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Placing Your Bets on Hybrid Work

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This week the CEO of the polling company Gallup made a bet: “When the pandemic wanes and something close to ‘normal’ returns, we conclude that there will be a 37% reduction of in-person [i.e., in-the-office] days worked per week for those 60 million employees who can work from home,” Jim Clifton wrote in a post on the company’s website.
 
Gallup isn’t a newcomer to the study of our changing work habits in the COVID era; the company has been running regular surveys on employee engagement throughout the pandemic, tracking the ebbs and flows as workers have adjusted to the fluctuating situation. So, while Clifton’s 37% number may be a bet, as he calls it, it’s probably as good and educated a guess as you’ll find at this point.
 
Clifton goes on to offer his personal view that, “As a CEO, I believe there is more human energy and spirited collaboration to be found for employees in the office than sitting home alone.”
 
I could be wrong, but I believe the “as a CEO” is, as they say, doing a lot of work in that sentence. With the exception of some high-tech companies, most CEOs are determined to bring people back to the office — and whatever they may say about office culture, “spirited collaboration,” and the like, I’m convinced it’s all dollars and cents. These CEOs are paying for a lot of office space that went unused for a year and is still drastically underutilized. If it stays drastically underutilized, there are some very big, stranded assets out there whose value will decline precipitously.
 
Complicating matters is the fact that, these days, the typical remote worker’s response is likely to be: Not my problem.
 
So where does all this leave IT/communications decision-makers? Enterprises are pushing for a return-to-office and will continue to do so. Remote employees will push back. We don’t know if one side will ultimately prevail or if there will be a truce that lands us somewhere in Gallup’s realm of 37% emptier offices.
 
But what you can do is better understand how this struggle within your enterprise impacts your technology deployment strategy. At Enterprise Connect 2022, we’ve got several sessions aimed at helping you understand specific elements of the return-to-office and the decision-making it will force on you. Prachi Nema of Omdia will draw on her research to offer perspectives on Matching Conference Room Tech to Office Spaces; Craig Durr of Wainhouse Research will address How to Match Your Technology Strategy with Your Enterprise’s Evolving Hybrid Work Plan; and Robert Harris of Communications Advantage will lead a session on Company Culture and Your Hybrid-Office Strategy.
 
These sessions each take a different aspect of the return-to-office, which is appropriate because this challenge is really a multi-angled problem for IT/communications organizations: You have to build an overarching strategy for the technology you’ll use to serve your enterprise’s unique plan; specify the types of equipment that deliver on that strategy; and make it all work with the broader culture in which the return-to-office will be taking place.
 
Oh, and as you move to procure the gear you need to outfit the office for hybrid work, you’ll have to deal with supply chain issues and the chip shortage, which may limit your options. We’ll be addressing this problem also at EC2022, with an open discussion session led by expert consultant Melissa Swartz, who will be inviting attendees to share their challenges and will provide advice based on client engagements where this was a problem.
 
So, as we launch, however haltingly, into the world of hybrid work, we may not know exactly where things will land, but we need to be prepared, and EC2022 is the place to turbocharge your preparation. I hope you can join us in Orlando March 21 – 24.

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