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How Culture and Technology May Impact Return to Office

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Image: Albert Shakirov - Alamy Stock Photo
Can you crowdsource a return-to-office strategy?
When I think about the accelerating moves to open up public places as Omicron recedes, I wonder if the return-to-office plans that were made even a relatively short time ago will survive first contact with the actual behaviors that we’ll see emerging over the coming weeks and months.
Specifically, I’m thinking about a phrase that I heard almost word-for-word in two totally separate conversations over the past week: “Go in (to the office) with a purpose.” In both conversations, this was what some managers were telling employees, and what they meant was: If you’re scheduled for back-to-back video meetings all day, or if you have to spend all day writing a report, don’t go into the office. Go in if you have a reason to go in.
By itself, this isn’t a new insight or directive. Pretty much from the start, one of the key ideas about hybrid work was that “heads-down” work should be done from home (or wherever), while the office was for being with colleagues. But when you bring it down to those “with a purpose” scenarios, you see how hard it becomes for the enterprise as a whole to plan for the resources needed to accommodate such an environment.
How far in advance do you typically know that a given day this week is going to be back-to-back meetings? Some such days are recurring — maybe your Tuesdays are always booked. Other times, the schedule just consumes an upcoming day before you’re even aware of it. So, maybe the plan you and your manager agreed on calls for you to be in the office on Thursdays. But now your Thursday suddenly got booked solid with remote calls, so there’s no point in your coming in. Now multiply this scenario times all your office workers.
When management guru Peter Drucker famously said that “culture eats strategy for breakfast,” he was talking more about the inability to execute on strategy in the absence of a culture that’s committed to the strategy. But I thought of this aphorism in connection with this return-to-office challenge, in a more pragmatic, almost mundane sense: If the culture says (as it should), that you only go into the office “with a purpose,” how do you build a strategy for supporting an office’s technology needs when people’s purposes tend to shift by the day?
We’ve actually got a session at Enterprise Connect 2022 in Orlando that looks at the issue of culture and return-to-office, and I’m really excited about it because it’ll deal with these real-world types of issues. It’s called Company Culture and Your Hybrid Office Strategy, and it’s led by consultant Robert Harris of Communications Advantage, with a panel featuring Paula Burgess, VP of IT at Vecellio Group, a Florida-based construction company; and Justin Stevens, founder of Ixiom Solutions, a workplace consulting firm focused on enhancing the employee experience of hybrid work. So, it should be a great discussion on these and other issues around the way culture and technology interact as enterprises plan their return to the office.
The Enterprise Connect 2022 program is chock-full of incredible sessions like this, and our expo floor will be chock-full of the major players side-by-side for you to evaluate and compare. I hope you’ll consider joining us in Orlando the week of March 21 for an exciting and fun week of returning to in-person events. You can see the whole program here, and the exhibitors here. We’d love to see you in Orlando!