CIOs strive to level the playing field for remote and office workers

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Hybrid and remote working became more firmly entrenched in 2021, as the Delta and Omicron variants delayed plans for a large return to the office, prompting executives to take action to make sure the system works for everyone. .

“This integration of the physical and virtual world has probably been the most complicated,” said Yael Cosset, CIO of Kroger Co., describing his efforts to create the hybrid office.

Part of the problem, he said, is ensuring a “level playing field” for those in the office and those at home. Cincinnati-based Kroger, America’s largest supermarket chain by revenue, has a camera and audio equipment installed in its conference rooms, though for large conference rooms it’s still hard to find. the right audio balancing technology that picks up speakers’ voices but not background noise, Cosset said.

Conference room upgrades

Paul von Autenried, CIO of Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., said the New York-based biopharmaceutical company was operating under a hybrid model. During meetings, employees in conference rooms typically join in from their laptops and turn on their cameras so virtual participants can see everyone’s faces, he said.

Further, he said, “We generally find that people always raise their hands when they want to speak, and in doing so, it also encourages a greater degree of inclusiveness … so that remote workers are not not at a disadvantage in these moments of wanting to intervene. “

Anil Bhatt, CIO of health insurer Anthem Inc., also works to bridge the gap between remote and on-site employees. The Indianapolis-based company installed tablets on the seats in conference rooms. The cameras on the tablets show the faces of each person in the conference room, rather than a wide shot of the whole group. The advantage is that employees working remotely can still see the faces of those in the conference room, he said.

“Boardrooms and boardroom technologies were designed with remote working after the fact,” said Edward Wagoner, CIO, digital at Chicago-based commercial real estate services firm Jones Lang LaSalle Inc. “We need to rethink them to be more inclusive, “he said, adding that the reason people will come to offices now will be” to collaborate and socialize “, not just to sit and respond to e -mails.

Centene’s “fusion centers”

Beyond conference rooms, some CIOs are also looking to optimize entire offices.

Centene Corp. built an east coast campus in Charlotte, NC, to complement its headquarters in St. Louis and its west coast campus in Sacramento, California. The first phase of construction is expected to be completed in 2022, a good timing for the company to optimize hybrid work in the design of the campus, said CIO Mark Brooks.

The new campus will have “fusion centers” designed for collaboration, Mr. Brooks said. One room will have a video wall in the middle that can act as a partition if teams are to work independently, or it can be used to let teams present content from both sides of the wall “to get everyone … together to work collaboratively, ”he said.

The Charlotte campus will also include amenities such as a daycare, gym, clinic and pharmacy, as well as electric car charging stations.

Efficiency tips

Mr Cosset said Kroger leverages data on employees’ work habits to provide them with personalized advice on how they can work more efficiently, whether at home or in the office. The tips, which come in the form of a weekly email, can tell employees how often they’re distracted by emails when they’re in a meeting or how long they’ve worked without taking a break.

Employees can sign up if they wish to receive such tips, he said. Apart from that, information is shared at an “aggregate level”, based on a team, department or entire office, he said: “We really wanted to make sure that we did not become too demanding on an individual level. “

“Concentrated Fridays”

“There is definitely more fatigue because we have a lot more machine time,” said Mark Spykerman, CIO of AmerisourceBergen Corp. The Philadelphia-based drug wholesale and distribution company has implemented “focus Fridays,” he said, when employees are encouraged to block out the hours of 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. to concentrate. on work rather than holding meetings. Mr Spykerman said he hoped the practice would help employees avoid “zoom fatigue”.

Focus Fridays have also made their way at software maker Momentive Global Inc., said IT director Eric Johnson. The San Mateo, Calif., Company owns SurveyMonkey, a service that allows people to design and implement surveys online.

Momentive has been away since the start of the pandemic, but plans to go hybrid in 2022. Mr Johnson said when that happens there will be some learning to be done, not necessarily in terms of technology but in terms of how the systems work. people. .

“People who are in the office versus people who are not in the office… and the way they work together is, I think, again something a lot of CIOs are trying to figure out,” he said.

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