Podcast: Ways to Innovate for Employee Well-Being and Supporting Digital Work-Life-Balance

This podcast features Carolina Milanesi, Principal Analyst at Creative Strategies and founder at The Heart of Tech; Amy Haworth, Senior Director, Employee Experience at Citrix, and Ray Wolf, Chief Executive Officer at A2K Partners. The panel discussion is moderated by Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions.

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Hi, this is Dana Gardner principal Analyst at inter Arbor Solutions. And you’re listening to briefings direct the tumultuous shift over the past year to nearly all digital and frequently at Homework has amounted to a rapid fire experiment in human adaptability. And while there are many successful aspects to the home Exodus experiment.

As with all disruption to human behavior. There are also some significant and highly personal downsides stay with us. Now as we explore the current state of employee well-being and how new pressures and complexity from distance working may need some new forms of Digital support to to learn more about coping in the age of unprecedented change in Blended work and home life. We’re now joined by our guests, please welcome Carolina milanesi. She’s the principal Analyst at creative strategies and founder.

The heart of tech welcome Carolina. Thank you for having me. We’re delighted to have you with us. We’re also here with Amy Hayworth. She’s Chief of Staff in the office of the chief people officer at Citrix. Welcome Amy a TV here and we’re here with Ray wolf chief executive officer at a 2K Partners. Welcome Ray. Thank you. Dana Amy. Let’s start with you. How are predominantly digital work habits adding two employee pressures and complexities. And at this point is it? Okay not to be okay.

With all of these new issues new all new ways of doing things. Thanks Dana. It’s such an important question. You know, I think what we have witnessed in the last 12 months is really an and unfolding of the humanness of very very powerful transformational experience in the world. It’s absolutely okay not to be okay and to be able to come alongside those who are courageous enough to admit it is one of the most important

Roles that organizations are being called to play in the lives of our employees. I think often times I think about what’s happened in 2020 in to 2021 almost as if the tide went out what it exposed is fissures in our connectedness in the the way organizations operate even in the support systems that we have in place for employees because what we’ve really learned is that unless employees are okay our

Has a tional health is at risk so taking care of employees and even lean employees to take care of themselves and starting to shift the conversation about some new innovative ways of doing that because you know, I think the last 12 months have really shown us that we’ve never faced something like this before. So it’s only natural that we laughed a lot of the support systems and mechanisms that would truly enable us to get through it and there’s been some in amazing Innovation to help close that Gap. That is all

So Ben, you know as we’ve been flying the plane, we’ve been figuring out how to do this better. So absolutely. Yeah, it’s a new challenges but also a lot of growth and being able to come alongside and also to raise the White Flag would need it makes it worth doing. Yeah. I karolina the idea for corporations of their responsibility is shifted a great deal. So it used to be that the employees would drive out of the parking lot and it’d be off on their way and and there was no more connection, but when they’re working at home and they are they

Facing new forms of fatigue or emotional turmoil the company is part of that process to do you see companies recognizing that absolutely and to be honest with you is a long time coming because although I might drive away from the parking lot for a lot of employees. That’s not when the work stops right either because you’re working on different time zones or because you’re on call if you’re a knowledge worker chances are that your days are not a nine-to-five.

Kind of experience that and I think that was not really fully understood and the balance that people had to find in working and having their private life as being a strain for quite some time. Now that we have been at home. There was really no escape and I think that’s the realization that companies have come to that. We are in this world and what has changed is also the fact that we are whole home. So it’s not just I

I’d to be a remote work and it’s just me is me and whoever is living with me being a partner or maybe parents that I’m looking after and children Cole sharing apartment situation and all of that. So the stress is not just mine is the stress of the people that are living with me and I think that is where more attentiveness needs to come in as far as understanding the the personal situations that individuals are in and

In the industry, especially for underrepresented groups. We have seen people that adopted covering in a work environment and if you thinking about women and how they feel about talking or not talking about their children or their caregiver responsibilities, whoever the person that they take care of is and shine away from talking about it because they think that it reflects badly on them all of those stressors that were there before they

just go exacerbated during the pandemic and made organization realize how much ways on the shoulders of their employee who are human beings after. All right and re at a 2K Partners you probably often find yourself in between companies and their employees helping with the technology that’s going to join them and make them productive. How are you seeing the reaction of both the employees and the businesses and are you seeing more of a coming together around this or we just starting that process?

