June 3, 2021 - During the pandemic, many organizations discovered that when using cloud services, innovative communication and collaboration solutions, and technologies that digitally transform the way workers perform their essential tasks, the productivity of remote employees didn't suffer. A recent McKinsey survey and IDC study seem to confirm this, and in fact, show that productivity, along with customer satisfaction, improved in many cases.
As we enter the post-COVID-19 era, Gartner predicts almost half of employees will work from home, and executives in the McKinsey survey expect that employees will only need to be onsite between one and four days a week. This creates a hybrid office model that blends a workforce of employees working part of the week in the office and the other part from home, others working full time in the office, and still others working remotely, full time. Additionally, there will be lingering concerns around social distancing, air quality and cleanliness in the workplace, as well as coworkers' health status for those who spend time in the office. Despite all this, the need for in-person collaboration to drive creativity and team building will remain. The office we get back to will not be the one we left, and it will require new strategies, mindsets and technology solutions that ensure long-term sustainable success.
Back to the Office Planning
Many stopgap solutions were put into place to assist the remote workforce at the outset of the pandemic. However, if they haven't already, organizations must now consider implementing permanent, secure solutions that support continued work-from-home needs and allow true collaboration between remote and in-office employees in the new hybrid office environment. Meetings are one of the most important examples of a component of office life that will require innovation. Team meetings, all-hands events, and even one-on-one sessions have always been a key facilitator for collaboration and creative discussions, and although most people got somewhat comfortable with remote meetings, true hybrid collaboration requires more than just a video screen. Companies must plan on making meetings easy and efficient wherever their employees may be working. Interactive collaboration displays with high definition 4K, built-in camera, microphones and wireless casting capabilities can change a traditional meeting or conference room into a highly collaborative workspace for the new workforce, enabling team members to share material from their own devices and allowing all meeting attendees to easily collaborate.
As companies reconfigure office spaces, planning should include a dedicated space for these interactive solutions as part of a standard office configuration. Other smart office solutions should be included as well, such as those that help monitor and collect data that could be used to adjust workspace temperatures, lighting and air quality in the future and provide easy scheduling of meetings. Analytical reporting available in these collaboration solutions also offer valuable information so that a company can make informed decisions on future collaboration and meeting room investments.
Back-to-office planning must also address health concerns of those employees, managers, and teams who will be in the office at some point during the week. Smart technology solutions that can help with this include smartphone applications that allow employees to check into work areas and administrators to track touchpoints, ensuring no office space gets overcrowded. Smartphone apps can also be used to release print jobs, as can voice-enabled applications offering hands-free, contactless solutions to control functions and features on workgroup MFPs.
Finally, critical considerations in a post-COVID hybrid workplace must include security concerns. Solutions that allow monitoring of the network and its endpoints within and outside the office firewall will allow companies to put secure hardware, such as computers and printers, and network solutions into place for remote employees to collaborate with their colleagues in the office.
Prepared for the New Office Age
What companies are returning to is a new office age. IDC's survey of executives resulted in 64% of them indicating they are planning to adapt to the new hybrid office model and 55% of them signaling they are making investments in solutions such as collaborative workspaces. Back-to-office planning must include plans on how advanced office technologies can be implemented and utilized to help companies adjust more easily to the changes this new age is ushering in.