For much of the 2010s, I’ve been noticing a slow and steady shift in how the quintessential white-collar job has changed. As collaboration tools matured and work became increasingly distributed, the tech ecosystem adapted to enable remote working methods. Traditional workplaces resisted this trend until the COVID-19 pandemic forced companies to rethink the way they work.
As we move into the new decade, a few things have become exceedingly clear: remote work is here to stay, and knowledge workers across major industries are no longer beholden to industrial-era working practices.
Unpacking hybrid models
There is no arguing that the hybrid work environment is an inseparable part of the future workplace. At HCLTech, we confirmed this through a joint study with Fortune Brand Studio, where we surveyed 200 senior executives from 11 industries across North America and Europe in March 2022. The results speak for themselves. More than 90% of those polled cited sustainable work models as a top priority for their organizations, with over half of them indicating strong agreement.
For me, a successful hybrid workplace model starts with employee feedback and ends with the employee experience. In my time at HCLTech, I've observed that involving employees and empowering managers are critical pillars to establishing the norm of hybrid work. Given its abstract nature, no two companies can follow the same playbook, and it falls on senior leadership to drive these changes.
Unclouded strategic thinking
Clarity of vision and unfettered execution are necessary conditions to ensure the success of hybrid work models. This is especially true for large organizations (more than 25,000 employees), as the design of new work models and paradigmatic shifts in vision are the sole prerogatives of executive leadership.
I've been with HCLTech for nearly 20 years, and I've noticed how effective a top-down approach can be in large organizations. The foundation of our hybrid work vision was set up by our leadership team, with employee experience, company culture and operational security as the key pillars of the overall strategy.
It's equally important to note that strategy should serve as a North Star to guide hybrid work policies, and the actual implementation ought to be left with the concerned departments. In our survey, we found that Human Resources and IT are the most common contenders for driving these changes, with the former being preferred by leaders.
The definition of sustainability in the modern corporate environment has evolved beyond carbon footprints and net-zero emissions. From what I've seen, sustainability is no longer an afterthought but a key functional driver of employee recruitment and retention. The current labor market, especially in a highly specialized industry like ours, is particularly tight, and potential employees are spoilt for choice when it comes to lucrative employment opportunities. A sustainable work environment can be a major differentiator in such circumstances.
In our survey, a significant 64% of the executives from leading companies with a sustainable work environment cite diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) as a major factor in helping to attract and retain employees. This is a correlation that I can personally corroborate, as I’ve observed grassroots sustainability initiatives contributing to the creation of an environment that is more accepting of differences across opinions, working styles, etc.
When I started as a graduate fresh out of university, wages and salaries were the dominant factors when it came to choosing between multiple, equally attractive job opportunities. Today that has changed, with over 51% of our survey participants citing work-life balance as the most important aspect of employee experience.
Hybrid work environments blur the lines between homes and workspaces, and it's more likely for the latter to bleed into the former. Organizational culture needs to take this into account, and companies which actively consult with their employees and their managers to mitigate such brazen transgressions of work-life balance are more likely to be industry leaders.
So far, I’ve given you my appraisal of what the future holds for modern workplaces and touched upon the key themes shaping digital workplaces across the globe: hybrid work, employee-centric strategies, sustainable work models, and a culture that embraces work-life distinctions.
In the next part of this blog, I will be detailing how these themes enhance the sustainability quotient of a company and how senior leaders can prepare themselves to embrace the workplace of the future.