Words of Woz: Future of work needs 'firm' stand, honesty
Security issues would be there 'forever', elevating importance of transparency, IT personnal
The future of the workplace will be defined on how companies will react not just to consumer demand but also to realising the best workforce strategies, while also maintaining a high degree of credibility, according to a panel discussion featuring one of the tech world's legendary pioneers.
Steve Wozniak, who co-founded the original Apple Computer in a garage alongside fellow legend Steve Jobs, says that while things seem to be returning back to normal, companies should consider experimenting on new things if that would mean a more efficient workforce and streamlined economics.
"We're seeing and thinking that, how much of this will stay and how much won't," Wozniak said in the recent The Future of Work Reimagined digital event hosted by Lenovo and the International Data Corporation (IDC).
"Are we coming back? I think we're well on our way."
He did, however, pointed out that the answer largely depends on how companies will strategise given how Covid has resulted in eye-opening circumstances.
"Not everybody has the same job. Not everybody is in the same situation. Not every company and product category, so you can't really give any answer that fits all, but it's obvious that in the future we're going to have a lot more of this remote work being done partly because it's efficient in terms of economics," Wozniak stressed.
Wozniak was joined on the panel by Dilip Bhatia, vice-president of user and customer experience at Lenovo; David Rabin, Lenovo's vice-president for commercial marketing; and Nagia El Emary, country manager for Egypt and senior consultant at the IDC.
Wozniak says that a lot of big companies are liberal when it comes to work schedules and from where it's done. But these would hardly matter "as long as you get the work done".
The hybrid buzz
Employers and employees will also toe the line in trying to bring a balance between workplace parameters, both at the office and home. As such, 'hybrid' will be a buzzword in a post-Covid world, and will drive rebalancing in the ecosystem.
A study presented by the IDC highlighted that there will be new balances on every metric, from where work will be done and scheduling to how expenses are met and the well-being of the workforce. It also adds that 56 per cent of employees feel that working from home is better for them.
Hybrid work entails that companies will be pragmatic as they experiment and adapt to the new normal, expecting innovation as they address new and renewed priorities. The guiding motivation, more than ever, will be employee engagement and experience.
"The future workspace enables work without time, device or space boundaries. Regardless if you're working from an office or plant or remotely, contribution, collaboration and productivity must be supported," the IDC said.
The IDC's report on the challenges of the future of work showed that the top concern is worrying about a big drop in productivity (30.7 per cent), followed by cybersecurity and privacy (26.2 per cent) and resolving business issues (24.1 per cent). Collaboration and bandwidth issues are at the lower spectrum of concerns.
Companies in the Meta region have also laid out longer-term plans in the post-Covid era, with re-engineering of processes and automation the top priority (58 per cent), followed by new digital business models and ecosystems (43 per cent) and digital enabling of remote work (42 per cent).
Meanwhile, the top strategic goals for IT security managers — who have a tough task ahead of them — is to strengthen digital trust among the distributed workforce (46 per cent), secure supply chains (46 per cent) and boost trust among customers in digital services (39 per cent). Investments on security will be focused on the cloud, data privacy and applications.
This is where Wozniak wants to see companies step up.
"Anything that slightly looks out of the ordinary, there's got to be a pause button," he said, adding that malware is one of the biggest challenges today, considering the fact that we don't know how many there are.
Should a breach be detected, one of the first steps should be limiting access to systems.
"What if an insider is involved?", he quipped.
Dismaying as it may seem, Wozniak says that security challenges is "something we'll probably have to live with forever" — but that elevates the importance of IT people.
But the most important thing is assuring customers of your intentions when utilising their data, something companies should "stand up for".
"Transparency and honesty. Putting these as No.1. Telling people here's what you're buying, what it'll do for you, etc," he said.
"We get a lot of bad faith in companies", so it's about time this notion has to be changed, he added.
The IDC predicts workers will increasingly expect consumer-grade and personalised work experiences with instant access to resources anytime and anywhere.
It also believes that virtual teams require secure and reliable workspaces where they can share information and collaborate to be most productive.
"Enterprises with state-of-the-art, collaborative and intelligent physical workspaces will see lower turnover, higher productivity and higher revenue/employee than peers," the IDC added.
Lenovo, meanwhile, topped worldwide PC shipments in the first quarter of 2021, according to new Gartner data. Deliveries grew 32 per cent year-on-year to 69.9 million units. Lenovo had a 25.1 per cent market share thanks to 17.55 million devices shipped.
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