Many Futurists, this one included believe that remote working is here to stay – but what about the future of remote learning? Blended learning is a concept that I was introduced to by Mark Sweeney from Citrix in the latest episode of the Actionable Futurist Podcast.

Mark is Regional Vice President for Citrix in the UK & Ireland and has over 25 years of experience in business innovation, and a key focus has been innovation within the technical professional services field.

He has researched how automating professional services engagements through artificial intelligence and robotic process automation could modernise the consulting business.

In his current role at Citrix, his primary focus is working with customers on delivering consistent employee experience, as well as awareness to the concept of hybrid learning within the higher education vertical.

Mark believes that much like evolutionary designs for the workplace, campus-based learning could be the place for collaboration and practical work while formal teaching could be delivered virtually.

The Citrix study revealed that one in four (25%) UK universities do not have plans to roll out blended learning – the combination of learning on-site and remotely – despite changing student expectations around the future of education.

Read more about Citrix’s view of Blended Learning here.

The new figures were obtained by Citrix, following a Freedom of Information request issued to around 150 universities, with 61 responding. The universities were asked about their plans for the future delivery of education services, student expectations around teaching practices, as well as investment into technologies to enable remote and blended learning.

69 per cent of universities are actively planning to implement a blended learning model – a strategic decision to deliver learning in a new way – in the next year. The vast majority (90%) say they have the necessary technologies in place to operate a blended learning model today.

Most universities claim to have already deployed the technology required for a more flexible learning model. This is likely why nearly half (43%) of the responding universities said they don’t have allocated budget set aside for blended learning as it stands.

However, investments to improve remain on the agenda for many. Indeed, eight per cent (five responding universities) have set aside between £1-5m, with over one in 10 (11%) planning to invest between £100,000-499,000 on technologies to enable blended learning.

In this episode we covered:

  • Citrix Hybrid Learning study results
  • What is “Blended Learning”?
  • The evolution of the classroom
  • What has the pandemic taught us about how to work & learn remotely?
  • How do we enable educators to use the technologies that supports remote learning?
  • Has higher education changed forever as a result of Covid?
  • What investment do we need to effectively deploy remote learning solutions?
  • Why IT staff will become more critical for blended learning
  • Tele-teaching in 1994
  • The need for “Zoom Rooms”
  • How to best engage the online learners as well as those in the room
  • Gamifying the virtual experience
  • Should students pay less for virtual education?
  • What is the role of the campus going forward?
  • Up-skilling educators on new remote learning technologies
  • Preparing students for the hybrid world of wor
  • Citrix Company culture survey findings
  • Asynchronous vs Synchronous remote working & learning experiences
  • Are candidates seeking roles that support remote working?
  • Maintaining fairness for employees choosing to be remote
  • Avoiding “Location bias”
  • The issue of “presenteeism” – favouring output vs attendance
  • Mark’s biggest Covid-19 learnings
  • How Mark has changed as a manager due to Covid
  • The need for a consistent experience when we move between home & office
  • Actionable Advice to prepare for a hybrid world of work and learning
  • Planning for the next disruptive event

More on Mark

Mark’s Blog
Blog on Blended Learning

Episode Chapters

01:37 What Citrix does today
02:55 Citrix Hybrid Learning study results
03:53 What is “Blended Learning”?
05:20 The evolution of the classroom
06:30 What has the pandemic taught us about how to work & learn remotely?
07:05 How do we enable educators to use the technologies that supports remote learning?
07:42 Has higher education changed forever as a result of Covid?
09:00 What investment do we need to effectively deploy remote learning solutions?
09:55 Why IT staff will become more critical for blended learning
10:38 Tele-teaching in 1994
11:32 The need for “Zoom Rooms”
13:18 How to best engage the online learners as well as those in the room
14:15 Gamifying the virtual experience
14:54 Should students pay less for virtual education?
16:34 What is the role of the campus going forward?
18:32 Up-skilling educators on new remote learning technologies
20:14 Preparing students for the hybrid world of wor
21:47 Citrix Company culture survey findings
23:19 Asynchronous vs Synchronous remote working & learning experiences
24:27 Are candidates seeking roles that support remote working?
24:56 Maintaining fairness for employees choosing to be remote
25:12 Avoiding “Location bias”
26:44 The issue of “presenteeism” – favouring output vs attendance
27:49 Mark’s biggest Covid-19 learnings
28:22 How Mark has changed as a manager due to Covid
29:28 The need for a consistent experience when we move between home & office
31:06 Actionable Advice to prepare for a hybrid world of work and learning
31:24 Planning for the next disruptive event
31:47 More on Mark

