The future of work is a hybrid mix of remote and in-person collaboration taking place in a “distributed yet digitally enabled workplace”. This will require not only best-in-class expertise with technology functions, but also broad technology knowledge across the organisation.
That was the prognosis from Aftab Taylor, CIO – Geographies at JLL, who spoke at last month’s Tech Monitor Live virtual forum. Aftab shared how the global property giant is preparing for this hybrid future of work, both in its own operations and in support of its clients’ transformations.
JLL, which provides services to owners of properties including offices, expects hybrid working to be the dominant model in future. “Some industries are forcing people to go back into the office, and others are fully supportive of the fully remote model,” said Aftab. “But we believe that that comfort zone of the future of work will be a hybrid workplace. It’s a distributed yet digitally enabled workplace model.”
Despite many organisations’ ability to work entirely remotely during the Covid-19 pandemic, Taylor believes “offices will be more important now than ever before as the centre of the work ecosystem, whether you think about reinforcing culture or driving collaboration, or even supporting health and well-being”.
The purpose of the workplace will evolve, however. “The office is here to stay, but how the office is used is going to change,” he said. “Pre-pandemic we saw a lot of allocation to individual spaces with a little bit of allocation to collaboration. It’s almost certain that we will see that allocation for collaboration in offices increase.
“There has been a significant shift from the office being historically workplace-centric, to being more worker-centric with a lot more focus on individuals, teams, people, and really health and safety,” Aftab explained. “And this hybrid model will be a lot about enabling cross-collaboration, and organisations will spend a lot of time understanding why people need to go into the office, and better understanding their employees to help facilitate value from actually going into the office for activities like collaborating, design-thinking, strategising and so on.”
Technology skills for hybrid working
Creating these digitally enabled workplaces requires both best-in-class skills within the technology function and strong technology understanding across the organisation, Aftab argued. “We need to make the organisation more successful from a technology perspective,” he said, “and how do we do both of those at the same time?
In order to embed technology expertise throughout the business, JLL is moving towards product-centric teams, Aftab explained: “Developing individuals focused on products to not only hone and develop their own skills, but at the same time to make the organisation successful through the products we build.”
At the same time, JLL is uplifting technology knowledge across the organisation by “setting up technology training platforms and making the business more aware,” Aftab shared, “because while we might build nice products that might look fancy to the outside world, how do we ensure our employees are also comfortable with the technologies we are building. I put them both at an equal level of importance.”
JLL CIO Aftab Taylor on the need for empathy
Finally, Taylor said that the disruption caused by the coronavirus crisis had made it clear that technology leaders needed to focus on people and the cultural side of IT implementations and digital transformation as much as they did the tech.
“Coming out of the pandemic, we have realised that the need to collaborate, and the need to empathise with our employees is all the more important,” he said. “Keep that at the forefront of everything that you do, because people have gone through a challenging and difficult time, and everyone’s experience has been very, very different – so while we talk a lot about technology this is really all about our people so we should all make sure we play a collective effort to keep that in mind.”