I think we’re in the second inning here Dana and in our conversations with Chief HR officers, they come to the conversation and no like Ray. Is there a better way do we really need to live with the way things are for our employees particularly with the way they interface with technology and the applications that we give them to get their job done and what we’re able to reassure them about is there is a better way the level of dissatisfaction the anxiety.

T that the employees have working with technology doesn’t have to be there anymore. And I think what’s different now is its people are not accepting the status quo and they’re asking for a Better Way Forward in the great news and we’ll get into this a little bit later is there’s a lot of things that can be done here the concept of work-life balance. It’s no longer two elements at the end of a teeter totter board that’s in balance. It really looks more like a Jewel where you’re shifting in and out usually in 15 minutes to 30 minute intervals between your personal life in your work life, so how can technology actually facilitate that how can we actually put people into their flow state? So they have clear cognitive view of what they need to get done the priorities and also lead them in a good State when they need to return to their family activities and duties. Well Amy, probably one thing that hasn’t changed. Is that the fundamental

Opponents of this are people process and Technology the people part of that the human resources part of that perhaps needs to change because of what we’ve seen in the last year. How do you see the role of h r as a function changing and maybe it’s being elevated perhaps an importance in the organization. The realities are really has elevated and I see it as an amplification of the voice. HR really is the employee Advocate and the invoice into the organization and it’s one thing to be

Voice when no one’s listening, it’s much more interesting to be the boy. Some people are listening and so being able to steer the the organization in a direction that puts the talent at the center Talent first and we’re having discussions and dialogue not only about what’s needed to create the most powerful employee experience one where employees are seeing are heard and really feel included in the past forward because I think one thing that’s so clear is we

we are shaping together collectively. We are shaping the future in which we will live and so being able to include that employee voices. We we craft what it means to go to work or to do work into the years ahead we have in so many ways and open canvas. There’s so many other ways that we’re learning how to do this hybrid thing which could which clearly seems to be the direction. Most organizations are going quite possibly the direction education is heading a lot.

To be thinking as happening. And so as we harness that Collective voice HR is leadership in bringing that to the table bringing it into decisions that are being made bringing an experimental mindset where we are looking into the future and finding ways to innovate around it is increasingly important Carolina, when we look at the role of technology in all of this how would an HR organization like Amy’s looked at technology to try to help rather than

contribute to the problem. That’s the key question. Right? It cannot acknowledge cannot come as a burden another burden that I have to deal with and for me when it comes to employees and I love raised analogy of the puzzle of the life that we live. I stopped talking about work and life balance years ago and started talking about working life blend because if you blend the there’s room for you to maneuver and change the weights if you

If you put on one side or the other and he feels that you’re compromising lesson putting less stress on one area versus the other so I think that technology needs to come in to help us create that blend that has to be very personal. I think that most important thing for me is one size doesn’t fit. All right, we all individuals we all different and although we might share some commonalities the way that my workflow is setup is very different from yours.

Yes, and it has to speak to me because otherwise it becomes another burden. So one part is that is helping with that blend. Another part is not making me feel that the tool I’m using is an overseer. So there is there’s a lot of concerns when it comes to remote working in particular that organizations are just giving you tools to manage you versus helping you and that’s where the difference.

Lie, right for me as an employee. I need to make sure that the tool is there to just help me do my work doesn’t have to be difficult has to be straightforward keeps me in the flow helps me with my Blended life. And I also think that technology has to be context-aware. And so, you know what I might need in the office is different from what I need when I’m at home or when I’m at dear.

Poor or wherever I might be to do. I don’t know if we still remember airports and traveling but you know, eventually we will go back and do that to the idea that your task is dependent or is influenced by the context. Your rent is important as well. But Simplicity security privacy or three components that are important to me and should be important to my organization Ray. Karolina just mentioned a few keywords, I think context

Feelings and the idea of perhaps an experience rather than fitting into what the coder had in mind. So it wasn’t that long ago that applications pretty much forced people to behave in certain ways in order to make process take place. What I’m hearing though is that we have to perhaps have more adaptable processes and Technologies to account for a person’s experience and feelings. Is that not possible or we as his pie-in-the-sky to bring the human factor and the

LG Factory together Tina the great news is the technology is here today and the ability to do it and the sad part is The Benchmark is pretty low. The fact is is that when it comes to providing technology to enable workers to get their job done. There is really very little forethought in terms of how its architected and orchestrated. I mean simply people are given login information to the multiple applications that they need to use do to get

get things done during the day and the most that we do in terms of consideration for these employees is create a single sign-on. So for the first five minutes of your day, we have a streamline productive and secure way to log into it, but then it’s a free-for-all processes are not standard across employee types. There’s no consideration for how the individual employee wants to get work done. What works best for them. And in addition is we

