‘We’re in a new era of hybrid work’: CEOs embrace COVID changes

Major chief executives including Telstra’s Andy Penn have expressed confidence they can manage the challenges of remote workforces as the coronavirus pandemic forces businesses to permanently change the way they operate.

Mr Penn said the last 12 months had proved to him that people didn’t have to be working in an office together. “We are in a new era of hybrid work. Where someone lives should no longer be a limitation to the work they undertake,” he said.

His views are echoed by a survey of 3000 global company chief executives published last week by IBM in which 61 per cent of those surveyed said managing a remote “anywhere” workforce was the biggest challenge for companies this year.

The survey found the global embrace of remote working due to the coronavirus pandemic had fast-tracked cultural changes and expectations about the office of the future. The leaders also said having the best technology was the most important external force that would impact their enterprises over the next three years.

Telstra chief executive Andy Penn says the telco’s staff want a combination of office and home working options.
Telstra chief executive Andy Penn says the telco’s staff want a combination of office and home working options.Credit: Supplied

One of the Australian respondents to the survey, National Australia Bank chief executive Ross McEwan, said: “What might have taken 10 years all happened within six months. Organisations with really good technology platforms have stood up, while those without have really struggled.

“This bank had spent quite a bit of money on redoing its platforms.”

Mr Penn said Telstra staff no longer wanted to spend Monday to Friday in a traditional office environment and instead many saw themselves coming in up to two days a week to collaborate, see customers and connect with coworkers. “Given the parenting and educating burden still often falls to women, we also hope this level of flexibility to juggle their work and home lives will help us make great leaps forward when it comes to diversity in the workforce,” he said.

“At Telstra we are moving to a ‘location agnostic’ approach for all office and contact centre-based roles, opening up the talent pool beyond the typical CBD, meaning we can advertise roles with no fixed address attached.”

Didier Elzinga, founder and chief executive of employee engagement startup Culture Amp, told The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald chief executives had three options: pretending nothing had changed, using a fully remote work anywhere option or implementing a hybrid model.

“The top priority is working out what the hell are we going to do in the new world of work,” he said.

The founder and chief executive of Culture Amp, Didier Elzinga, addressing a virtual conference.
The founder and chief executive of Culture Amp, Didier Elzinga, addressing a virtual conference. Credit:James Alcock

Mr Elzinga said the problem with a hybrid model was there was no playbook and there were concerns it could be the worst of both worlds. “How do you be fully remote or how do you be hybrid?” he said. “Because no one’s going back to the way that it was before, that’s a fool’s errand.”

Bridget Loudon, chief executive and co-founder of online employment marketplace Expert360, said COVID had overnight accelerated every underlying macro trend about the future of work. “All bets are off in terms of how companies find, manage and engage talent,” she said. “How to manage a remote workforce is one aspect of it but actually business leaders and chief human resources officers need to completely rethink the way that they source manage and engage.”

Ms Loudon said Expert360 has moved to “flex first” and anticipated about 40 per cent of the company’s workforce would be in a physical office environment on any given day.

“Most companies now have a burning platform [need to make radical change] really in a way that they haven’t before,” she said.

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Source: Thanks smh.com