some employees work on site and others work remotely, like Microsoft is doing. Another scenario is that all employees may be on-site for part of the week and remote for the remainder. Or, you could combine the models within your workforce, depending on roles and requirements. 

Technology and Security in Balancing Remote and In-Person

To support a permanent hybrid approach, CIOs and CTOs need to direct technology and security to protect infrastructure and data. A Plugable survey highlights the focus on security, with 74 percent of respondents planning to spend on security tools and software going forward. Other priorities include adding video conferencing capabilities, investing in audio technology, and training for remote collaboration. As Plugable notes, technology is not a luxury but a business necessity. 

Now is the time to understand your present security situation. Having appreciated this, you can then improve it to safely and effectively balance remote and in-person operations. Identify threats – from physical security to data security – and determine both the risk and potential impact. With this assessment, you will see where there are gaps and weaknesses in your tech and security. Prioritize the improvements and fixes, starting with risks that greatly impact your organization. When you have taken care of these aspects, move down to moderate risks. 

The key is for CIOs and CTOs to create secure, efficient WFH and hybrid environments as soon as possible. If not, as this article notes, users will find insecure methods to get their jobs done. Defining and managing data and access leads to productivity and security. And this holds within all types of operations.

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