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NEW DELHI : Hybrid work arrangements and flexibility to operate remotely will play a key role in keeping employees happy and productive, said Satya Nadella, CEO and chairman of Microsoft Corp.

“More and more people are asking that very fundamental question: why we work. This leads to two challenges—that which we call the hybrid paradox and the great reshuffle. More people are changing jobs than ever before. When it comes to hybrid work, there is no standard, and flexibility will be key," Nadella told a two-day Microsoft Future Ready virtual conference that began on Tuesday. “Productivity and flexibility are not mutually exclusive," he added.

Since the pandemic, several employee surveys, including Microsoft’s, have found that knowledge workers prefer working remotely. Many of them have moved farther from business districts, where offices are typically located, for lower rents, or because they have to care for children or elderly parents.

According to a 2021 survey by Microsoft, 73% of workers wanted flexible remote work to continue. Microsoft has indefinitely delayed employees’ return to the office.

To support hybrid work, Nadella also emphasized the importance of building the digital infrastructure that “brings together both digital and physical spaces".

Nadella said the world is moving from a mobile and cloud era to an era of ubiquitous computing and ambient intelligence, and it will see more digitization in the next 10 years than the past 40 years.

How businesses sell, support customers and connect with their employees is undergoing a sea change, with an era of interconnected “ambient intelligence" set to bridge the divide between the digital and physical worlds, he said.

“Computing is becoming distributed and embedded in the real world. And the application models are transforming rapidly to run on the edge with new ambient intelligent capabilities," Nadella said.

Nadella feels every business process will be collaborative, powered by data and artificial intelligence to bridge the digital and physical worlds.

Last November, Microsoft had unveiled its plans to leverage Metaverse and offer collaborative experiences for professionals through Mesh for Teams.

Building a hyper-connected business will be key, said Nadella.

“We need that next level of real-time hyperconnectivity between businesses and between consumers and businesses where data and intelligence flow freely to tackle the challenges of supply and demand," he said.

According to a 2021 report by Gartner, by 2025, 80% of customer service organizations will move away from native mobile apps to messaging for a better customer experience. According to Nadella, every business is becoming a digital business, and building digital capability will be paramount. “It requires that you have the best multi-cloud and multi-edge infrastructure. And it requires that you have the best tooling to support fusion teams across the organization."

The success of these trends will hinge on how secure they are against growing cyber threats, warned Nadella. “Cybersecurity is the biggest threat to digital transformation today, and it’s the No. 1 risk facing every business going forward. If you think about the amount of change during the pandemic that our IT and cyber operations had to go through, as every business process became remote, this complexity will only increase," he added.

Cyberattacks on enterprises have increased considerably and have cost them trillions of dollars in ransom payments, business disruption and penalties for failing to secure customer data. According to a 2021 report by Cybersecurity Ventures, the cost of cybercrime is growing 15% annually and is estimated to reach $10.5 trillion by 2025.

“Every organization needs comprehensive tools across identity security, compliance, privacy, as well as management, and they need a cross-platform multi-cloud zero trust architecture," Nadella added.


Abhijit Ahaskar

Abhijit writes on tech policy, gaming, security, AI, robotics, electronics and startups. He has been in the media industry for over 12 years.
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