We subject some very highly talented and creative people to a lot of low value repetitive tasks. So one of the things that Chief HR officers bring up to me all the time is how can I get my employees working at the top of their skill range as opposed to the bottom of their skill range and today there’s platforms like Citrix workspace that allows you to automate out those mundane tasks take into consideration what the employees where they should be spending their time and how

Can they contribute more to the critical business needs of an organization and a me to that point of the value of the work or the way in which the employee perceives of that value? Are you seeing people mired in the sense that they’re doing tasks work and dealing with downloads of drivers to make their PC operate properly or are you seeing the opportunity for people to move past that and for the organization to support them so that they can do the work that they

I feel most empowered by our organizations helping them move past tasks into Talent great great question. And I love how you phrase that move past tasks and to talent to a couple couple things come to mind. Number one is about organizations are looking for where we can take friction out of the work day. So that friction is energy and that energy could be better spent for an employee doing something. They love to do something that really is their core skill set for why they were hired into the

Ization to start with so one of the recent stats I heard was that to that average workflow. So the average completing the process tends to involve at least four different stops along an application path. So you think about what it takes to submit an expense report or we just did your in conversations it Citrix and the systems that are there to support those processes also mean there’s an interaction so as much as possible we’re looking for ways that how do we take friction out of those interactions?

That employees really get that sense of progress at the end of the day that the energy they’re expending into their jobs and to their roles feels like it’s coming back threefold and Ray touch a little bit on this idea of flow. But you know, I think that is the conversation of 2021 is we’ve seen the data that shows that employees feel fatigued because of the workload and I think that’s really what started to emerge and a lot of the survey work across multiple research firms last year was this sense of fatigue and you know, my workload doesn’t match the

The hours that I have in the day and so in the HR circles, we’re starting to think about what what do we do about that? Is this a conversation more about energy and energetic spend and initially there was a lot of energy that was spent just transforming the how things were done. And and now I think we get to think about when things are done, you know, when do I have the most energy to do that hard thing and then how is the technology helping me to do it? And is it telling me when it’s probably time to take a break we’ve

Definitely introduce some really interesting notifications to help this idea of well-being so that integration with technology into the workday to help me as an employee manage my energy and to know if I’ve minute meditation right now because I’ve been working solid for three hours that might be a really good idea rather than that cup of coffee, for example, so starting to see these this combination of the helpfulness of technology in a way that’s invited by employee.

These Carolina makes a great point about the privacy concerns that in way this invited by employees that ultimately really enables that state of flow that feeling of progress and the the good use of the talent that each employee brings into the organization. Karolina. When we think about technology of 10 or more years ago oftentimes developers would get a set of requirements. They would create the application and throw it over the wall and people would use it but what I just heard from Amy was much more

Out the employee having agency in how they use the technology maybe even designing the flow and process themselves based on what’s working for them. Have we gotten to the point now where the technology is adaptive and the people can have a role in how Services maybe microservices and microapps are assembled are they are people becoming more like developers rather than waiting for developers to give them the technology to use. Absolutely. I think not everybody is in that kind of no code environment, too.

To create their own applications from scratch, but certainly, you know micro apps that come together into a workflow are a thing that a lot of people are using both in their private and work life. And I think that going back to when the The smarphone Grove really started is the first time that each and every one of us started to be more in control of applications that create workflows in a private way and then the the arrival of

Not just bring your own device into Enterprise, but bring your own application to Enterprise a happened and it was a bit of a wild west for a while. And then we harness that and we I think that your organization that are most successful are the one that that that stop fighting please change and actually embrace it because to Amy’s point there is a way that you have to diminish and lower the friction that I feel as an employee.

Because I want to work in a certain way in want to use some series of applications and tools that you as an IT department done allow me to and and there is actually more friction and more time loss in someone trying to go around that problem and creating back doors and trying to bypass it. They’re not actually for it to empower me to do that work, you know, as long as is secure so that my

Also to my data are secure. I should have a list of applications and tools that I can choose from and create my best work flow rate to that point RB. How do you see that balance between employee agency and Agility and what the IT department is doing how do we keep creativity flowing from the user? But at the same time putting the necessary guardrails, so the it doesn’t become a problem a backdoor or even a

Ernie risk, you can achieve both of these this is not employee workflow at the sacrifice of security and I think that’s really the state of technology today just in terms of where to get started in the idea of the employee designing their workflow. This is exactly how we’re going about it with many customers today. I mean what an ironic thought actually asked the people who were involved in the day-to-day work in terms of what’s working for you and what’s not what’s causing you first.

