Elon Musk may not be a fan, but most executive leaders are embracing hybrid work.

Despite a handful of vocal high-level detractors, C-level executives at organizations large and small prioritize hybrid work almost as much as employees, according to an IDG Market Pulse research report conducted for Cisco Meraki.

Overall, the C-suite is perceived as placing a high priority on enabling hybrid work at 78% of organizations, the report found. 

To accomplish this, organizations are relying heavily on CIOs and IT teams. Top focus areas to support hybrid workers include enabling collaboration (52%), improving productivity (46%), and closing security gaps (40%).

Enterprises also are prioritizing application modernization (54%), security improvement (49%), and upgrades to collaboration tools (46%) to support employees wherever they work. 

Bumpy roads

Despite recognizing the value and importance of a hybrid workforce, 72% agree it’s “highly challenging” to empower workers to autonomously make process/workflow changes using current technology. And 65% said it’s extremely or very challenging to equip team members to work how they want, when they want, while also ensuring security and compliance.

More than half—or 57%—said it’s highly challenging to deliver consistent, seamless, and location-agnostic support for employees. 

It’s also most challenging to ensure parity for on-site and remote employees regarding technology access, according to 51% of respondents. Network security (47%), IT support (46%), and access to colleagues (44%) rounded out the top issues in this category of concerns. 

“Ensuring everyone feels part of the same team is critical, especially when employees are dispersed over geographies and time zones,” wrote Ryan Ansley, Senior Director of Digital Workplace and Information Technology at Meraki.

“With some folks in the office and some working remotely, we cannot afford to make anyone feel left out, and that’s why collaboration tools are key to hybrid work success.”

Operational worries

Delivering high-quality employee experiences demands secure, reliable, and robust infrastructure. That worries many IT leaders.

For example, an increase in cybersecurity threats has been a primary obstacle to improving workforce experiences, according to 48% of respondents. IT skills and knowledge gaps (36%), lack of IT resources/budget (31%), and an inability to provide consistent IT support across the workforce (30%) were other major considerations.

Visibility across infrastructure and assets is also vital, IT executives said. The vast majority (95%) consider it highly important to have real-time intelligence regarding the technology environment as part of their strategy to improve workforce experiences.

Despite this, more than 40% reported it’s difficult to gather intelligence regarding networks, endpoints and devices, and cloud environments.

Perhaps this is complicated by their use of multiple, fragmented systems, as 94% placed high value on the prospect of teaming up with a single technology partner to compile intelligence regarding their entire technology stack.

Another reason to reduce infrastructure complexity is because many IT organizations continue to struggle with recruitment and retention. In fact, 77% saw increased employee churn over the past 12 months versus two years ago.

Comparative states

In general, higher-level executives (vice presidents and above) perceive their industry and organization to be ahead of others in pace-setting workforce and technology trends. 

Among those who responded, 29% saw their industry as significantly ahead of other industries, versus 41% slightly ahead, 23% on pace, and 7% lagging slightly.

Finding answers

CIOs are working in closer conjunction with the C-suite, boards of directors, and line-of-business heads, according to Gartner.

In part, that’s because 74% of technology purchases are at least partly funded by business units outside IT; only 26% of technology investments were completely IT funded. 

That’s not to say CIOs don’t oversee a lot of budget. This year, worldwide IT spending through technology departments could reach $4.4 trillion, up 4% from 2021, Gartner predicted.

Business units often team up with IT departments to make the most of their technology investment: for example, they may leverage one network deployment for physical and cybersecurity or upgrade to Wi-Fi 6E in order to leverage smart sensors and tags for a manufacturing, retail, or logistics business.

Technology budgets are spreading throughout organizations because technology itself is infused into almost everything people do. In tandem with their C-suite colleagues, CIOs and their teams ensure that the same capabilities securely extend to workers throughout the organization, regardless of location.

Most executives and employees agree on the need for and benefit of this more flexible workplace. The technologies to make the office of the future real are here, and IT professionals are the ones to make it happen.

CIOs at these hybrid workplaces encompass the basics of connectivity and cybersecurity, and extend into experiences that matter—experiences that welcome and nurture employees. They create environments where professionals want to work each day—wherever they choose that workplace to be.

Get a copy of the report here.