Episode Transcript

Welcome to The Actionable Futurist® Podcast, a show all about the near term future with practical and actionable advice from a range of global experts to help you stay ahead of the curve. Every episode answers the question what’s the future on with voices and opinions that need to be heard. Your host is international keynote speaker and The Actionable Futurist® Andrew Grill.

Mark Sweeney
My guest today is Mark Sweeney, who was a regional vice president for Citrix in the UK and Ireland. He has over 25 years of experience in business innovation, and a key focus for Mark has been innovation within the technical professional services field. He’s researched how automating professional services engagements through artificial intelligence, and robotic process automation could modernise the consulting business. In his current role at Citrix, his primary focus is working with customers on delivering consistent employee experience, as well as awareness to the concept of hybrid learning within the high education vertical. Mark believes that much like evolutionary designs for the workplace, campus based learning could be the place for collaboration and practical work, while formal teaching could be delivered virtually. Welcome, Mark.

Mark Sweeney
Thank you for having me.

Mark Sweeney
Now, a lot to talk about today. And we’re saying off air that this is a subject that’s close to my heart, and is yours as well, we’ll probably unpack that. But let’s just rewind a bit. I’ve been aware of Citrix since 1999. But for those of you who haven’t heard a few, how would you describe what Citrix does today,

Mark Sweeney
we believe that work is no longer a place and it’s becoming an increasingly dynamic activity for all of us. And with this pandemic, we’ve seen it even more prevalent now than than we’ve ever seen it before. So what we’re really into is creating digital workspaces, where Citrix technologies can allow you to have a space where you can get work done, that provides you freedom and security to you know, be able to do anything that’s that’s required. And whether your work happens to take you to a physical location, or it has you on the road, if you need to do it, you know, on your laptop, or if you need to do it in the cloud, we provide the software and the tools that allow you to do that. And it gives you the confidence without any any compromise to safety. So if we think about that, and how we actually extend it to the education market, you know, we can we can actually provide a similar capability for our students and educators where we can we’re where we can say that school is no longer a place where you learn, you know, we can actually create a digital learning space that our technologies and that other technologies can allow for a more collaborative learning process that gives you that freedom added that security that I mentioned in in the workspace as well,

Mark Sweeney
knowing my intro, you mentioned your work around hybrid learning at universities. And I believe Citrix just conducted a survey in the UK about their plans for this, what can you tell me about the results,

Mark Sweeney
I think the one that was really interesting to me was that one in four of UK universities does not have a plan to roll out blended learning. And despite changing student expectations around around the future of education, that when you unpack the 75%, who actually are planning to do it, you’ll see that about 70% of those universities are actively looking at moving forward with it. And there is a strategic decision to actually learn in a new way within the within the next year. So about 40 to 50% of those are actually looking at deploying the technology right now. But they’ve not necessarily have the budget that’s, you know, practically allocated to it. If you double click a little bit further, and you start to see which of the students are actually looking forward, about 80% of the respondents came back and said that their students are looking to tap some type of blended learning process.

Mark Sweeney
So these turn blended learning. I think I know what it is, but I haven’t heard it used before. What does it mean in practice?

Mark Sweeney
I’m a consultant. At first, it was my first my first career was in consulting. And I’d often say that it’s really dependent on on the environment that we’re working in on the answer that I’m going to give and blended learning is something like that. And I think it’s a concept that’s going to it’s going to grow over the course of the next couple of years. But essentially what it means is that students and educators will have the ability to either learn or teach in either the classroom and virtually, if you think about doctoral studies, a lot of a lot of that work in that study was already being done blended. And the further higher and your education goes, you can see that that concept is more and more present. When the pandemic presented itself. You know, it required that blended learning become more prevalent and all of in all different levels all the way down into into primary school. So a concept where student collaboration can be done on campus while faculty instruction could be done, you know, virtually over a phone is a good example of what blended learning means. And I think as we as we progress, you know, throughout the years, we’re going to see that educational institutions are going to be differentiating themselves and the type of blended learning environment that they provide.

