, Singapore

Data-driven decisions will pave the way in a hybrid work world

By Andy Sim

As we transition to an endemic COVID-19 and learn to live with the virus, individuals and businesses must learn to embrace new realities and remain resilient in the face of change.

One of the biggest disruptions we faced was the move to hybrid work. While it has given rise to new ways of working, hybrid work also poses challenges to leaders as they navigate this next normal.

Leaders are now not only the guardians of profit and loss. They are also motivators taking on the responsibility of employees’ health, safety and well-being. Hybrid work will challenge leaders to tread with care and make important decisions that affect workplace culture, productivity, safety and employee wellness – especially when it comes to safely opening and closing the office. It is essential to find the right balance between working from home and on-site.

Employee care takes centre stage

In a hybrid work world, businesses will see employees working partly from home and partly at the office. Those who choose the latter will need reassurance that the necessary considerations and measures have been put in place to keep safety front and centre. Yet, a survey commissioned by digital workflow firm ServiceNow found that almost three in four (72 per cent) employees in Singapore believe that their employer will prioritise business continuity over workplace safety amidst the return to the office.

The importance of employer-employee trust in this current environment cannot be understated, as employees seek assurance. Amid this pandemic and hybrid work reality, business leaders are being called upon to make not just business-critical decisions, but human-centric decisions that inspire confidence in our ability to work safely from anywhere.

During times of uncertainty, trusted relationships with employees foster strength and resilience. In fact, a new report from Accenture highlights trust as ‘the new currency at work’, enabling firms to create supportive cultures and grow their business while helping the wider community. Before the pandemic, 35 per cent of CXOs fully embraced the responsibility to support people’s holistic needs. Just six months later, this has grown to represent 50 per cent of CXOs.

Tangible, data-driven insights are key to building trust

Now, the question uniting all businesses is how to build or strengthen that trust – providing comfort to employees and steadying business foundations. When inundated with conflicting information from a variety of sources and organisations, people need something tangible to grasp onto, particularly when it comes to returning to the office. They need to see the data that backs up critical decisions. They also need consistency.

Given the fast pace at which the pandemic shifts – with new variants giving rise to fresh outbreaks resurging around the world, coupled with increased vaccination rates – having access to real-time data is essential to making swift, effective and consistent decisions around on-site working. To achieve a true hybrid work model, employees need confidence in their employer’s ability to move flexibly between on-site and off-site working – making the right call, at the right time.

With technology at the heart of what we do, there was no question about the value of harnessing data to safeguard employees’ health. Dell Technologies data scientists, in partnership with medical professionals, developed a dedicated tool called the Inversed Risk Matrix, a real-time dashboard designed to help our leaders make sense of all the health data – the number of infections, hospitalisations, curve inclination – to make informed decisions that put the health and safety of our team members and communities first.

The matrix works by collecting the best available data from credible sources such as Johns Hopkins, Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organisation to calculate the overall risk score across 182 countries and 173 states/provinces where Dell Technologies operates. Our leaders also consider each facility's capacity and local government regulations to determine the readiness to open or need to close sites. Not only does this tool help organise the return-to-site safely, it also helps us remain on-site safely – moving us from business continuity to business resiliency in a hybrid work world.

Bringing the business together with data requires a holistic approach

Data-driven approaches like this help humans make better, more informed, consistent real-time decisions. In fact, organisations that prioritise and leverage automation and gain insights from their data will be best equipped to address the needs of a modern digital business.

But data alone cannot solve the dilemma of how and when to safely open offices and offer full hybrid work flexibility. It requires a collaborative, holistic approach that ensures key stakeholders are onboard, eliminating silos. A safe and well-timed strategy that enables on-site working for those who want it, while supporting those who prefer to work remotely, means bringing the different functions within the company together. That way, organisations can roll out a sensitive, inclusive approach that is tailored to the local workforce and its needs. This holistic approach is very much built into digital businesses – and is an essential part of their digital transformation.

Businesses that enable flexible, hybrid working practices, with the necessary digital transformation plans in place to empower more agile operations will thrive and embody resilience. For this reason, taking a data-driven approach now and in the future can help temper any further shocks. Moreover, it will elevate the business as a responsible, trustworthy employer.

With trust now a currency of work, transparent communication, a representative range of stakeholders and data-driven decisions are essential. Only then can we create a truly hybrid workplace and a workforce that is agile and can pivot seamlessly and safely between the office and home.

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