Technology Supports the New Way of Working

COVID has supercharged the hybrid workplace, with research indicating 25 per cent of the global workforce will never to return to the office. Additionally, 40 per cent of employees are expected to continue to work in a hybrid way, combining work from home and a return to the workplace.

So, how can CFOs and finance leaders ensure their workplace is a modern, secure environment that drives strong employee engagement? This was the focus of a recent CFO Magazine Lunchtime Live event.

Microsoft New Zealand CFO, Helen He says internal research shows most employees want more flexible, remote working options. “At the same time, post-pandemic staff want more in-person collaboration, which requires a new operating and hybrid work model. Conversations around this will remain top of the agenda for many organisations.”

Helen He, CFO Microsoft NZ

Establishing new business models in light of employees’ desire to embrace a hybrid working environment is occupying many CFOs’ minds right now. This means understanding their teams’ individual needs when they are working from home.

Microsoft NZ HR Lead, Ebeny Firth says against this backdrop, it’s never been more important for staff to maintain connections with key people in their organisations. “People are looking forward to coming back to the office. But we need to reward managers who prioritise building culture and the systems that support and reinforce it.”

New challenges

Helen says a hybrid working world makes it challenging to ensure meetings are inclusive and engaging. Microsoft is addressing this in various ways across its workspaces. “We’re re-imagining conference rooms to be more flexible and inclusive. That could include multiple video screens to create that really dynamic view of participants, live chat windows and whiteboards on which to collaborate. This helps remote participation, so everyone feels they are included in the same meeting.”

Against this backdrop, Ebeny says it’s never been more important to make sure staff don’t experience burnout and, specifically, digital burnout, from being at home and at work 24/7.

“I spend about 75 per cent of my time talking to our team. Norms are shifting and we need to look at wellbeing as a priority. We like data at Microsoft and our research shows many of us feel back-to-back meetings are challenging for our wellbeing. Short breaks really help to support staff wellbeing,” says Helen.

Microsoft is using analytics to improve work habits and help managers to identify burnout. Helen explains how she uses data to check whether she’s working too much.

“I see analytics on a regular basis via Viva Insights, that tell me how much time I am spending in meetings and prompts that advise me to prioritise wellbeing, for instance by carving out breaks in Outlook. It also has lots of great personal tools such as podcasts that encourage mindfulness.”

Critical focus on risk management

While hybrid working has many benefits, it also heightens security risk. This is something every organisation must address.

“Cyber teams have a challenge now everyone is working from home, figuring out how they can support productivity and also secure their data. Our approach is to foster a culture where security is everyone’s job. We offer annual training on compliance and security to make sure everybody in the organisation is up to speed with the latest security knowledge and empowered and equipped to know what to do to keep their devices secured,” says Ebeny.

Despite its privations, she says the pandemic has a silver lining. “It has given us an opportunity to work through new remote working paradigms and the technology you need to support that.”

One conundrum has been encouraging ingenuity and innovation when staff work from home.

“There’s no one size fits all approach to this. It’s about finding the best model that fits your organisation. For example, when we need to work offsite, we’re prepared to update our policies for some teams, depending on the work that needs to be done. It’s all about being flexible,” Ebeny adds.

Ebeny Firth, HR Lead, Microsoft NZ

Helen notes COVID-19 has proven staff can work anywhere. “Traditionally, our view has been some roles have to be based in a certain country because your business partners are based here. Thanks to the pandemic and remote working, we know technology changes this. This opens up more opportunities for the talent pool.”

There is no doubt everything has changed in the world of work. Importantly, there are many positives to a hybrid way of working. But building a great workplace culture has never been more vital and this can fall squarely in the CFO’s remit. It’s an opportunity for finance chiefs to support their enterprises now and into the future.

For more information on any of these topics, you can visit these helpful Microsoft resources:

  1. Microsoft and LinkedIn share latest data and innovation for hybrid work – The Official Microsoft Blog