2021: Adapting and thriving in the new normal

If there was ever a year to look back and reflect upon, it was 2020

2021: Adapting and thriving in the new normal

by Edward Rodriguez, GM of Citrix Canada

If there was ever a year to look back and reflect upon, it was 2020. Understandably, many of us would prefer to sooner forget the year that was, but we know that’s impossible. Its impact on our lives both personally and professionally will reverberate for years and decades to come. One thing that is clear today, however, is that the pandemic has permanently changed the way we work. 

Prior to the pandemic, we were already moving towards a remote workforce and harnessing digital tools to empower our employees with more flexibility and mobility in their day-to-day work life. In 2020, this shift accelerated dramatically. As we look at 2021, this trend will continue, bringing new opportunities and challenges for both employers and employees. Here’s what we should expect to see in the year ahead.

1. A hybrid work model is on the horizon
At some point - most likely during mid 2021 - it will be safe to return to the office. However, one thing 2020 has taught companies and employees is that much of the work we do can be done remotely and virtually.

The desire for a hybrid model with flexible working structures is already growing among the current workforce. A recent Citrix survey found that 74% of knowledge workers now say they could do their jobs just as effectively from any location. Additionally, another recent survey from Citrix found that 88% of knowledge workers would look for a company with those benefits when seeking new employment.

Companies will need to adopt a hybrid work-from-home/office model that offers greater flexibility but still provides the venue for the much needed - and missed - in-person interaction. 

2. Smart technologies will facilitate the way we work and remain secure.
When the pandemic began, many IT managers relied on digital workspaces to give employees secure access to apps and data. As hybrid work models become the norm, companies will look for ways to improve employees’ performance and keep them engaged.

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning will be incorporated into digital workspaces to help automate repetitive processes, guide employees in prioritizing tasks, and minimize distractions that prevent employees from doing their best work. At the same time, these technologies will be able to learn user behaviors and help IT better manage security by distinguishing between normal user routines and compromised behavior.

3. Talent without borders.
A remote work environment removes the restraints of sourcing local candidates, opening up the option for companies to recruit the best talent regardless of location. This option also allows companies to provide their employees with the freedom to choose where they live based on personal preferences for a better quality of life, proximity to family and/or zero commute time. 

Today’s workers no longer see a benefit in being in a large city. A Citrix survey found  that just 21% of respondents felt living in a city was beneficial to their career. Over 57% stated a preference to live in the suburbs. Almost 80% stated that they could do their job just as effectively from any location in the world.

4. Employee productivity becomes a CIO priority.
As your team continues to work remotely, how do you, as a business leader, ensure they are able to do their job productively and happily?

By providing the best possible digital workspace and collaboration tools to enrich the experience of employees operating like a consumer grade service.

A recent survey from Citrix and Quartz found that access to effective technology that helps you get your job done was actually ranked in the top 5 most important factors affecting job productivity, even ranking above skills training

5. Budgets will be prioritized and the cloud will be an ally. 
At the start of the pandemic, companies opened their wallets and invested in technology to help keep their businesses operating. The approach will be different in 2021, as companies are forced to maximize their budgets and find ways to do more with less. Nice-to-have IT projects will take a backseat to projects that enable a secure distributed workforce and maximize current investments.

Cloud solutions will still play a significant role in reevaluating budget priorities as IT leaders turn to the cloud to help improve the security of data, leverage existing infrastructure for greater savings, and improve the delivery and availability of apps and data to a distributed workforce.

6. IT Security will move closer and closer to Zero Trust with Secure Internet Access solutions.
As the workforce became distributed and employees began accessing company data from more personal devices and networks, the amount of attack surfaces rose exponentially.

Technologies such as Secure Internet Access (SIA) will provide users with a secure connection that minimizes threats and attacks to corporate and personal applications on users’ devices - without compromising the user experience. This will be accompanied by a Zero Trust model that trusts no one inside or outside the perimeter of the company’s network and requires IT to continuously assess and authorize every user and every device looking to access company data.
The shift has already begun. A recent survey from Citrix and Pulse found that 74% of business leaders were already planning to assess the possibility of implementing a Zero Trust security strategy within their organization.

While many negative impacts emerged from the pandemic, the lessons learned are invaluable and the long-term effects will influence business for decades. One tried and true lesson hasn’t changed though - supporting and enabling employees with the right tools and procedures are still key to having a healthy, happy, and productive team.

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