Apr 29 2020

4 Takeaways from the Future of Work Virtual SummIT

From leadership to collaboration, here’s what businesses need to keep in mind when preparing for the future of work.

The future of work has long been theorized about, discussed as a hypothetical circumstance still years, if not decades, away. That changed when social distancing restrictions pushed businesses to adapt, forcing them into practices they didn’t expect to have to deploy so soon and so widely.

In the chaos of the transition to widespread remote work, organizations have gotten a glimpse into the future. They have a chance to see the challenges and roadblocks, as well as the potential of a fully digital workforce.

CDW’s Future of Work Virtual SummIT featured input and advice from experts about how business leaders can get their organizations through this stressful time, as well as on the technology that can power business continuity. Here are the main takeaways from the week.

1. Leadership Is Critical in Moving to Remote Work

A consistent theme throughout the summit was leadership. In order for employees, and therefore organizations, to be able to move through this transition successfully, they need to feel secure in their place within the business and have trust in leadership. Seth Mattison, a workforce strategist and author of The War at Work, opened the event by detailing the importance of transparency from the C-suite. 

“Leaders need to be able to communicate and speak first and foremost transparently, authentically and vulnerably from their heart,” said Mattison.

He also emphasized the importance of making employees feel seen.

“How do I, in small subtle ways through our digital virtual environments, make people feel like they can reveal their true selves, that they’re accepted all the way, that you can turn your camera on no matter what is happening?” Mattison says. “When we get that, we create an organization that is resilient enough to move through this.”

In her closing keynote, organizational strategy consultant Crystal Kadakia echoed this sentiment, saying that employees need space to feel comfortable sharing their diversity and opinions in order for new ideas to flourish.

“We’re reorienting toward unleashing individuality in a large-scale way,” said Kadakia. “That’s where the innovation comes from. Innovation doesn’t come from everyone saying the same thing.” 

INSIDER EXCLUSIVE: Watch the full webinar with workforce strategist Seth Mattison.

2. Communication and Collaboration Will Drive the Future of Work

With employees working from every corner of the country, or even around the globe, maintaining strong communication is vital. Small interactions that often power collaboration and camaraderie are based on in-person touch points, something that’s not possible in a remote work environment.

Finding ways to move those interactions to a virtual space is critical, said Ben Weiss, vertical markets vice president for CDW, in a session with Digital Workspace Solutions Director Nathan Coutinho on lessons learned so far from widespread remote work.

“I put daily checkpoints in place for team members to connect via video,” said Weiss. “I think that’s one of the most important things that we’re going to take out of this — the importance of video as it relates to staying connected." 

"The remote tools, the VDI, the videoconferencing: It's really forced customers to think about transformation, but not in the way you would normally think about digital transformation,” said Coutinho.

CDW experts discussed the best ways to support remote work at the CDW Future of Work Virtual SummIT.

3. Cybersecurity Must Shift from Infrastructure to Employees

As the workforce moves into the home, security vulnerabilities move as well. Protecting the infrastructure and data center are still important priorities for IT departments, but making sure employees are taking the proper precautions should now also be a top concern. In a session on cybersecurity’s evolving role, CDW Security Solutions Practice Architect Paul Shelton outlined new challenges for businesses. 

“Their office is wherever they happen to find themselves,” said Shelton. “So, the ability to put some controls around where people are, what people are doing and what they’re doing it with have become very, very fluid.”

With so much else going on, it’s especially important to help employees stay vigilant, as security might not necessarily be top of mind, said Shelton. 

“It’s very much a herd immunity type of approach to getting an organization much more resilient to attack,” he said. “Getting folks into a culture and a mindset that allows them to not be concerned about reporting these things, not be concerned about going to information security and reporting a strange email they saw.”

INSIDER EXCLUSIVE: Learn to protect your organization with the full webinar featuring Paul Shelton. 

4. With Remote Work, There’s No Going Back

A major takeaway that was echoed throughout the week was that this isn’t a temporary change. Nearly every speaker acknowledged that remote work, in some form, is here to stay — and businesses need to be ready to implement some of these changes permanently.

“It's literally transforming the way we all work together, which could actually be a huge positive,” said Coutinho.

Shelton said that as businesses move more employees to remote work, cybersecurity has to be ready, for the good of the organization.

“There are a lot of advancements and a lot of business trends that we find right now that are based on those concepts,” he said. “So, as we move to a more hyperagile type of business model, by necessity the hyperagile workforce has to come along with it.”

Kadakia predicted that living through this extreme will allow organizations to eventually settle somewhere in the middle of traditional and virtual workplaces.

“It’s the blend,” she said. “It’s finding the best blend for your organization.”

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