Your Back-to-the-Office IT Guide

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Did you get the memo? Many of us in the Maryland, Virginia, and DC regions will be heading back to the office later this year. Businesses and organizations across the DMV region have started notifying employees that some will return to the office in the coming months, leaving many with a hybrid model.

IT teams are now preparing for the return of staff to the office environment. The transition to Work from Home was rapid in 2020. Now, perhaps we can take the time to plan our return to the office strategically.

The return to the office

During the majority of 2020, many of us were part of the WFH workforce. Recently, Yahoo Finance completed a survey and found that 76% of respondents want to WFH for at least two days a week. If WFH is popular and employees remained productive, why are some organizations calling their employees back to the office? Here are just a few reasons:

  1. While some employees have remained productive through the COVID pandemic, some are more productive in an office environment.
  2. Companies want to bring back team-managed projects to the office. Leaders believe that the social aspect of the office fosters creativity and idea generation.
  3. Organizations own or have a long-term lease that includes office space and infrastructure sitting idle for over a year. If this includes retail space, the organization’s livelihood depends on the employees’ return.

As many return to the office, business leaders and IT teams will need to craft flexible plans. The work world and our attitudes have forever changed. In the Spring of 2020, technology played an integral role in quickly moving workforces home. Now, technology will play a role in the next shift—back to the office.

A flashback to 2020

If you are an IT manager or contractor, you remember the task of shifting a company’s workforce to WFH. You had to quickly scale up the remote work and collaboration tools. You had new discussions on cybersecurity and WFH protocols. You probably remember the stress of rapidly distributing laptops, tablets, or even create a smartphone app.

Will a return to the office create turmoil at your organization? Or will the return unravel all of your IT protocols, established in 2020?

Nicolas Bloom, a Harvard professor, and leading WFH expert thinks that returning to the office may be messy at many organizations. Recently, Yahoo News shared some of Bloom’s advice for a hybrid WFH and office environment.

“Bloom is urging corporate America to navigate the turbulence by resisting offering the unlimited freedom that many employees have come to expect. His prescription lies in creating a uniform schedule for employees - one designed to balance the benefits of working from home with the need for collaboration and equality.”Yahoo News on Nicolas Bloom.

I spoke with vCIOs within our team at MainSpring about creating a balance as our clients plan to return to the office or a hybrid solution. Keep reading for a MainSpring checklist.

The IT team’s role

Each business team will play an essential role in the transition back to the office. The word for all will be "flexibility." There is no doubt that the IT management team will play an essential part.

Here is an IT checklist created by Team MainSpring. As you review the list, it will become apparent that the role of the IT team will be diverse. From cybersecurity to mental health, IT has a role.

  1. As a WFH employee, some may have embraced some habits that should not transition to the office environment. Now is the time to re-address cybersecurity. The perfect firewall is a human firewall. Would your staff pass the test? Find out by reviewing the MainSpring Automated Security Awareness Program (ASAP).
  2. As employees return to the office, you may assist with the design of new office space. Some large DMV employers will launch a hybrid return to work. Some will downsize their real estate space and adjust the area for desk-sharing. Also, employees may work from more than one location as talent is shared across the organization’s footprint.
  3. It is also the perfect time to review and adjust your software subscription services. Read a recent MainSpring blog for tips and cost-saving ideas.
  4. You may have deployed new hardware for WFH, including laptops, tablets, and smartphones. It is time to audit your inventory of hardware and solutions. What about hardware that remained dormant in your office? It is time to evaluate the lifespan of your inventory.
  5. Prepare for a hybrid of communication and meeting solutions. Remember that some employees may still WFH as others transition back to the office. Do you need to update your conference room for hybrid communication? Don’t forget that teleconferencing (those Zoom and Teams meetings) shows no sign of slowing down.  Be sure to keep up with the latest solutions for a hybrid environment.
  6. As your company transitions employees back to the office, you may be asked to assist HR with both the onboarding and offboarding of staff. Recently, MainSpring published blogs with helpful tips.
  7. