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Last March, we wouldn’t have guessed it would be another 14 months before planning began for a transition back to the office. There is little doubt your team has rapidly adapted, developed new skills and become infinitely more flexible.

Here are a few important things to consider as your team builds its reopening plan. 

Hybrid Work Options

According to Microsoft, more than 70% of workers want flexible remote work options to continue after offices are reopened and, at the same time, 65% of employees are craving more in-person time with their teams. In addition, employers are finding with a remote work option, talent can be found anywhere. This combination makes hybrid work and extreme flexibility an essential consideration.

Key Takeaway – Employers will need to devote efforts to build the most effective strategy to keep and attract talent.

Technology Tip – A Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI), like Window’s Virtual Desktop (WVD), may be a valuable solution. Creating secure access from anywhere and from any machine makes remote work for employers and employees easy and efficient.

Communication is Key

It will not be business-as-usual on the first day. Employees may be feeling nervous about getting back to the office. It will take some time for new routines, with added safety requirements, to become established. 

Key Takeaway – Two-way communication among teams throughout the transition period will be important. Consider implementing a weekly/bi-weekly survey process to stay ahead of potential issues. 

Technology Tip – Many of our key customers maximize tools like Microsoft Teams and TinyPULSE to stay close to employee sentiment and gather feedback.  Check out how they might help your organization.

Your Technology Game

No doubt, technical skills were sharpened from relying on technology more than ever. Team members gained a stronger understanding of the applications one used every day and/or added new ones.  The digital intensity of a worker’s day has increased substantially in the last year with weekly meeting time up 148% for Teams users and the number of Team chats per person up 45%.  At the same time, 62% percent of meetings/calls were reported as unscheduled or ad hoc in the last year. 

Key Takeaway – We have all learned how to connect with our teams in different ways.  This know-how will continue to serve us moving forward but we must evaluate how best to engage with teams and clients to avoid burnout.

Technology Tip – With the communication options currently available to organizations, consider creating communication guidelines and best practices.  For example, email subject lines must contain a indicator of content like “Informational,” “Action Required” or “Response Required.”  Or, set communication best practices based on Teams Availability status like “no chat messages when a team member’s status is set to Do Not Disturb.”  Simple guidelines could offer great relief to those team members struggling with maintaining work-life boundaries.

Authenticity in the Workplace

Your interpersonal skills likely also had to hit another level to stay connected with your team and your clients. Many leaders sent gifts and small, thoughtful tokens to remind teams that they were all in this together.  According to the Microsoft survey, people who interacted with their coworkers more closely (20% report meeting a coworker’s family or pets, 17% admit to crying with a coworker) experienced stronger work relationships and reported higher productivity and overall wellbeing.

Key Takeaway – The authenticity and bonds created by one tough year has produced an unexpected opportunity to transform company culture.  In the new modern workplace, employees are more likely to feel empowered to ‘bring one’s whole self to work.’

Non-Technology Tip – Continuing dedication to connection when back in the office could make a large impact as everyone settles into new routines.

Workspace Adjustments

About 66% of business decision-makers are considering redesigning their physical workspaces to better accommodate flexible work environments, according to Microsoft’s Worklab.

Key Takeaway – This is not an undertaking to be entered into lightly.  It can take extensive planning both operationally and technically.

Technology Tip – Reassembling workstations may require extra time and assistance upon returning. Consideration will need to be given for things like VPN, workstation set up and team members onboarded in a virtual work environment.

Did We Mention the Importance of Flexibility?

It bears repeating.  The survey refers to it as extreme flexibility.  This may include flexible meeting spaces, working locations, working times, travel policies, etc. Let’s not forget schools and daycares may or may not be on the same schedule and team members may still require varying start times.

Key Takeaway – Flexibility must be a key component to an organization’s back-to-work strategy.  Employee expectations have changed, and the definition of productivity has expanded with heavier influences from collaboration, learning and wellbeing.

Technology Tip – Staying up to date on modern workplace trends will provide employees with increased options for flexibility in when, where and how they maximize their work.

At GadellNet, we gathered employee feedback to build our hybrid work plan.  We asked, on a sliding scale of “back to the office every single day” to “one or two times a month,” what employees would prefer. From here, we released tentative benchmark dates for limited capacity and full capacity. We have scheduled several events to warm everyone back up to the office, as well, like an optional “lunch-on-us.”

 Our reopened offices will look and may feel different than they did prior to pandemic shutdowns.  But, with our added skills and an extreme flexibility mindset, what won’t be different is our dedication to our team’s common goals. 

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