New found working freedom requires greater security to deliver true Dynamic Work

Eileen Jennings Okta blog

Few things have thrown notions of the Future of Work and what that might look like into sharper perspective, than the current Covid19 pandemic. At Okta, we recently sponsored a series of interviews with technology leaders, to discuss how they and their organisations have had to adapt to remote working; leading and succeeding through the lockdown and its aftermath.

One of the most relevant conversations we had was with Eileen Jennings-Brown, Head of Technology for the Wellcome Trust. Relevant, because Wellcome Trust teams are currently at the forefront of trying to find a vaccine for Covid19. We all need them to succeed. Eileen and her technology team have played a critical role in ensuring that the Wellcome teams have been able to work remotely, some of them for the first time.

“Wellcome as an organisation can all work remotely. For the past couple of years, the IT team has been on a mission to get all of our infrastructure out to the cloud,” Eileen told us.

She admits that they are in a fortunate position when many across the country have neither the access to the hardware or software to be productive outside of their usual working environment as Okta’s New Workplace Report revealed. But she also guards against equating the provision of technology as the definition of successful remote working. “We have to be very careful about what we are calling working remotely, because lots of people have had to make compromises in order to do their job at home under the circumstances,” Eileen cautions.

Undoubtedly, home, work and educational routines have all collided in many people’s lives, creating competing agendas and greater stress, because of the lack of structural delineation either in place or time. Okta’s New Workplace Report has shown, 53% of workers in London missed having a separate work and living environment, with 67% saying that they yearned for in-person conversations. Something which video conferencing cannot replace, even though 95% were comfortable doing it.

Eileen revealed that her team have proactive in instigating structure into their new ways of working. “Some of the team have built a charter and they’ve agreed the hours that they are going to work, so that we’ve always got cover at the core times. But then they’re able to fit their families around it and their preferred working patterns, if they’ve got things that they need to do. They’ve been able to agree amongst themselves what that flexibility looks like.”

The technology creates the freedom, but in parallel there needs to a cultural shift to own that freedom and allow each team to shape what it looks like for them.

The flipside of greater freedom is of course the need for greater security. Eileen admits that this has meant adapting some the previous processes under the guidance of their recently appointed Head of Information Security and the team he has quickly built. “Our job is to create a safe and secure environment that our people can plug into,” Eileen agrees. Where staff are looking to trial or adopt new pieces of ad hoc technology her team are looking to enable rather than discourage this kind of behaviour. But equally they realise the need for balance and structure between experimentation and compliance.

Wellcome are investing equally in technology to improve the productivity and the pastoral care of their people. This shows a clear understanding that the future of Dynamic Work, as we call it at Okta, requires consideration of both aspects equally.

Hopefully with the research that the Wellcome Trust are financing, a vaccine for Covid19 can soon be found. Then we can all looking forward to the freedom to choose more, how we work in the future, so that it’s no longer prescriptive but instead empowers the individual to choose how and where they work best. We’ve learned at Okta that a happy workforce is a productive one and Dynamic Work we believe is the way to achieve that.

Listen to the full conversation with Eileen Jennings-Brown, Head of Technology for the Wellcome Trust on our podcast here <>