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Workspace Wednesday: The Big Hurry Up and Wait
Throughout my working life, at one point or another, I’ve heard a coworker utter the phrase, “hurry up and wait,” usually in reference to a task that needed to be done right this second, only to have the next step take days or even months. And though today’s workplace situation is a bit different, I can’t help but think of that phrase when it comes to planning for the future of work.
True, you’re not likely to place decisions on cloud communications services and collaboration tools on hold since employees need these to do their jobs now. But what about equipping those once-sought-after huddle rooms with the latest technology to promote a safe in-room meeting experience? Should IT devote a sizable chunk of time to those projects or focus on more pressing concerns like ensuring remote workers have the right tools to be productive, especially considering we are still in the thick of the pandemic? Basically, why invest any time in projects that won’t see much use until much later in the year.
One proponent of not rushing into things is Eric Krapf, GM of Enterprise Connect, who in his latest article on our sister site, WorkSpace Connect, argued the finer point of not focusing on the fine details — at least not at this moment. Citing recent Harvard Business School research, Krapf explained that most people (over 80% of survey participants) still want to work from home and largely feel uncomfortable or unsafe returning to the office until vaccinated (71%). To Harvard, he noted, vaccination is the linchpin in a return to the office. But even as attitudes toward getting vaccinated are improving, as shown in a Pew Research survey he cited, it’ll take time for people to get vaccinated and for attitudes to swing back to in-person working. These and other factors have led many enterprises to consider a September 2021 timeframe. “There’s just so little upside in rushing back,” Krapf said.
Other enterprises aren’t so much rushing back into the office as saying to heck with the office, either adopting a remote-first or remote-only approach. REI, Twitter, Square, and Zillow are just a few enterprises that, as of last summer, had extended remote work indefinitely, as shared in this Entrepreneur article. For those that opt for a more permanent remote environment, communications consultant Molly Zraik, a member of the Society of Communications Technology Consultants, shared a few tips in her latest WorkSpace Connect article. For new hires, Zraik suggested providing additional support and offered the idea of a “mentor/helper” system, where one employee serves as a mentor to the new hire and another employee as a friend who can help with general questions. To ensure that everything is moving smoothly, Zraik also recommended leaders foster deeper connections via weekly check-ins and other activities, and more importantly, be open to criticism.
While enterprises might opt for the wait-and-see approach, some large enterprises like Amazon are doubling down on the physical office — in a big way. In my latest WorkSpace Connect post, I looked at Amazon’s HQ2, which is expected to open to workers (and the public) in 2025. The 2.8 million square feet office taps into many of the workplace trends we’ve seen over the years: sustainability and wellness being two big ones. The planned office campus features outdoor spaces, dining and entertainment options, and bike paths. But more importantly, Amazon stated that the office space will “prioritize areas for collaboration.”
An enterprise’s unique workplace culture and situation will dictate what comes next, whether it's remote, in-office, or hybrid working. But maybe as we ride out the tail end of the pandemic, enterprise IT leaders might take a second to pause, take a deep breath, and reassess where things are and where they might end up. No point to hurry into a return-to-office plan only to wait for the pandemic’s end.