Mark Sweeney
I think well The pandemic has done is accelerated everything I’m sure from your survey, a lot of the forward thinking versus we’re thinking about doing this, the physical campus has been something that is close to, you know, makes a lot of sense. Now, you told me off here that your mother was a teacher. So that’s why you have a lot of passionate about this, how would she see the evolution of teaching from classroom base to this blended learning

Mark Sweeney
to as a primary school teacher, so you can hear the American accent. So, you know, for us, she taught second grade, which, you know, equivalent to two year three over here, I think she would really miss the students. But she did go and get her doctorate in education. So I think she would have been very much interested in how it can be perceived at the at the higher levels. But when she also did was she taught in the gifted programmes as well. So she, she was gifted in math and sciences herself. So she would typically teach in the gifted programmes there. And one of the things that always, you know, struck her was that there were a lot of, you know, very intelligent students have kind of travelled to where her school is located. So I think she would really be opening up to the idea of how can I teach kids who are not necessarily in the same location as I am? And how can I use blended learning to further that process. So I think that’s the piece that she would have really been interested in one that she would have been captivating had she been teaching today.

Mark Sweeney
Now, one of the issues I have with remote working or learning is that in March 2020, when we’re all sent home, we were sent home without an instruction manual on how to behave or manage when we’re remote. So what have you seen pandemic has taught us and your clients about these new requirements of managers and educators,

Mark Sweeney
I think managers and educators, they’ve evolved very quickly. And they become adept at working, teaching, collaborating, you know, remotely on the screen, they began to trust our employees and students, you know, more and more, give them you know, autonomy to an additional responsibility to be more entrepreneurial for their for their studies in the work. But you’re right, there was no, there was no playbook, there was no instruction manual, they’ve had to learn to become more empathetic in these types of situations. They’ve had to create this virtual world, they’ve had to realise, you know, how do I pay attention? How do I read the audience that I’m dealing with? A big issue that we have is that how do we enable educators to use the technologies that support remote learning, and there is a skills gap that we have to address historically, we would look at your remote working, you know, typically only reserved for snow days. But you know, when we rolled out this new environment, where we were in lockdown for several months, there was a point where we had to find a new way to go about it. And because of that, it’s starting to lean towards, you know, the concept of are people going to be coming into the office? Are you expecting them to come into the office, once this is completed? How is that entire process going to look like?

Mark Sweeney
A lot of changes? But do you think higher education has changed forever as a result of the pandemic?

Mark Sweeney
You said something earlier that that I agree with, you talked about the pandemic accelerating, you know, the evolution, I wouldn’t want to say that it’s changed forever. As a result of the pandemic, I think the pandemic has accelerated the evolution of higher education, and possibly further down the stack as well. But I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily because of the pandemic. I actually think it’s because of the technology. And I think the technology is there, that technology was occurring, students were already using, you know, iPads in the classroom, they were using laptops, during learning sessions. And what happened was that pandemic just accelerated that it provided the accelerant to say, we need to evolve and we needed to evolve quickly. When we look at what’s happening right now, with with the Omicron variant, you know, it’s a good example, we don’t know what country what world is going to be plunged into the next lockdown. Universities have to be ready to provide learning and remote capacity. So I know that’s a bit of an extreme example. But being able to offer students flexibility and staff flexibility to work learn remotely is going to be key to this to this entire process, I think what you’re gonna see is going back to that blended concept that I was talking about earlier, I think we’re going to see that blended concept forever. And I think we’re just going to move it further down the stack and in education.

