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Will the Hybrid Work Wars Wind Down?


Picture of video call about some colleagues in officer, others remote
Image: Blue Planet Studio -

Experts and industry observers have been reluctant to “call” the return to office (RTO) battle, which is not surprising considering all of the back-and-forth and false starts we’ve experienced over the last three years. So when a well-known researcher declares that the hybrid work battle has largely stabilized—if not been fully resolved—it’s worth noting. However, what the researchers conclude is one thing; the real question for communications professionals is whether your particular enterprise has yet reached an equilibrium, or soon will.

Nicholas Bloom, whose WFH Research Group has been a major go-to for hybrid work data and insights, told Fortune that the data has actually been level for two years, with the percentage of hours worked from home holding steady at 25%, versus 5% before the pandemic. For all the news stories about C-level RTO mandates or “magnet-not-a-mandate” evangelizing for new types of offices, in aggregate not much has really changed.

The Fortune article touches on a potential last stand for the RTO partisans, at least in the U.S.: Labor Day. This gibes with conversations I’ve had with enterprise IT execs whose companies have targeted the end of summer as the beginning of their plans to finally make RTO stick. In the article, Bloom dismisses this milestone as unlikely to prove any more decisive than all the previous “this time we really mean it” declarations.

The problem in all of this is that we’re talking about averages, overall markets and trends. Your mileage, as they say, may vary. The kind of work your employees do, the industry you’re in and how it’s evolved over the past few years, the existing corporate guidance on hybrid work all will play a role in determining where you fall on the hybrid work continuum. 

But at least the consistency of the 25% aggregate number may let you know that, if your remote work numbers have similarly remained steady, you might want to consider the possibility that they aren’t likely to change dramatically in the next year or so. That in itself may be helpful in allowing IT leaders and their partners in HR and facilities to plan investments and policies that stand a chance of being in place for more than just the short term.

A hybrid work technology plan baselined to today’s reality may wind up being as good an approximation as any to move forward with. That doesn’t necessarily mean everything is settled. Plenty of issues remain to deal with just in adapting the enterprise collaboration technology estate to the new reality. Many enterprises are still in the planning stages when it comes to upgraded meeting room technology and investigating AI-enabled features within communications platforms. 

Meanwhile, we’ll likely see a much more dynamic environment in the contact center, where AI is making its biggest strides, as Robin Gareiss of Metrigy spelled out in a recent series of No Jitter articles. With the opportunities for big improvements in agent experience and AI-driven agent assist technologies, we’ll likely see a strong climate for technology investments endure, no matter where the employees using that technology end up working.