Flexible working is now a widespread practice in our society – a new social norm. In fact, previous research revealed more than half (51%) of UK workers who have the choice to mix remote and office working would consider leaving their company if this hybrid option was removed.
The onus on flexible working has never been more prevalent, and employees are increasingly demanding this continued way of working long-term. This requires tools and technology built for hybrid working to enable employees to work from anywhere and on any device, with simple, powerful and secure solutions.
Employee working patterns and attitudes towards the office have shifted drastically. According to a recent Microsoft Surface report, The re-imagined office: not a re-design but a re-define, when asked to envision the future workplace, it is still the “basics” that employees long for. Strong Wi-Fi was the most commonly cited request (49%), followed by good air-conditioning with temperature control (47%), flexible work hours (46%) and good transport links (43%).
It is evident that employees want convenience and connectivity from their employers and it is therefore vital that organisations equip their workforce with the tools to enable this, such as employee experience platforms, collaboration technology and cloud computing – including the cloud PC.
Using the cloud PC, which brings together the power and security of the cloud with the versatility and simplicity of the PC, employees can log in to their desktop and access all their usual business applications from any device – whether a new laptop or older device. This is a game-changer for employees moving between home and the office or working on the go, as there is no longer a requirement for them to lug their work device around with them.
Also, as a result of economic and social uncertainty and as organisations adapt to the new hybrid reality, an increasing number of businesses are continuing their transition to the cloud and the wider digital transformation journey.
To thrive in today’s hybrid world, every organisation needs a digital fabric that brings employers and their employees together with secure communication, collaboration and creation. This digital fabric will allow flexibility and strengthen connections across people and teams, whether they are working remotely or in-person, in-sync or asynchronously.
It will seamlessly weave together data, automation and artificial intelligence (AI) – all in the flow of work, which can be accessible via the cloud PC. This digital fabric needs to extend beyond organisational boundaries to customers and partners, including every type of employee, whether an information worker, frontline worker or hybrid worker.
Collaborative tools are an essential part of any business looking to not only help improve productivity, but allow teams to be able to feel connected, included and encouraged to participate, even when they are working remotely. In turn, organisations can develop a digital community, equipped with modern communication tools to fuel conversation, whether that is setting up meetings, having instant chats with colleagues, or automating workflow.
As the demand for flexible working increases at pace, IT admins need to find ways to keep up with how employees like to work and where, especially in the wake of the increasing battle on talent and staff retention. According to Microsoft’s Work Trend Index, the expectation of people needing flexibility around how, when and where they work is prevalent now more than ever. The research revealed that 73% of employees want a better reason to go into the office than just company expectations reflecting the importance of how employees use their productivity.
IT admins must consider how they can meet the needs of employees by investing in the right tools to help drive inclusivity, engagement and productivity. In order to keep organisations secure while also facilitating seamless access to business software applications, IT decision-makers will need to ensure they are investing in the right cloud technology.
Virtual desktops, for example, are hosted on cloud-based resources and have proved a perfect solution in managing the remote work model. Not only can virtual desktops allow workforces to work remotely from their own devices, but this type of cloud technology also saves on significant hardware and software costs – costs that would have been invested in additional laptops if they were not in place.
Research has shown that almost two-thirds (65.9%) of spending on application software will be directed towards cloud technologies in 2025, up from 57.7% in 2022. IT admins should use this ongoing shift to the cloud as an opportunity to ensure they have the right tools in place to enable hybrid work – including the cloud PC – to allow employees to securely access their personalised apps and settings on any device and connect seamlessly from anywhere.
Technology plays a critical role in creating connection wherever, whenever and however people work – and communication is crucial to keeping everyone engaged and informed. According to Microsoft’s Work Trend Index, for nearly all business decision-makers (96%) and employees (95%), effective communication is among the most critical skills they will need in the year ahead. Employees and their employers should be encouraged to work collaboratively, even when working remotely, through cloud-based technology.
Ultimately, what employees seek in a workplace in 2022 is somewhere that embodies flexibility, a culture of trust and that they know measures outcome, not hours worked. Leaders, then, will need to work past “productivity paranoia” and build a culture of trust and empowerment for employees to flourish long-term. Organisations that are able to invest in additional training in managing the cloud PC for employees not only enhances the scalability of the technology, but also keeps up with changing demand.
By taking a comprehensive and secure approach to managing the cloud, employers can ensure they have the infrastructure in place to facilitate the increase in flexible working and drive innovation among their employees.
Nick Hedderman is a senior director in Microsoft UK’s Modern Work Business Group.