Mark Sweeney
So what’s an investment do we need in terms of technology funds campus redesign, to effectively deploy these hybrid learning programmes,

Mark Sweeney
I say the vast majority of universities that have a plan, they’ve told us that they have the necessary technologies in place today, they have the necessary strategy, they have the necessary software, they know what they’re going to be doing. But there are going to be additional funds that are going to be required, some of the campus redesign that is going to be required, or you know, concepts of these types of rooms, you know, where you can go in and you can do to do zoom sessions, there’s going to be collaborative spaces that are going to need to be created. If you look at what’s happening in a lot of corporations, institutions, you know, putting up the Plexiglas in between the rooms, that redesign was already occurring when we were looking at, you know, remote waste to work. So again, I think this is something that’s going to be accelerated, where the technology is going to come from an investment side is on the infrastructure side. It’s, you know, if they’re hosting out the appointment, and then also on the software side, because additional licences are going to be required. One of the things that’s critically important to all of this is that the IT staff within these universities are going to become more More and more critical to the evolution of the school, they’re no longer going to be, you know, just supplying laptops or supplying desktops. When we think about blended learning what I was mentioning earlier, that’s going to become a key element to what differentiates a university. So the IT team is going to be incredibly important in designing with the learning is going to look like and it’s important that they’re writing it, some institutions out there have some shadow IT teams happening within certain units. And that’s going to start to lead to technology sprawl. And if that sprawl happens, you have waste, you have security issues, number of things are going to present themselves out that will be difficult to resolve for a long period of time goes by.

Mark Sweeney
So I just cast my mind back to my master’s degree back in Adelaide, Australia, we were fortunate we had three different locations, it was a joint venture between universities, and they actually got at some old lecture theatres and lab rooms and made them into tele teaching studios. And so there were curved seats for 20 or so students, there was a pan and tilt camera that would actually zoom in and focus on different students, we were probably ahead of our time, because what I’m seeing now is they’re going to have to recreate that atmosphere, because my corporate friends are saying, we’ve gone into the office, we can’t all connect to the projector and can all see each other without moving the laptop around. Because we don’t have those panels or cameras, we’re actually going into separate meeting rooms. So you’ve got people going into five separate meeting rooms in the building to then help connect with people that are outside of that. So are we going to see more of these zoom rooms, the promise years ago was in telepresence, you’d have this lovely curved screen and camera would zoom in, we’ve clearly got to have that now, otherwise, it’s just going to be a bit of a minefield, isn’t it? Yeah, absolutely.

Mark Sweeney
And we’re starting to see it, we see it now in the corporate world. So we are seeing a number of a number of these units and a number of these zoom rooms launching up and if you go into, you know, these, these spaces that are you know, shared shared services, whether it’s a, whether it’s a we work type office or, or something to that effect, where where you can go in and you know, they already have everything set up for you, it’s simply plugging in and being able to do the do the session from there. And I think that’s where a lot of the corporate real estate, you know, opportunities are also going to go and I think we’ll see the same thing within within universities, because it would make the most sense to take a handful of conference rooms and a handful of, you know, lecture halls and, and develop those and evolve those lecture halls into into a place where you can, you know, do this type of, you know, do this type of experience. I mean, we’ve seen it where, you know, at Citrix, we have, you know, our executive briefing centres or Citrix briefing centres where, you know, we’ll bring, you know, we’ll bring our customers and we’ll bring our universities and show them the technology that we have, we also have those cameras, you know, that zoom in, zoom out, I think what you’ll see is, you know, starting to build that process where you can have some people who are virtual, or some people who are, you know, physically on site, and you can show how that works together. So it is something that’s going to be happening over the course of the next six to 12 months from our perspective and how we’re, we’re adjusting our technology, but also the real estate teams are going to be doing doing things differently as well. So in

Mark Sweeney
a corporate environment, if someone’s not listening and zoning out, they’re gonna get in trouble because they’re paid to be there. But it’s very different in a university environment factors back to the telepresence example, we worked out, if we put our hands over a mouth, the camera couldn’t detect whether we were talking or not. So we could actually turn all of our microphones off and essentially skive off, which was probably not great. So sorry, the teachers that I upset back then. But how do you then work out how to best engage the online learners along with those present in the lecture theatre?