Duration and is high value to the company so you can easily identify five places that go get started to automate and streamline and the beautiful thing about it is when you ask the worker where that frustration is, and you solve it two things happen one, they have ownership and the adoption is very high as opposed to a leadership driven decision. And we see this happening every day today is kind of a smart guy in the rooms and it’s syndrome where the people who don’t actually

We have to do the work are telling everybody what and how the workers actually want to get things done. It doesn’t work. That way. The second is once employees see with as little as two to three changes in their daily workflow. What’s possible their mind opens up in terms of all the automation capability all the streamlining that can occur and they really feel invigorated in energized and it become a much more productive and engaged

Member of the team so and we’re seeing this happen. I mean it really an amazing process overall when it comes to working today. We used to think nine to five eight hours out of your awake hours today work occurs across every awake. Our this is something that remote workers have known for a long time. But now that virtually 45 50 percent of the workforce is remote now, it’s coming to light and people are feeling

Like they need to do something about it. So we need to sense what’s going on with the employees. Some of the technology that we’re working on is evaluating and looking at someone’s schedule how many back-to-back meetings have you had and enforcing a cognitive break onto a schedule. So people can take a breath maybe take care of some personal life and then even beyond that with today’s technology like smart watches we could look at things like blood pressure and heart rates and decide.

The anxiety level or whether an employee’s in their flow and again make adjustments to schedules block out time on the calendar even schedule some well-being visits with someone that could help them through the stress of their life. Yes. Amy taking a raised point about returning to this concept of well-being if we start using technology not only to allow the employee to be productive and in their flow, but also to discern where there are issues and inject.

if France information enough to support them in new ways, how does that change the relationship between the the organization and the employee and how do you see technology becoming part of the solution to support well-being across the board so much interesting data coming out of last year that talked about how the contracts between the employee and the organization is changing where there was in many cases a greater level of trust like

A few employees according to the research trusted with their organizations were telling them about the pandemic more than they trusted state and local government or even national government. And so I think that that’s something we need to pay attention to trust is that very hard to quantify organizational benefit that fuels everything when we think about attraction retention engagement commitment, which is some some modes of thought believe that

That organizational commitment is really that driver to discretionary effort and loyalty and tenure. So as we think about that and then the role when it of the organization when it comes to well-being and how we how we build on trust where it’s healthy. How do we hold that with such high regard that we are able to bridge into a different employer employee relationship than perhaps one we’ve seen before yet if we can really stand up and say our Target.

It is truly the human capital that will be front and center to helping organizations achieve their goals. Then we do need to think about this. What is our role crew confirm as those hierarchy of needs. We it’s hard to think about being a high-performing employee if things are falling apart on the homefront and if we’re not able to cope for our organization, we are thinking about not only the programs in bolstering those so looking for

other partners who are truly experts in the well-being space bringing that information into the organization in a way that integrates an inner sex with an employee’s day for us at Citrix that is done through workspace in many cases with the wrapper of a managerial capability because we know so much of that trust relationship is between the employee and the manager and it is human first and foremost and then really thinking about how do we continue to evolve?

All of and learn as we go so so much of this is Uncharted and we want to make sure that we’re open to that learning we’re continuing to invest for measuring how things are working and we’re really inviting that employee voice in to help co-create. Okay Carolina from what we heard from Amy. It sounds now, like there’s a richer more intertwined relationship between that talent pool and the organization and that they are connected at the hip so to speak even digital.

Lee it sounds like there’s a great opportunity for startups and new companies and ecosystem to develop around this employee well-being category that we’re just newly defining do you see this as a growth opportunity for new companies and for organizations within existing Enterprises and companies to stand up and take a swing at helping to solve this problem. It strikes me that there’s a huge new opportunity now, I do think there’s a huge opportunity and that’s good and

And in my view because obviously when there is a lot that tends to be also fragmentation and different things are going to be tried and not everybody maybe has the expertise to help you and that’s where I think, you know an approach from an organization perspective where some of these Solutions are vetted but what I think is exciting is the role that company’s life Citrix are taking on to become a platform for that so that it might be a startup.

