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The new working practices revolution due to COVID-19

In a fascinating Zoom meeting “CIO Office Town Hall: The New Normal - Work-Life after COVID-19” ably chaired by Zoom’s Gary Sorrentino (Chief Technology Officer/Chief Information Security Officer) brought together:

  • Harry Moseley, CIO, Google
  • Magnus Falk, Digital and Technology leader, UK
  • Anabella Bexigo, a CIO
  • Mike Wright, Partner, McKinsey Europe.

They discussed what are going to be the new working practices as we emerge, however slowly, from the COVID-19 crisis. Their five conclusions were that:

  1. Adapting to the new normal: CIOs need to start the conversation ASAP: Asking “How will we work on our return?”
  2. The existing office space will need to be updated: Social distancing rules and other safety concerns will have to be implemented, e.g. new employee workspaces; voice-controlled: elevators, automatic lighting and doors; board rooms may not need a large table rather they will need a presentation area and screens, etc.
  3. Need to identify the essential in-office jobs: Some jobs will need to be in the office in order to get the job done. Determine which roles need to be in the office and which jobs may work remotely.
  4. Tech forward-thinking required: Technology needs to be reviewed as to what new technology will have to be implemented fast to accommodate the new normal for communication cover, collaboration and virtual working in a safe and secure manner.
  5. Support, support, support: Support functions will need to be re-engineered to accommodate employees working alone, distributed teams working together, and the challenges that the new normal work-life will present.

Ideas and questions floated during the discussion included:

  • Don’t necessarily re-assert the old controls, think through the alternatives.
  • What % of your workers are: 70% remote/30% in office or 50/50? Each job is different
  • The hub and spoke business model has been replaced by a range of solutions, there will not be just one solution. What is clear is that the new model will be much more distributed.
  • How has status changed? What is the status of a 60% remote /40% office worker v. 100% office worker v. 100% remote worker?
  • Working-at-home is the new normal, e.g. Chairman of the board of a major company was chairing a board meeting which was interrupted by his wife coming into the room saying, “Hold the baby.” He said, “But I am chairing a board meeting.” She repeated, “Hold the baby. I’ll be back in a minute.” He held the baby for the minute.
  • Physical distancing: achieve this by varying work start times
  • Does the standard contract need to be five days/week? What could be achieved by three days?
  • Allow new working practices innovation to emerge, don’t regiment for it.
  • Manager’s job is going to be very different as they will have to assess productivity very differently, they will need to:
    • Focus on output, not putting in the hours
    • Create 1:1 relationships in a different way
    • Give new messages such as the no. 1 priority is you, 2 – your family, and 3 – the organisation.
  • Make sure that working-at-home staff have the correct disciplines, e.g. have separate a distinct workplace, take time off, etc.
  • Think holistically about costs, e.g. view all costs – offices, travel, IT systems, marketing, etc.  – together, so that the trade-offs between the cost of improving IT systems and support for remote working can be offset against savings in office and travel costs.
  • B2B work productivity will actually improve as there will be fewer lunches/face-to-face meetings (but there will still be key F2F contacts), e.g. investment bankers now ‘have a life’ as they no longer travel to London for a one-hour meeting which has been replaced by a video conference call, but will still need F2F meetings as well.
  • A new remote meeting etiquette will emerge:
    • video meetings are a great leveller – status doesn’t matter so much, e.g. in a video meeting the quality of how dressed, size and manner, etc. It is what the attendee says that matters
    • Workers will quickly learn how to hold separate online conversations while the main meeting is going on, etc.
    • new tools will be developed, e.g. one idea was for a meeting chairman’s APP that monitored attendees faces and input and then will able to assist chairman with advice, e.g. Attendee A doesn’t appear to agree with you, Attendee B is asleep, etc……
  • Need to experiment with different ways of working, so that new ways will emerge.

CTMfile take: COVID-19 has dramatically changed working practices. Will it change corporate treasury as much?


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