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What to Do When There Is No Magic "Return to Office" Date

January 27, 2022

Another variant surge and shifting vaccine guidelines for large employers means the great return to office is delayed. Again.

Given that, it’s no surprise many large employers have thrown their hands in the air proclaiming: “We don’t know when our employees will come back.” Consider that:

  • Wells Fargo originally planned to have employees return to the office in early January but delayed its plans indefinitely amid the Omicron surge.
  • Target Corporation said in a Minneapolis Star Tribune article that they won’t issue a new back-to-office date and expect to have a hybrid work model for their office workers indefinitely.
  • Apple, which has pushed back its return to the office multiple times, recently announced its new timeline is, you guessed it, TBD.
  • DocuSign said they’re “reassessing plans as 2022 unfolds.”
  • Lyft said the earliest it will require employees to return to the office is 2023
  • Some organizations have cancelled office space leases entirely, adopting full-on remote work as simply how they conduct business.

Have some employees returned to the office? Sure. But as the New York Times said in its recent article: The End of a Return-to-Office Date, “the visions of full-scale re-openings and mandatory returns, which formed as vaccines rolled out, have remained nebulous."

In other words, hundreds of companies are still figuring out what to do and when. With that as the backdrop, here’s our advice for how companies can navigate the continued uncertainty.

Hybrid is permanent

If you don’t have a robust strategy to offer a seamless meeting and collaboration solution to your employees, you should. After millions of employees worked from home independently for more than two years, most will likely only return to the office a few days each week.

These employees will continue to want great tools that make it easy to work from anywhere. Make sure you adopt the right technologies.

Online collaboration tools are critical

Using online collaboration platforms like Microsoft Teams, Cisco Webex, and Zoom (whether they’re in an on-premise, cloud, or hybrid environment) will remain mission-critical for organizations of every size.

If you or your employees are unhappy with your current platform – or need additional capabilities – don’t wait until more and more people return to the office to address it. Use this wait-and-see period to address your unmet needs.

Unified collaboration remains an overlooked issue

If you’re like 80% of companies, you probably use two or more unified collaboration tools. As such, you are far more likely to face interoperability challenges in the future. So, start thinking about how you can effectively deploy a multi-platform unified collaboration strategy.

In our experience, this requires a partner with enterprise-level audiovisual expertise and innovation. At AVI, we believe that the unified collaboration platform you deploy should become part of an overall system that helps you achieve specific business goals. (For more on that, keep reading.)

Meeting room technology must be part of your IT ecosystem

More than ever before, the meeting room technology you use should be managed as part of your overall IT ecosystem and aligned with your business goals.

The days of a conference or huddle room equipped only with a speakerphone are gone. Your employees and partners need meeting spaces that are fully outfitted with professional-grade displays, mics, cameras, and audio that help people work together. And, in some cases, even this isn’t enough. You should also be connected (with just one click) to platforms that enable collaboration and problem-solving.

Remember, the IT team should take the lead in understanding employee technology needs. Create a user group of individuals from across the company and involve them in the decision-making process. When you know what user expectations, use cases and workflows look like you can make more informed technology decisions to meet employee expectations.

Staying flexible while planning ahead

We all hope we’re in the final phase of this pandemic. But if we’ve learned anything so far, there is no magic date for when people will finally return to the office en masse. Instead, use the time we have now to:

  • Plan for how we can support a hybrid work model long-term
  • Assess the performance of your online collaboration platforms
  • Address any interoperability challenges
  • Incorporate our meeting room technologies into our IT ecosystem

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