Mark Sweeney
Yeah, I think that’s a great question. And it’s and to be fair, it’s a difficult one, you got to think about it from two sides. One is, you have to make sure that the experience that the students are receiving, they can hear the instructor Well, the instructor is, is engaging them. The microphones are in the right place, there’s training for the instructors on on how to be empathetic to the students online. But I think there’s additional technology that that can be deployed here, you talked a little bit about cameras and how they can focus in on people. But then there’s also a concept of what technology is out there where you can actually create some type of gamification within the learning experience, as the instructor is teaching, you know, there could be different concepts that are brought up or that some type of application that can follow along with how the instructor is teaching, you know, that you can potentially ask question or answer questions, or be involved in the process to show that you’re engaged, I think that will actually help some of the students who are in present, you know, from drifting off as well, one of the aspects that we have to look at is how do we gamify that experience, we do it a lot in conferences that we have in ensuring that to the attendees to the conferences, or going to as many booths as they can and you create some type of game within the app that manages conference, we could probably do something like that, within that within this process as well. It’s outside of our technology, but I think that’s something that would be interesting,

Mark Sweeney
somewhat controversial question. Some students in the UK suggest and that the figure here is 9000 pounds a year they’re paying to universities to learn. They think it should be reduced if they’re being delivered remotely, not going into the campus. But is this fair, given the university still have the fixed costs of salaries and overheads, where’s the happy medium about the cost for in person versus the cost for hybrid or blended?

Mark Sweeney
Another good question. And, you know, my position on this one is there are additional costs that the University are incurring by going remote. And we talked a little bit about it earlier, there’s additional software applications, additional software licencing, there’s additional hardware, you know, that’s required, you know, a lot of people are moving to the cloud right now. So there’s consumption costs within, you know, AWS, Azure GCP, you know, that the universities are going to have to spend, there’s additional support that they’re going to have to spend on on augmenting their IT staff to be able to manage this, any savings that you could potentially occur from room spot not being used, or electricity not being used, is going to be offset by those costs. And I think as as the years progress, you know, I would expect that, you know, the blended learning concept that we mentioned earlier is going to come into play here, it’s going to shift where you’re going to have the ability for some students outside of their local area are now able to, you know, attend campus, and you’re going to have some students who are going to want to go to maybe people from the US are travelling to the UK to go to Cambridge, and then they’re going to want to go back to the states to see their family, but then they’re going to want to do learning remotely at that point, I think being able to give them that option is going to address that issue. And then a simple concept of, you know, supply and demand is going to come into play here. And we’re going to see that, you know, some university will, will charge less if they don’t, you know, deploy this blended learning and some are going to charge more, I actually think that blended learning at one point is actually going to become more expensive than on site learning. It’s a bit of a reach, I think, at this point, given your question, but I think that’s where it’s going to trend to.

Mark Sweeney
So it sounds like physical learning spaces are going to take on a new role. So what is the role of the campus going forward,

Mark Sweeney
campus is still you know, incredibly important, it’s still going to be plugged present, it’s still going to be an important role in the educational development and the social development of the students. There’s key learnings that are happening outside of the classroom, and it can’t be substituted with any learning platform you that you have social interactions, clubs, you know, all of that will always be an integral part of a student’s growth and maturity. A good example is the Hogwarts experience that I mentioned at Cambridge, the students want to experience the history, I came on to vacation to the UK in 2019, the first place I wanted to go was Cambridge. And I wanted to see King’s College and I wanted to do the walk. And I wanted to see everything, that’s always going to be a, you know, a part of the system

Mark Sweeney
now, but the social aspects important, I think, and whether it be work or education being around other people is where the ideas stem, I was asked today to do a video about what’s the one thing I like about in person events, it’s the people it’s being able to be there beforehand, you have those side conversations you can’t always have in a virtual environment. So I think people will miss the interaction. And and frankly, you know, being able to learn and bounce ideas off, I don’t see the physical work or the physical educational environment going away. But as you’ve said, as we evolve, how do we have that happy medium, I think that’s probably where we’re going to end up.

Mark Sweeney
I agree. I think that’s the key part. In all of this, I’m in the same situation as you where I like to be at the events and I like to go into the office, I get a lot of work done to when I’m at home, we talked about schooling, I’m actually getting my MBA right now, it’s been an interesting concept, because I’ve been doing it remotely, you know, throughout the pandemic, but I missed that experience of being able to socialise with my cohorts and, and being able to collaborate and learn with my cohort, it’s it’s something that you’re never going to be able to, to replicate, you can try, you know, via zoom in, you know, via some type of team session, it’s a challenge. You’re absolutely right. So I don’t think it’s ever going to go away.

Mark Sweeney
We talked about the need to upskill and replace some of the technology. But what’s required to upskill the educators and the effective delivery of this hybrid learning concept, and what institutions do you think are getting it right?

