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  • Alexis Hultine

Don't Let These Things Upend Your Office Return (Hint It's Not Omicron)

Definitive return to the office dates have disappeared, but office reopening preparations are still moving forward. These past few months at Digital By Design, we've spoken with leaders whose companies are in various phases of returning to the office. For companies that still have not reopened their offices, apply these lessons learned to your organization's plans.

1. Stress test the office bandwidth

Remember when "video on" wasn't a thing? Video conferencing and those new collaboration tools we started using in the pandemic are bandwidth-hungry. You don't want employees to arrive at the office and experience challenges making calls, chatting with colleagues, or sharing files because the internet is functioning at dial-up speed. Work with your IT leaders to stress test a heavy load of in-office users and ensure you have the infrastructure to support the new demands.

2. Order office hardware

As the pandemic started, many employees took their office monitors, keyboards, and chairs to optimize their home setup. Now that employees will split their time between home and the office, you want to ensure they can keep the proper hardware at home while having everything they need at the office. Take inventory in your offices and note down the gaps. Work with the Facilities and IT teams to determine what is required and submit the orders ASAP. Supply chain woes are still affecting the ability to order equipment in high quantities, so the sooner you act, the better.

3. Flag video-enabled conference rooms

You're likely already working with the IT team to upgrade conference rooms for enhanced video conferencing capabilities, but this will be a journey that will run past your return to office date. Test the sound, lighting, and optics in your more prominent meeting spaces and communicate which rooms provide the best experience for video conferencing. This list of meeting spaces will grow over time, but a handful of qualified VC rooms goes a long way in ensuring an equitable experience for participants outside of the room.

4. Plan for extra support on new technologies

Set up a support system to ensure technology introduced while people were out of the office is a non-event upon their return. One of the main places we've heard employees struggle with is the VC rooms. Not knowing how to initiate a meeting or display content is high-stress, and VC rooms with new equipment can create issues for first-time users. Consider posting a dedicated support line or staff nearby so meeting attendees can quickly triage with an expert and get back to the meeting agenda.

5. Create an employee playbook for hybrid meetings

Avoid reverting to how we held hybrid meetings pre-pandemic. Remember when participants on the line couldn't hear everyone in the room or see the meeting content on the whiteboard? We have excellent new tools available to us that, with the right direction, organizations can empower employees to produce excellent meeting outcomes and promote participant equity. Guides Digital by Design and other companies have created help employees navigate hybrid meetings thoughtfully, pre, during, and post-meeting. These guides include the types of topics and scenarios appropriate for hybrid (vs. virtual or in-person) meetings, how to integrate new digital collaboration tools employees have available, and provide practical tips on things like how to make eye contact (hint it means bringing your own device for now), and teaching new behaviors like inviting remote participants to speak first.

While there's a lot more to learn, collectively, we are building the new Future of Work. Please comment or reach out to share challenges you've encountered in your organization's journey. I would love to keep the conversation going.

Alexis Hultine is the principal of Digital By Design, a digital strategy and solutions consulting group partnering with senior leaders who value talent and are deliberately designing the Future of Work.


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