The Workplace For The Future – How Can Cloud Support The Changing Needs Of The Digital Workforce Beyond Covid-19?
In September, techUK’s Cloud Computing Programme joined forces with the Skills, talent and diversity programme to host the online event, The Workplace For The Future – How Can Cloud Support The Changing Needs Of The Digital Workforce Beyond Covid-19?
- Mark Shiel, Director – HR Transformation & Technology, PwC
- Tom Boggis, Founding Partner, BBG Real Estate
- Caroline Gladwin, Executive Solution Director, HCM, Oracle
- Saurabh Sharma, Director and Head – Product Management – Digital Workplace Services, HCL Technologies
The event sought to answer three core questions:
- What workplace changes are we expecting to see over the coming months in the UK, how much will this be shaped by COVID or accelerate long-term trends in the workforce?
- How can cloud support the digital workforce of the future that will need to have the skills to utilise and understand cloud for remote working.
- As we move towards a process of refinement of cloud services, what questions should businesses be asking their CSPs to make sure cloud suits their workforce?
This conversation focussed on those working in hybrid environments, but acknowledged that different models of hybrid working is shaped by business need and industry.
You can watch the presentation and speaker Q&A here:
Due to the number of questions send by attendees speakers kindly agreed to answer those that did not get answered in the session below:
- How important do you think is investment in Smart Building technology to this fluid workplace such as leveraging occupancy and experience data from user return to work? is the investment worth it and is this expected to be an area of focus mid/long term?
Saurabh: Bringing employees back to work requires a collaborative approach into redesigning the physical office. Not only do employees need to get the vaccination and continue with COVID testing after any substantial travel, they need to be convinced their office cubicle is as safe as their home workspace. For that reason, investing in smart building technologies such as HCL SafeSense, a precision focused solution for cautious reopening becomes business critical. The solution has various specialized offerings for occupancy management, social distancing, Body temperature screening, contactless workplace, face mask detection among others to bring back essential employees back to work with safely and security. As we move ahead in the next normal, investing in such a solution will be a major focus for enterprise thinking of bring back employees. With these solution, the workplace will become more user-centric than ever before
Tom: It is worth looking at investing in Smart Building tech for several of key reasons. Being able to monitor people coming in and out of buildings and travelling around would inform efficiencies and help identify where pinch points are eg at lifts, WC’s lobbies etc and could assist in routing traffic to combat Covid and flu etc spreading.
We are in also a climate crisis and one of the big downsides of buildings being partially empty is the wastage of energy in light, heating and cooling underused space and ensuing carbon emissions. Being able to monitor occupancy and control the services in a building accordingly will be very positive in reducing emissions. Greener buildings are also proving more popular with tenants and investors so there is a financial benefit to this too.
- Reason for travel has changed for many roles - i.e. client meetings in Govt are now 99% virtual, does the team really think this is going to change is the longer term?
Caroline: I believe that most roles will settle into a combination of in person and virtual interactions. I think it is widely recognised that there is value early in a relationship to have a degree of face to face to build rapport, but that many meetings that were traditionally held face to face can effectively be run virtually. This improves productivity, reduces deadtime spent travelling and helps employees with their worklife balance. Face to face also helps with team dynamics, motivation and shared experiences so will always play an important role I believe.
Tom: Yes this will change in the longer term and for Government roles too, as certain Departments are encouraging staff to come back to the office. Whilst the WFH over the last 18 months has been successful, a lot of aspects of working have not. Tasks take longer, problem solving is less effective and many key interactions are lost. A lot of firms have survived on existing business/contacts but new business has suffered because people have not been meeting and discussing ideas. In addition, the less positive impact of WFH on training, cohesiveness, staff moral etc are well documented.
Saurabh: With offices slowly starting to open for select groups, organizations may not find it too hard to ask employees to take work trips in the near future. The eventual scale of the comeback of business travel isn’t clear at the moment. For example, conferences and industry events going back to live and even hybrid formats soon. Competition and growth objectives along with the perception of ‘face-to-face’ interaction’s value addition to our work is bound to eventually give business travel a boost. A long term change we see happening is the reevaluation of travel situations where they can be replaced by widely adopted tech platforms and/or are not deemed ‘essential’ for the bottom line.
- How have you found training employees in the use of cloud skills?
Caroline: Given that Oracle is a technology company, this has been less of a challenge for us, although strengthening our skills to sell virtually has been a business imperative. In companies that have a range of capabilities, I have seen really innovative uses of different techniques including short training videos, hands on sessions, colleague playback or “show and tell” type sessions – no one size fits all though so often its about managers working with their team and finding what works for each person
Saurabh: Adoption of new technologies by businesses and their workforces saw an unprecedented acceleration since the pandemic started. The peculiarities of the pandemic made the transition to cloud an imperative to achieve business continuity. However, both the employees and businesses have realized the benefits of virtual collaboration platforms and other cloud tools and technologies to efficiently manage task and improve productivity and performance. This uptrend has made training, upskilling and adoption quite imperative since employees can gauge their alignment of these skills with their individual and organizational goals, becoming digitally dexterous. Needless to say, cloud platforms and infrastructure are quickly becoming the foundation on which the future of work is being built.
- Work-life integration has become key over the last 18 months. How is cloud supporting this?
Caroline: So much that this encompasses, danger is that technology allows work to impinge too much on life and you lose the balance, so it takes a degree of personal responsibility – but technology can also allow people a lot of flexibility … when to work, where to work, how to work and the ability to get help 24*7 through digital assistants that is equally available to all. So technology can be used to encourage equality and make everyone feel they have equal access to help, opportunities, learning and support.
Saurabh: Cloud technology has freed our workforces from the geographical constraints of a physical workplace. By establishing a constant access to your work regardless of your environment, workers have enjoyed the safety of their homes and have new experiences with the ‘work from anywhere’ trend. Our workforces have had more time to spend with their loved ones, as well as manage their professional expectations with the cloud platforms supporting their organization. There are conversations around the work-life balance getting trickier with this change, however, that can be avoided by creating work policies around exceptions for working beyond hours and other performance indicators tailored to remote working.
If you are interested in learning more about techUK’s Cloud Computing work, or get involved in future webinars, please do not hesitate to reach out.
Laura is techUK’s Head of Programme for Technology and Innovation.
She supports the application and expansion of emerging technologies across business, including Geospatial Data, Quantum Computing, AR/VR/XR and Edge technologies.
Before joining techUK, Laura worked internationally in London, Singapore and across the United States as a conference researcher and producer covering enterprise adoption of emerging technologies. This included being part of the strategic team at London Tech Week.
Laura has a degree in History (BA Hons) from Durham University, focussing on regional social history. Outside of work she loves reading, travelling and supporting rugby team St. Helens, where she is from.
Nimmi Patel is the Policy Manager for Skills, Talent and Diversity at techUK.
She works on all things skills policy, focusing on upskilling and retrain. She is committed to embedding diversity in the UK tech pipeline from classroom to boardroom working with partners such as the Tech Talent Charter and the WISE Campaign. Nimmi also leads techUK’s immigration work, collaborating with techUK members and stakeholders to create an environment that attracts the best talent to the UK.
Prior to joining the team, she worked for the UK Labour Party and New Zealand Labour Party and holds a BA in Politics, Philosophy and Economics from the University of Manchester and is currently studying MA Strategic Communications at King’s College London.