Mark Sweeney
I think the higher level institutions are the ones getting it right. And I’m not gonna call out specific institutions on which ones I believe are getting it right. But I’ll say the ones that were more prepared for COVID are getting it right. So I think the majority of the the institutions out there were probably not prepared. I mean, I think a lot of the corporations that they had some preparation for it, but not all of them. I think what’s really required aside from basic technology, training on applications and software, I think being able to teach educators on how to effectively troubleshoot some situations when they arise, you can’t always wait for IT guy or gal to show up in your environment, I think you need to make sure that maintaining a safe and secure environment for the learners is important. Educators need to know what their role in that is. So they’re not making any challenges. But most importantly, I think it’s that universities are now being prepared to answer the question. I think the universities that were prepared for this, and they were able to migrate more quickly to a blended learning environment, were the ones that were getting it right, because they had prepared their educators for this. We’ve long talked about a global pandemic, you know, potentially being a situation that can happen. I never really thought about it from the education route. And I think the question is going to be what’s the next thing that’s going to disrupt us and I think that’s where I’d recommend that the university start thinking about what is that next disruptive event? How do I prepare now? And how do I prepare my students and my educators for

Mark Sweeney
it? I think it’s very meta that you’re doing your MBA remotely so you’re a student learning about how to do remotely and then consulting about how to do it. So I think it’s, it’s very meta, but I think that you’re in the movie so you can see what’s working, what’s not working. Let’s look at some learnings from students going into the world of work. How do you think hybrid learning prepares students for a hybrid world of work?

Mark Sweeney
Aside from the technology, they’re learning, I think that’s important in the technology piece. I think I think more importantly, it’s I talked a little bit about this earlier, but it’s the autonomy piece that I think is going to be it’s going to be important, I think, when you’re depending on the level of university, and depending on the level of schooling that you’re in, a lot of the aspects are trying to learn different concepts within your core study. But I think the piece that is that they’re really learning right now is how to be self sufficient, and how to be autonomous with what they’re trying to do. How do you work in an environment? Where, how do I own my own schedule? And how do I know when to operate, when to focus when to not focus, it’s teaching them a level of focus that is incredibly important when you get into into the real world. It’s also it, I don’t think we’re necessarily there yet, in the higher education space we’re seeing in the corporate world right now. And I think we’ll get there but it’s also being able to work with all different cultures, I think we’re gonna see that more more prevalent is actually working with different cultures remotely, and having people that are across the world, and you’re trying to, to figure out how to do it, I think we’re going to be more conscious of time zones, you know, we’re going to be more conscious of, you know, sleeping at a certain time of day and being a little bit more patient. So there’s a lot of those things that you pick up in the real world that are starting to filter out into the, into the university now.

Mark Sweeney
So let’s move from the campus into the office, and you talked about culture, I want to talk about that for a while, I was actually reading about a company culture survey that Citrix did earlier this year. And it was interesting for some companies, the culture improved, but for more, it declined. So what do you believe drove this,

Mark Sweeney
I think there’s a couple of things there. And I think at its core, I think the companies that had a strong culture to begin with, it’s very likely that their culture got stronger. And some companies that had a mediocre culture to begin with, it’s more likely that they declined, it would be interesting to double click into that, to really understand a baseline what the culture was before and see how the culture improved against that. I think what it comes down to is, if you’ve got empathetic managers who have engaged their workforce, and they use their relationships with their employees to understand how to make things better than I think you have a recipe for success, if you’ve got somebody that’s coming over the top, and you say, and be more autocratic around it, I think that’s where you’re going to see culture decline. One of the things that was very prevalent was, was the whole concept of mental health awareness during the pandemic that was flowing into the forefront, probably about, you know, three or four months. And, you know, it became a long slog in terms of just trying to get through it. And a lot of employees were struggling, you know, because of that change. So I think the managers and the corporations that had that culture on how do we work together? And how do we develop as a group? And how do we evolve your career within this role, not just looking at you to be a task worker, but looking at you to be a strategic thinker engaging you in the process, I think that’s where the culture got stronger.

Mark Sweeney
Now, you alluded to this about being aware of time zones and different cultures. And one of my previous guests suggests that part of the way to improve the remote working and learning experience is to adopt a synchronous versus synchronous messaging, rather than we’re going to have a zoom call right now. I don’t know that information until this afternoon. So just go away and get it done. What’s your view on this?