Up that has a great idea and leverages the workspace platform to deliver the idea. So you have the opportunity that the situation is offering and the expertise that Citrix brings to the table of having done. We’re focused on workflows and employee empowerment for so many years. So that I think is what I’m excited to see is organizations that come out and offer that platform to make an ecosystem.

Them richer I also think I love what Amy said about but trust is first and foremost human. I think that the what I really caution people is to make it all about technology because it’s not technology should not be a crutch where technology comes in to try and make you suffer less but not actually solve the problem and Technology should also not be the only solution that you adopt. So, you know, I might have at

technological check in that tells me that I’m taking on too many meetings or I should take a break or whatever the case might be. The river is nothing better than a manager giving you a call or sending you an email to let you know that you are seeing as a human that your work is seen and I love what you were saying earlier about the difference between the task and the talent and I think that’s another part where if we have more technology that helps us.

The mundane stuff and we really can focus more on what we enjoy to do. I think that will also help us to showcase the value that we bring as an employee and then the value of the task not just D output a lot of times some of this technology and solutions that are delivered are about making me more productive and I don’t know about you guys, but I don’t worry, you know, I don’t wake up in the morning and say

Say I want to be more productive today I wake up and I just want to get through the day. I want to enjoy myself. I want to make a contribution. I want to feel that I make a difference for the company. I’m working for and that’s what technology should be able to do come in and take away the Monday and take away their repetitive and really making me focus on what makes a difference and what makes me feel like I’m contributing to that success.

Within my company. All right, great. Thank you. So before we close out right I’d like to visit the idea of consequences of the remote work era and just as people can work from anywhere that also means they can work for just about anyone and if you’re working for a company that doesn’t seem to have your well-being as a priority and doesn’t seem to be interested in your talents as much as your tasks. You can probably find a few other employers quite easily from the very same spot.

That you’re in. So what is the competitive landscape shift here do companies do this because it’s a nice thing to do or will they perhaps find themselves lacking the talent if the talent wants to work for some place that supports them better? Yeah, I think Dana that ultimately is the consequence there. Is that once we get through this immediate situation from the pandemic and the new learnings about working remote will have choices and

Is are paying attention to this in a number of ways. I was just on the phone with a CH r o from a Fortune 50 company and they’ve added an entire range of well-being applications interest even in terms of taking care of oneself there, you know, but there is also some cultural changes that need to occur this CHR. Oh was explaining to me that even though they have all these benefits including 12 hours off a month for you know mental health days.

Is that they’re struggling with getting managers who may be later in their career actually modeling the new behaviors that are that give employees and workers permission to actually take benefit of these well-being applications and benefits that are out there. So we have a ways to go and the ones that evolved culturally the ones that pay attention to this or ultimately going to be the winners it maybe another six or 18 months. I don’t know that it’s a cliff that will occur but

Definitely will be there in the interim though workers can do something for themselves. There’s a lot of ways to stay in tune with how you’re feeling the anxiety and even giving yourself a break and scheduling time. I know we’d like to have technology to force that into the schedule, but you can do that for yourself now as an interim step and so I think there’s a lot of possibilities here and it’s not that in far into the distant future that there are things that could be done.

Done immediately to bring a little bit of relief help people see what’s possible in and encourage them to continue working down this path of the intersection of will being an employee workflow will very good. I’m afraid we’ll have to leave it there. You’ve been listening to a sponsor and briefings direct discussion on how the tumultuous shift over the past year to nearly all digital remote work has amounted to a rapid fire experiment in human adaptability and we’ve learned how employee well-being in the age of distance working may need some new forms of

Regional and cultural Business Services support as well. So a big thank you to our guests. We’ve been here with Carolina milanesi. She’s principal Analyst at creative strategies and founder at the heart of tech. Thank you so much Carolina. Thank you very much for a great conversation. And we’ve been joined by Amy Hayworth Chief of Staff in the office of the chief people officer at Citrix. Thank you. Amy. Thank you. This has been enlightening in so many ways and it’s a great conversation. Thanks for having it Dana and we’ve been here as well with Ray wolf.

The chief executive officer at a2k Partners. Thanks so much, Ray. Thank you Dana. This is such an important subject and success is right around the corner and a big. Thank you as well to our audience for joining this briefings direct remote work Innovation discussion. I’m Dana Gardner principal Analyst at inter Arbor Solutions your host throughout the series of citric sponsored briefings direct discussions. Thanks again for listening. Please pass this along to your business community and do come back next time.

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