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The Return of ‘Return to Office’

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Image: Berit Kessler - Alamy Stock Photo
With experts and leaders starting to turn cautiously optimistic about the Omicron variant potentially peaking in the U.S., enterprises will likely turn once again to the question of the return to office (RTO). The past two years have taught everyone to avoid making firm plans with dates attached, and many companies have become vaguer and vaguer about their RTO plans as each pandemic wave has foiled their efforts.
But if there does start to be a broad opening-up of most aspects of life in the next few weeks, the issue of RTO will certainly start coming up again. Attitudes about remote work have clearly shifted since the start of the pandemic, and this year’s RTO conversation is guaranteed to bear little resemblance to last year’s or the year before’s.
Individual enterprise comms professionals often can do little to influence the course of that larger conversation. Hopefully though, the IT organization itself is a key stakeholder in any RTO discussion across the enterprise. What you can do is understand how the technology tools at your disposal can help achieve the ends that your enterprise seeks with its RTO plan and where those tools might still fall short in this goal.
That’s why we’ve devoted a good chunk of the Enterprise Connect 2022 Conference program to exploring these issues in depth. Our Workplace Strategies track approaches them from several angles. Consultant Robert Harris of Communications Advantage will lead a session on Company Culture and Your Hybrid Work Strategy, exploring how to make your technology strategy fit with the unique imperatives your enterprise culture imposes on the RTO. And we have two sessions about fitting technology to the office where people will return: Prachi Nema of Omdia will take a deep dive on Matching Conferencing Tech to Office Spaces, while Craig Durr of Wainhouse Research takes a strategic view on the hybrid work question.
In addition, our Video Collaboration/AV track, once again led by Ira Weinstein of Recon Research, tackles many of the key technology issues that are sure to come up no matter what RTO scenario you face. These issues include room video conferencing interoperability, the question of video meeting equity, and the potential future role of ideation technology in hybrid scenarios.
The process of returning to the office is bound to be uncertain, full of fits and starts, and probably will be the occasion for many challenging conversations within enterprises whose remote workers have adapted to a new way of working and may not want to change. Since early on in the pandemic, we’ve known that the old ways of working in an office are likely gone for good. Whether offices themselves are on this same path toward near-irrelevance, no one can say yet.
So, building a flexible plan to respond to whatever the future brings will be key. That’s what Enterprise Connect has been helping enterprise comms professionals do for more than 30 years, and it’s what we’ll be doing in Orlando the week of March 21. We’ve extended our best rate on conference passes, so I hope you’ll check out the program and join us in Orlando if you’re able.
Also, if you are looking for more insight into RTO strategies and the future of work, please consider reading these articles from our sister site WorkSpace Connect: