Article: How IT Can Plan for the Return of Office Workers
If it was hard to predict the situation we’re in now, with so much of the workforce suddenly working from home, it may be almost as difficult to predict what’s going to happen next. How will the work environment look as people return to the office? And how should IT teams prepare for the transition from stay-at-home or shelter-in-place to something different than that, but also different than the way things have been?
Prepare for the Unexpected
It’s safe to say that for the foreseeable future the work environment will be fluid and somewhat unpredictable. Stay-at-home orders are being lifted slowly, and at different rates in different locations. During this transition, companies will provide guidelines that likely encourage employees to minimize contact with each other (and with customers, partners, and vendors) if they can avoid it. What was a highly co-located workforce before 2020 will likely become a constantly changing mix of in-office and remote workers.
This is a situation without precedence, and it will put new demands on IT teams. For one, IT will need to become even more agile and responsive to support rapidly evolving collaboration needs. They will need to react quickly to situations beyond their control and that may change from day to day.
While becoming adept themselves at working remotely, IT staff will likely field many more questions from employees who rely on technology (employer-provided and personal) to do their job. To stay ahead of that curve, IT leaders should become proactive about technology deployment and training to support a mix of office and remote workers.
Prioritize Video Conferencing for Business Continuity
While business continuity remains a core mission of IT, meeting that goal will now require much more support for a remote workforce. And what the remote workforce needs more than anything is the ability to stay connected to systems, applications – and especially each other. Collaboration is now mission-critical.
Moreover, video conferencing is becoming the default way people meet if they’re not in the same room, and it’s here to stay. Indeed, the video footprint is bound to continue growing. as employees get more comfortable using it and companies realize the cost savings.
Knowing what’s coming, IT leaders can take steps to ensure they’re prepared. Priority must be given to video room solutions. In the past, conference rooms were primarily used for people to meet in person, with video conferencing used on occasion.
Going forward, meetings may routinely include remote employees attending on video, with only a few people present in person. For IT that means video conferencing must be up and running all the time. It’s not just an inconvenience when video isn’t available in a conference room. It's a show stopper. Video room solutions are vital to keeping the business running.
Realize that Every Space is a Potential Video Conferencing Room
Every room, no matter how small, should be video-enabled. Even private, one-on-one meetings will increasingly be handled by video. Given the large number of video meetings taking place, IT will need to automate and centralize the management of conference rooms and all the equipment they contain. Fortunately there are tools like Logitech Sync that address this need.
Realign Budgets to Address Remote Work
In addition to acquiring more video room solutions, IT should prepare to increase budgets in other areas. For example, more employees will ask for purpose-built webcams and headsets for times when they’re working remotely. In a temporary lockdown, people will make do with what they have. But in a long-term remote-working situation, they will want equipment designed specifically for collaboration and communication.
IT may also need to budget for faster refresh cycles for laptops and other devices. Video places an increased demand on computer processing power, and older laptops may not perform adequately during video conferences.
When approaching budget discussions, it may be helpful to think about these additional requests and budget requirements the way you think about IT security. You invest in technology such as anti-malware and endpoint protection because the upfront costs are minimal compared to the consequences of a security breach.
Similarly, if you can prevent situations where employees are unproductive because they can’t communicate effectively, the return on that investment is easy to justify. In today’s environment (and the work environment of the future), video is the tool of choice for effective collaboration.
As some people now contemplate returning to the office, while others continue to work remotely, this is the time for IT leaders to prepare for a fluid work environment where video conferencing will only increase. Making the investment now will pay long-term dividends.
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