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Return to the Office. Now What?

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The mad dash to work remotely has finally subsided. Now the “return to work” process begins. As COVID-19 restrictions continue to become lifted, this raises many questions in the enterprise. Before moving forward, take a moment to assess your company’s situation. Following these guidelines can help you gain some clarity on the best course of action.

1. Consider what went well and what didn’t during the transition to remote work. Did your existing technology meet everyone’s needs? What did you as an executive learn? What would you do differently next time? Document your takeaways and lessons learned.

2. Now that the transition is complete, what are your current pain points? Ask your team and users what obstacles they’re facing, as well as what successes they’ve found. Identify any capabilities that have emerged as “must-have” tools going forward and those that are no longer needed. Here is a good time to do a survey and find out what people are thinking.

3. Assess your costs. That can be hard because there are many areas to reflect on. Here’s a list to get you started:

  • Cost per seat and licensing for cloud services for communication
  • Collaboration tool licenses (if separate from above)
  • Connectivity costs (VPN, internet, appliances, software or management tools, cost of home internet for remote workers if company-paid)
  • Devices (cell phones, laptops)
  • Hardware (webcams, headsets, home office setup if company-paid)

4. Determine your status regarding your current contracts for services.

  • When do they expire?
  • Do they automatically renew? Do the rates increase at that time? What’s the impact to your cost structure above?
  • Are there any penalties if you terminate an agreement before it expires?
  • Are you satisfied with the provider, or do you want to change?

5. Decide if you want to continue using your interim solutions (if any), or evaluate options now that you have a better idea   of what works best for you. While change is not easy, it will be easier to do it now than to wait.

6. Evaluate your support. What were the common questions and recurring issues? Address these by create FAQs, video instructions, etc. and make them available to users and your support team.

7. Did you discover any training gaps? What training is needed by your team? By your end users?

8. Evaluate your staff – they probably put in a lot of long, stressful hours in the mad rush to enabling remote work.

  • Who was significant? Who stepped up? Is it time for some rewards or recognition?
  • What skills turned out to be critical?
  • Are there gaps in skills on your team? Do you need more of this, less of that?

9. Assess your collaboration tools.

  • In addition to conferencing (audio and video) and screen sharing, do you need whiteboarding or persistent team collaboration spaces?
  • Is there one solution that will fit your organization, or do some areas need specialized tools?

10. Take time to create necessary documentation, especially for processes created on the fly during the transition, including configurations and workflows.

11. Do any back-end processes need to be developed or revised? Here are areas that may require evaluation:

  • Are there any tools that employees utilize that require an on-site presence? For example, many time clocks require an employee to be on-site to record their time in and out. Do these tools need to be modified or replaced to support remote workers in the future?
  • Who determines which employees work remotely and how often?
  • Are there jobs that can’t be done remotely?
  • Does your company want to employ surveillance tools to ensure productivity?
  • Are any changes needed for employee evaluation standards?
  • What rules are different when participating in or managing remote teams?
  • Should you implement a “remote first” policy that assumes all meetings will have remote attendees? That will require including conference information in all meeting invitations, and changing the way meetings are run to include remote attendees more fully.
  • Are any additional tools needed?

To conclude, think about the environment you’ll create once people are back in the physical workplace. How will it be different? What tools and processes must be implemented to support the changing circumstances? Will you have two conditions (on-site and remote) to support going forward? What tools or technology do you need to simplify and make it seamless? Once you have these answers, you’re likely to adapt rather swiftly.

Click here to get a worksheet that walks you through this evaluation process.

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