Like thousands of companies in the early days of the global pandemic, Unisys was forced to dramatically shift how it conducts business with little time to prepare.
But over the course of a week, the Blue Bell, Pennsylvania-based technology firm enabled 95 percent of its 17,000 employees to work remotely. Over the next three months, it canceled $31 million worth of commercial leases. And to make this new operating model work, Unisys also had to rethink its entire organizational structure, says Eric Hutto, president and chief operating officer of the $2 billion company.
“We had to get simpler,” he says. “I couldn’t continue to spend 19 hours on Zoom calls and still run the company. We needed 12 people on a call to make a decision, not 70. We realized pretty quickly that our old operating model would not work in a remote-first world.”
While Unisys will continue to maintain office space after the pandemic subsides, Hutto says, it’ll be using less of it and in different ways—primarily for collaboration between in-person and remote teams.
“We’re not mandating that everyone go back into the office,” he says. “We’re more focused on figuring out how to make our remote environment work better.”
Unisys is hardly alone. An April 2021 survey by IDC found that 23 percent of companies plan to allow employees to work primarily from home or other remote locations in 2022, up from 3 percent before the pandemic. The biggest reasons: to ensure employee safety (62 percent), enable a better employee experience (61 percent), and maintain high productivity (52 percent).
In the IDC survey, more than three quarters of both business leaders and employees said remote workers are at least as productive as their in-office colleagues.
For people whose professions offer the flexibility to operate from anywhere, hybrid work is here to stay. But the new workplace won’t look much like the old one, and it will require a range of emerging technologies—from IoT-enabled smart buildings to AI-based video monitoring—to make it a reality.