Exploring the new office in the new normal
When the pandemic hit, global businesses with physical offices quickly had to redeploy their employees to work from home. By leveraging technologies such as videoconferencing and collaboration tools, many organizations saw increased profitability from their teams—proving telecommuting can be a viable option for businesses that previously didn’t offer work-from-home or remote-work options.
A CRN article1 reporting findings from a Gartner survey of 317 business leaders found that 74 percent of respondents expected some of their employees who were forced to work from home because of COVID-19 to continue working remotely after the pandemic ends—largely due to cost-cutting efforts. And an article by Global Workplace Analytics2 estimated that 25 to 30 percent of the workforce will work from home multiple days a week by the end of 2021, compared to an estimate of almost 4 percent currently working from home half of the time or more.
So, if everyone can work from home, then why have brick-and-mortar offices? A recent PwC US Remote Work Survey3 on that topic gleaned valuable insights about working in the new normal. Of the employees surveyed, 72 percent said they’d like the flexibility to work from home at least two days a week. Others expressed a desire to go into the office only on occasion, to engage with colleagues in person. And about a third of the respondents reported a desire never to return to the office. So, while offices aren’t obsolete yet, it’s clear that employees won’t return to the same offices they left behind. Thirty percent of executives surveyed projected a need for less office space, and 50 percent anticipated a longer-term need for social-distancing practices due to the pandemic—ones that will change the shape, function, and physical space of offices in 2020 and beyond.
To help our partners assist their customers as they create part-time or full-time, return-to-office plans, we recently held a series of panel discussions led by Kyle DeWitt, our VP of Technical Services, and industry experts from several of our top suppliers—8x8, AudioCodes, Elo, Jabra, Hanwha, Mitel, Poly, Seek Thermal, and Zebra—about the current trends, opportunities, and challenges related to going back to the office. Key takeaways from those informative panels are below.
Our first discussion was with Jamaal Savwoir from 8x8, Kristin Roubie from Elo, and Jennifer Adams from Poly. It centered around popular trends in general office—including an increased demand for video collaboration. As user work styles evolve, Mr. Savwoir said there’s a need to provide flexible options for businesses to collaborate that aren’t dependent on location. Ms. Adams shared her thoughts about the boom in personal video solutions, as well as the continued growth of video-enabled huddle spaces. And Ms. Roubie explored how Elo delivers contactless solutions to digital signage and lobbies via virtual receptionists.
Our next discussion was with Scott Middlebrooks from AudioCodes, Sidsel Enghoff from Jabra, and Carl Kallen from Zebra. We stayed on the general-office and collaboration topic but also dove deeper into the mobility aspects of the return-to-office process. Ms. Enghoff said there’s a need to recommend solutions that help users stay productive wherever they are. Mr. Kallen explored some of the available technologies that ensure safe and socially distanced mobility for front-line workers—including contact tracing and proximity solutions. And Mr. Middlebrooks broached other related topics, like the increasing demand for users to be prepared to work remotely, as well as the need for flexible financing solutions.
Our last discussion in the series looked at trends in safety and security within the move to return to office. We were joined by Tom Cook from Hanwha, Brent Jarvis from Mitel, and Mike Muench from Seek Thermal. Mr. Cook said companies need to invest in transitioning their security systems to accommodate thermal screening, people counting, and social distancing—all of which Hanwha technologies support. Mr. Jarvis then mentioned some of the things that Mitel is considering, or already doing, to support its employees—like performing surveys to gauge their comfort with a return to office, leveraging contact tracing to track their exposure to COVID-19, and keeping new VPN solutions connected and secure. Finally, Mr. Muench led a very enlightening discussion about thermal-scanning and -imaging—including how businesses should incorporate them into more-comprehensive screening programs.
Many thanks to these industry leaders for sharing their time and insights with our mutual partners. We invite you to watch the entire miniseries on this topic here. ScanSource can help you create the best return-to-office strategies for your customers, so visit our website and download our infographic at www.scansource.com/goRTO today.
1. CRN article on Gartner survey
2. Global Workplace Analytics article