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WorkSpace Wednesday: Connecting Back in the Office

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Young professionals elbow-bumping as they return to the office
Image: Halfpoint - stock.adobe.com
With this post and going forward biweekly on Wednesdays, we’ll be bringing you a recap of content from our sister site, WorkSpace Connect.
 
WorkSpace Connect, launched in February, is a community site for enterprise IT professionals, along with colleagues in facilities/real estate and HR, to share practical advice, best practices, and thought leadership on building the connected workspace. Our decision to create this site sprung from conversations we’ve had with folks in the No Jitter and Enterprise Connect communities about the growing need to coordinate across disciplines to provide the collaborative environment that would encourage engagement and heighten the employee experience — and, in turn, serve as competitive differentiators for their organizations.
 
Since we put out the WorkSpace Connect welcome mat, the world has turned on its head. While once we talked about topics such as trends for the modern conference room and how to get employees on board with the idea of dynamic seating, today our focus is on supporting a distributed workforce and facilitating a safe return to the office. This week, for example, Jon Ingham, an independent people management and organization design consultant, has a two-part “Connected Workspace Reset” series in which he explores how businesses must take the opportunity to optimize the physical and digital assets of the connected workspace when planning how to bring employees back to the office.
 
Ingham’s premise is that rotating teams in and out of the office on a cyclical basis — prevailing thinking of the day — is problematic for a couple of big reasons. “First, this can only ever likely be a best practice, rather than best fit, unless we do some deeper thinking. And second, it takes no account of the way people actually do their work, and therefore, is actually unlikely even to be a very good best practice,” he wrote. In Part 1 of this series, Ingham walked through the three steps he feels are essential to developing a “more relevant and effective” approach for returning to the office, one that’s based on clear objectives-setting for the connected workspace, expressed through their capabilities and principles. In Part 2, he explored six main options — three for the digital workplace and three for the physical workspace — that businesses need to consider.
 
For Ingham, returning to the office shouldn’t just be “an exercise in limiting damage.” But, business leaders planning their companies’ return-to-the-office strategies do need to do so with an eye on minimizing risk, pointed out IT analyst, Irwin Lazar, of Nemertes Research, in his monthly WorkSpace Connect post from earlier this week. In large part, this is about making offices less dense and maximizing space, he wrote, sharing a handful of technologies, including building access controls, employee notification apps, and reservation systems, that he said are essential for a return to the office.
 
And policy and process are important to Lazar, as well. Toward that end, organizations that haven’t yet established “safe-work” teams need to get those together; they need to comprise key personnel from HR, facilities, and IT.
 
Ingham’s and Lazar’s perspectives diverge in some respects and converge in others. Returning to the connected workplace is a sensitive endeavor, with lessons learned outside the U.S. just starting to trickle in… with nobody really knowing long-term effectiveness. Still, there’s “great value in learning from the experiences of others,” as Varis Niwatsakul, studio lead at PLASTARC, a social research, workplace innovation, and real-estate strategy firm, noted in his recent post, “Return to Office: Lessons from APAC.”
 
For more perspective on returning to the office, as well as supporting a distributed workforce, head to WorkSpace Connect for articles such as:
 
  • Making the Most of WFH” and “Are We Back Yet?” – featuring perspective from Stacy Foster, facilities and technology director at international development consulting firm Chemonics International
  • Mindful Places,” a series on creating mindfulness in the workplace by Kay Sargent, senior principal and director of workplace, for global architectural firm HOK
  • 5 Ways to Foster Positive Return-to-Office Experience,” with guidelines from Melissa Marsh, a social researcher with PLASTARC and occupancy experience expert with Savills, a global real estate services provider
Lastly, join us at next month’s Enterprise Connect Digital Conference & Expo, where Marsh will be joining us on Wednesday, Aug. 5, for a fireside chat on balancing distributed and office work. View the full program here, and register today!

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