Mark Sweeney
Having an asynchronous and a synchronous learning experience both is good here. So we’re actually going to be going to the States to get to get my kids vaccinated next month, and they’re actually going to be going to school a synchronously, there’ll be on the US timezone the school beyond the on the UK time. So I think from that perspective, it’s going to work very well, you know, because they’re going to be able to learn, then they’re going to be able to attend a couple of sessions. If they did find themselves back in the UK and there’s a lockdown, then I think the synchronous, you know, point is going to be very important to have as well, because they’ll at least be able to be in the classroom at the same time as their as the students in the rest of the class. So I think being able to interchange when you can do one synchronously and when you can do one asynchronously is very important. When I started the MBA, we everybody was in lockdown. So we did that synchronously. When I moved to London, because I actually started the MBA last year. And when I moved to London, during the pandemic, I moved to asynchronous and from my perspective, it worked out very well. So I would agree with your previous guests, that it’s something that we should be doing, and it’s something that we should be looking at.

Mark Sweeney
So do you think candidates are now seeking roles offer that flexible working as a standard?

Mark Sweeney
Absolutely, I think it’s important to also realise it’s not just about the time that you’re in the seat, it’s also going to be about the outcomes that you’re delivering. And you realise that, you know, you really are your own manager, you know, throughout all of this. So I think it’s not just that it’s a standard, but it goes back to what does that blended environment look like? And how do you support a blended environment? So I think it’s, when you say standard, it’s, it’s absolutely but then the question is going to be is, what is the blended environment that you support and talk to me about how you maintain fairness to the employees who are choosing to be Remote and fairness to the employees who are choosing to be in the office.

Mark Sweeney
Now I’ve heard you mentioned the notion of location bias. So company culture must support remote working and avoid this location bias. How do you avoid that bias?

Mark Sweeney
So I think it’s about diversity and inclusion and providing a working environment that gives it gives you opportunities to be both diverse and inclusive. For my case, I have people throughout the UK supporting our business, I have a person in Scotland, I have a person in the Midlands, I have somebody and, you know, I have a few people, you know, scattered throughout areas throughout London. So I think that’s a that’s a really good way to do it. Ensuring that you are respectful with timezones for those who are working, you know, is going to be important, I think, making sure that you, as a manager, realise that you have some people who are remote and some people are on site, it’s also important making sure that you’re always prepared from a conference room perspective to make sure that people can hear I think that piece is important. And I think what you know, what I actually saw with, with the pandemic is that the folks that were on my team remotely, because Citrix has always been a very, very remote, remote friendly place to work. I actually had a better relationship with them now than I ever have, because I’ve been able to spend more time with them and thinking about them, and then actually seeing them, you know, face to face as opposed to a phone call, you know, almost everything we do now is over teams or you know, over some type of some type of video medium so that we can we can have that conversation and be able to see each other face to face. So I think it’s actually been a good thing.

Mark Sweeney
presenteeism is becoming a thing, some of my friends have actually deployed what we call a mouse Wigler. It’s a USB stick that actually simulates the mouse moving every 30 seconds, because they’re on a Bloomberg terminal or an instant messaging, and they want to show their boss that their prison, should we find the output versus attendance?

Mark Sweeney
And my opinion, yes, but it also depends on the output. You know, I wouldn’t say that the amount of keystrokes or the amount of mouse movements shouldn’t be factored into the output, I think it should be based on the KPIs the metrics that the employee has and how they’re achieving against them. I think we’re giving people an opportunity to be self starters, some people work better at night, some people I was having a conversation with somebody earlier today. Now who likes to keep their morning pletely closed out, because they were probably more productive in the morning, I’ve seen some studies that show that people are more effective working from home than working at work. I mean, even myself, when I go into the office, I know about working as productively as I could be if I’m working from home, because I am 100% focus that that coffee times not there the person coming up, you know a lot to me to have a conversation. You know, that’s not happening. I’m 100% focused on work. So I think when you begin to not think about attendance, and where people are located, you should say is this person fulfilling the job that I’ve hired them to do? That, to me is the is the most important thing.

Mark Sweeney
Sounds like you have a really interesting role. But what have been your biggest COVID-19 learnings?

