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Hybrid Work Demands Flexibility From IT

Aleksei Gorodenkov Alamy Stock Photo (2).jpg

Image: Aleksei Gorodenkov - Alamy Stock Photo
In this week’s Enterprise Connect virtual summit on Microsoft Teams, consultant Kevin Kieller of enableUC summed up the dilemma of the post-pandemic enterprise communications/collaboration professional as well as I’ve seen anyone do. One of Kevin’s slides was titled, “Your plans and solutions must be flexible.” To illustrate his point, Kevin used an image of one of those giant inflatable guys you see deployed as an eye-catcher outside car dealerships.
A brief digression: What are those things called, anyway? Well, when you Google “inflatable guy at car dealership,” you’re led to a page that offers several names:
  • air dancers
  • tube guys
  • inflatable guys
  • tall boys
  • fly guys
  • sky dancer
  • tube men
  • air rangers
I like “air dancers,” so I’m going to say that when it comes to the need for flexibility, the air dancer is a perfect emblem for the enterprise communications/collaboration professional. Because if you picture those guys, they take flexibility to a whole other level. One moment they’re reaching for the sky; the next moment, they’re bowed down like the humblest courtier Henry VIII ever had.
Trying to deliver communications tools and a great employee experience in this hybrid work moment must sometimes feel like that level of whiplash. Are employees coming back to the office? Are they going to continue remote work indefinitely? Will a difficult economy put more leverage in the hands of employers, forcing a return to office? But maybe the job market is still hot enough that at least some workers can write their own ticket?
Kieller offered some specific data from Microsoft’s annual Work Trend Index, the latest version of which came out in September, highlighting several instances where respondents seemed to contradict themselves when it comes to remote work attitudes.
For example, Kieller cited the finding that “58% of those who plan to spend the most time in the office tell us they plan to do so for more focused work.” At the same time, he noted, an identical percentage–58%—of those who plan to spend the least time in the office “tell us they plan to do so for more focused work.” In other words, like everyone’s been saying, home is for focused, heads-down work. But apparently, so is the office.
Furthermore, “they often want it all,” Kieller noted, citing another pair of data points: 73% “want flexible remote options to stay.” Yet 67% “want more in-person work or collaboration post-pandemic.”
Finally, the data accompanying that air dancer image revealed this juxtaposition: 57% of remote employees are considering a shift to hybrid work, while 51% of hybrid employees are considering a shift to remote.
With so many conflicting attitudes and directions, what’s an IT/communications professional to do? What does it mean to be flexible? That will almost certainly vary with the enterprise and the particular ways that its user base works.
At Enterprise Connect 2023, our program is built to provide the range of information and strategy you need, to be prepared for whichever direction your workforce and enterprise hybrid work strategy turns next. Most of our breakout sessions are now live on our website, with a strong emphasis on workplace strategies, video collaboration/AV, technology migration, and lots more. I hope you can join us the week of March 27, 2023, in Orlando, FL.