The world has just witnessed one of the fastest working transformations in history. COVID-19 has seen companies send people home in droves, relying on technology to keep business as usual. Working from home, once the exception rather than the rule, has become responsible for two-thirds of economic activity, as an estimated 1.1 billion people worldwide have been forced to perform their daily work remotely, against 350 million in 2019.
As we explain in the Accenture Technology Vision 2021 report, this transformation is just the beginning. In the future, where and how people work will be much more flexible concepts with the potential to bring benefits to both employees and employers. In fact, 87% of executives surveyed by Accenture believe remote workforce opens up the market for hard-to-find talent.
These benefits will only be fully realized if companies take a strategic approach to the future of work. Remember a few years ago when the bring your own device (BYOD) trend was in full swing. Faced with the demand from workers to use their own devices as part of the business, companies have had to think about new policies and controls to support this model.
Employers now have to do the same, but on a much larger scale. BYOD has become “BYOE”: employees bring all their environments to work. These environments include a wider range of worker-owned technologies (smart speakers, home networks, game consoles, security cameras, etc.) and their work environment. One person may have a home office set up in a shed in their backyard, another may work from the kitchen table, surrounded by family.
Organizations need to accept that their employee environments are an integral part of their business and adjust them accordingly.
The workplace redesigned
In the future, BYOE-style work will not be limited to employee homes. People will be free to work from anywhere, and they’ll want to work in the environment that works best for them, whether it’s the office, home, or a hybrid mix of the two. It is something that leaders must accommodate rather than fight.
Indeed, leaders can rethink the purpose of working in the warehouses, depots, factories, offices, laboratories and other places that make up their business. They should carefully consider when it makes sense for people to be on certain sites and with certain people. They will thus be able to optimize their operations.
In a few years, the successful organizations will be those that have resisted the urge to bring everyone back to the office and instead rethink how their workforce works. They will have a strong change strategy in place that includes the adoption of technology enablers such as cloud, AI, IoT and XR. But more importantly, it will describe how their redesigned workforce model can support and help their employees and how this can be reflected in the corporate culture.
Activate the new
The first step towards this future is through visibility into the employee experience. With BYOE, employee experience has never been more important, but it has never been more difficult to monitor. Workplace analysis will therefore be essential in understanding the impact of employees’ environment on their work and finding information that can improve their experience and productivity.
Security is another main catalyst. Organizations need to accept that their employee environments are an integral part of their business and adjust them accordingly. IT security teams will need to do more than make sure a worker’s laptop is secure with the latest firewall fixes, and consider the security of the worker’s network and the security of all devices. linked to this network, such as baby monitors and smart TVs.
Once the foundations of technology, analytics, and security are in place, organizations will be in a better position to harness the full value of BYOE: business model transformation. When companies go virtual first, they have new opportunities to integrate emerging technologies into the workforce. With a virtual BYOE strategy, for example, businesses can have a warehouse full of robots doing the physical work, coupled with offsite employees monitoring and overseeing the strategy securely.
Cultural change is the key
The success of BYOE will also depend on culture. The company must accept that the employee environment is now part of the “workplace” and adapt to the needs of the people. It will be a significant cultural change that is slow to emerge, but there will also be quick wins.
Take the disconnect between in-person and remote workers, for example. So much is tied to geography right now, but the future will be a question of balance. Workers in different roles will benefit from the work environment best suited to their needs. However, without careful implementation, the approach could lead to a divided workforce, where office and remote workers find it difficult to collaborate. Quora is already seeking to overcome this challenge by requiring all employees who attend meetings, whether at home or in the office, to appear on their own video screens.
Rethinking the organization for BYOE is a moving target and best practices are still emerging. But one thing is already clear: you cannot afford to wait. To attract the best talent and retain employees, start planning now.