Mark Sweeney
I think you need to plan for the worst, you need to have multiple plants. I think I’ve also learned that people in general are stronger than we give them credit for. We’ve seen a lot of folks adapt and overcome. We’ve seen a lot of people evolve in order to continue moving forward. What impressed me the most is just how people were able to just grow and develop and become stronger throughout this pandemic teams that were strong before stronger now, they have been so I think, to me, I just I’ve learned to appreciate the resilience and society.

Mark Sweeney
How do you think you’ve changed as a manager in the last 20 plus months,

Mark Sweeney
I would say I’m much more inclusive, you know, I talked to my team more now than I ever did. And in years past, my commute to the office was about 45 minutes or an hour. And I used to have this period of time, I would call, you know, windshield time, because I was driving to the office back and forth. And I would I would speak to people on the phone. And I could find that I was often talking to them. And I was engaged and having a good conversation. And that was great. But I think you know more. So now being able to see them, you know, face to face and see them across the room or across teams. I think it’s been, it’s been really good. I think we I mentioned this earlier, but we participate with our remote colleagues more now than we’ve ever done. I think that’s something that we don’t want to lose. And I think in in the past, we would we would often have blinders on in terms of really just focused on the direct staff and the direct team around us. And I think this has allowed me to increase my organisational agility and be more involved with other teams that are out there. And I think our teams are stronger because of that.

Mark Sweeney
Now, we so much experience over the last nearly two years at setting up our home environment, how important is it to have a consistent experience when we move between home and office or university? And how can we deliver this in practice?

Mark Sweeney
I think it’s really important. I think it’s probably one of the most important things we talked about the blended learning and the blended learning is is what’s going to happen where you have some people virtual you have some people who are on site, you’re going to have to figure out how you keep that experience consistent from somebody moving from the the home office to the physical location. So people learning from home to actually being in the classroom. And how you do it is we’re going to have to make sure that the technologies are there for them to learn and that’s why we’ve created the workspace. The workspace is really around how do we figure out what It looks like from a terms of do we provide all of the applications? Do we provide all the desktops do we provide all of the documentation inside of the single space, and then that space follows the student or they follows the boy with them. And I think that’s the best way to do it is create that workspace or create that learning space that can follow the student. And then they can bring their own technology, whether it’s a laptop, or an iPad, or something to that effect.

Mark Sweeney
Great discussion. We’re almost out of time. So I want to run you through a quick fire round, we learn a little bit more about you iPhone or Android, iPhone, PC or Mac, Mac, you’ll biggest hope for 2022

Mark Sweeney
that we can travel anywhere we want safely. What’s the app you use most on your phone? After any communication app like email or text? I’d say LinkedIn,

Mark Sweeney
what’s one thing you won’t be doing? Again, post pandemic,

Mark Sweeney
Eating a ham and cheese sandwich for lunch?

Mark Sweeney
What are you reading at the moment? The last Wolf, how do you want to be remembered?

Mark Sweeney
Want to be remembered as a good dad?

Mark Sweeney
As this is The Actionable Futurist® Podcast, what three actionable things should our audience do today? When it comes to preparing for a hybrid world of work and learning,

Mark Sweeney
I’d say the first thing is, start thinking about it design or redesign. If you’ve already got one of your hybrid work or learning environment, everything can be improved upon. So there have been a lot of learnings. So take a look at what you have today. And how can you improve upon it? The second one is start planning for that next disruptive event now and create some strategies around it. We’re hearing a lot right now about sustainability and global warming is or is there something that’s going to happen there that could become a disruptive event? Let’s think about that, and how we can address that from a work or a learning environment? I think the third thing is talk to your peers about what they’re doing, and understand what’s working well for them, what’s not working well for them, and how can you work around that.

Mark Sweeney
So how can people find out more about you and your work?

Mark Sweeney
So I mentioned LinkedIn, that’s probably the best way to find out more about me and what we do. I have my links up there on on Citrix comm. I also have my links to my blogs, I posted some articles not just on education, but also on corporate culture on sustainability. So that post some links over to my blog on the Citrix website,

Mark Sweeney
market. Great discussion today. Thank you so much for your time.

Mark Sweeney
I appreciate it. Thanks for having me.

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