The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is foremost in the minds of CIOs as they consider what comes next, but the latest CanadianCIO Census suggests their top concern is not about technology or cybersecurity, it’s the well-being of their employees.
Employee well-being has overtaken the concerns about the increased number of cyberattacks ravaging businesses globally, a clear shift from last year’s top priorities heading into 2020.
“We were all prepared for the technology,” said one IT leader during ITWC’s first-ever virtual CanadianCIO roundtable. “But the human side is important.” Another CIO from a construction company concurred. “Our focus now is on making sure people are healthy and connected.”
Based on 165 responses and a priority scale from 1 to 10 – 10 being the highest – employee well-being was priority number one, with a priority score of 6.8. Dealing with the spike in cyberattacks came in at number two with a priority score of 6.1.
While contact tracing and exposure notification apps have dominated headlines, businesses are increasingly leaning towards digital thermometer checkpoints, according to IDC Canada. When it comes to employee contact tracing solutions, IDC Canada cites “depressingly low adoption outside of utilities, telecoms and construction businesses.”
But while it’s unclear what technology solution is the ideal choice for preventing further spread at the office, most employees have come to terms with the fact that working from home is going to be part of their working lives for the foreseeable future.
Fifty-five per cent of respondents are expecting work from home a year out from today. A separate IDC Canada survey from June says 43 per cent of employees expect to work from home at least once a week even a year after their office reopens. The number doesn’t change much when asked about six months down the road, hovering at 46 per cent.
“I never want to go back to work in an office,” Philippe Johnston, the newly appointed President of the CIO Association, told IT World Canada in a recent interview. “I think technology-wise, we’re set up for success to work remotely.”
Johnston, who is taking over for outgoing president Humza Teherany, chief digital officer for MLSE, says there’s no question that remote work has to improve in many ways – 53 per cent of respondents in this year’s census want to introduce tighter security controls, among other improvements – but many remote workers that he’s spoken to are citing a greater sense of togetherness even when they’re working from home in sweats.
“In some ways, there’s even more of a connection between coworkers,” Phillippe said. “They know what’s going on more than they did in the past.”
Managing remote teams still comes down to regular video meetings, according to survey results.
More than 80 per cent of respondents say they use videoconferencing to hold regular team meetings. Another 30 per cent hold daily standup meetings via video conferencing for a “check-in” at the beginning or end of the day. Some CIOs reported they set up virtual get-togethers that are not meant to discuss work issues but rather to maintain a human connection.
Although the working environment has swiftly transformed, CIOs anticipate a setback in their ability to hire new talent. Nearly 70 per cent say they expect a hiring freeze for keeping headcount stable over the next 12 months. Larger companies were more likely to say their staff levels will remain stable.
Digital transformation projects have accelerated in some cases, grounded to a halt in others.