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Equipping the Office for Hybrid Work

Roman Lacheev Alamy Stock Photo.jpg

Image: Roman Lacheev - Alamy Stock Photo
Recently, I had a conversation with someone who works for a company with a hybrid model. This person has learned that mid-week, you have to log into their enterprise’s hotdesking system early if you want a good seat, as it fills up fast. Maybe that’s the next big side hustle, we joked: Scalping seats at your company’s office.
Things might not be that bad yet, but IT professionals need to consider plenty of issues when it comes to equipping the office for hybrid work. Irwin Lazar of Metrigy has a great post on No Jitter this week looking at some of the real challenges IT faces and may see grow as enterprises deploy hotdesking as a core element of their hybrid work strategy.
Irwin includes some interesting Metrigy data on what kinds of equipment enterprises are deploying for shared desks, and you should definitely read the whole post. The issue points to one of the fundamental questions about the hybrid office: How much should it cost to outfit an office for hybrid work, and how can you measure the cost against the work being done over a period of time?
When technology and space were relatively static and not ubiquitously shared, these questions were much more straightforward. The default was an office-based standard setup: Monitor, either a PC or a laptop plus a docking station, telephone, and accessories like a headset and wireless mouse. You could get a pretty good idea of what you were spending on technology for a given worker.
Cost and benefit become harder to calculate in a heavily shared environment where people may be assigning technology assets to themselves on the basis of how they use the hotdesking and other systems. Thus, IT may have to ask more complex questions about who gets access to what technology in the office, and why. Should people who come into the office more frequently — whether by choice or necessity — get priority for seating, conference room usage, and other amenities? How might IT consider requests for enhanced options like dual monitors?
Offices have always been a complex balance of sharing and individuality. Especially in the pre-pandemic era of the open-office plan, employees often had to do a lot of adjusting to their colleagues’ habits and practices if they wanted to get their work done. The cultural norms that evolved around the open office (and never really solved its challenges) are being revised as the hybrid office emphasizes flexibility and a new level of sharing.
For example, a facilities leader shared an anecdote with me about the first time he came into a room fitted out with modular furnishings on wheels and began reconfiguring the space to suit the work to be done there on this occasion. He said people were a bit taken aback that he was simply moving stuff around, a reaction he attributed to the fact that we may not yet have well-established norms around who in a reconfigurable office gets to actually do the reconfiguring.
With the return-to-office process so halting and uncertain, it’s been hard for IT/communications professionals to even know what and how much needs to be delivered to those employees who actually show up on a given day — from bandwidth to desktop equipment to upgraded conference room technology. Some U.S. companies are pegging Labor Day as the next in the series of would-be milestones toward the definitive return to office. We’ll see what the autumn brings, and what IT/communications folks must do to respond.