The Remote Work Journey Continued: Returning to the Office

In an earlier blog, I discussed how the pandemic had significant effects across the population, whether in the home, school or work. The digital transformation that was forced upon so many organizations had more staying power than we originally thought.

When the stay-at-home orders began to sweep the country in early spring, many believed we would experience a brief lockdown of a few weeks, perhaps a month, and there would be a return to normal. What a difference a year makes.

2020 will forever be remembered as the year that work and learning both made the forced transition to digital and cloud, two trends that are here to stay. While the results were unpredictable, that transition turned out to support a more productive environment than anticipated. What was thought to lead to a loss in productivity actually resulted in a new working arrangement that not only proved to be just as or even more productive (according to a Mercer survey of 793 U.S. employers), but also supported a more positive work-life balance while helping to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

But what now? With a strong vaccine efficacy making it safe for in-person events to resume, organizations are struggling to determine their return-to-work strategy. Most of us have become pretty comfortable working around our kitchen tables, though it has not come without its challenges. According to a 2021 State of Remote Work survey by Buffer, 27% of 2,300 respondents have a hard time unplugging, while 16% continue to struggle with collaboration, and some report feelings of loneliness and home distractions. Interestingly, over 97% of respondents want to continue with remote work in some fashion for the rest of their career and would recommend it to others.

So given an apparent juxtaposition, what is the answer to this challenge? The hybrid workplace. In essence, a hybrid workplace is one that combines remote work with work in the office. Intrinsically, it provides several benefits, including autonomy around deciding when to work and from where. It allows employees to pivot from structuring their lives around work, to structuring work around their lives. In our previous blog, it is an evolution of the “run” phase on the Remote Work Maturity Curve, whereby companies are now optimizing the use of technology platforms to further advance their organization’s implementation of remote work policies.

Remote Work Maturity Curve

Questions still remain, however. How do you get there? What decisions need to be made? The choices that leaders make today are going to impact the organization for years to come. Not only do those decisions have an immediate impact on the company culture, but to a greater extent affect the ability to attract and retain talent in the long run. In fact, tomorrow’s knowledge workers will likely use the ability to work from home as a key decision criterion when seeking employment. According to a study by the International Workplace Group, 80% of job seekers would choose a job with a flexible work-from-home policy versus one that does not offer the same benefit.

Many companies have already started. Organizations such as Twitter, Dropbox and Spotify are either implementing policies supporting this hybrid model and are outright changing their recruiting and hiring practices. At Microsoft, employees can work from home up to 50 percent of the time, or even full-time with management approval.

The demand for a hybrid remote work model is putting the need for organizations to invest in technology at the forefront. In a 2020 Boston Consulting Group survey, Workplace of the Future, 87% of employers said they anticipate prioritizing tech and digital infrastructure investments that support sustained remote work.

If that prioritization puts technology platforms at the top of the list for investment, what should be in consideration? While there are a number of remote work collaboration options in the marketplace today, Microsoft Teams has vaulted to the top in terms of providing the capabilities required to support this new hybrid workplace. Microsoft’s fastest-growing product in its history, Teams has set the benchmark for how to enable organizations to collaborate and communicate, supporting an engaged workforce model whether in the office, fully remote, or the new hybrid.

In the words of Lewis Carroll, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.” Having a plan to support this new hybrid model is critical. A key part of that plan is the successful deployment and adoption of a platform like Microsoft Teams to ensure progression along the Remote Work Maturity Curve, enabling you to optimize productivity.

If your organization needs help developing and implementing the hybrid model or developing a remote work strategy, we can help. Sirius and our Microsoft Modern Workplace division has the skills and offerings to get you started. Contact us to speak to one of our remote work experts.

By |2021-06-09T09:22:47-05:00June 9th, 2021|Blog|Comments Off on The Remote Work Journey Continued: Returning to the Office

About the Author:

Michael Sieber is the Portfolio Director of Digital Solutions at Sirius.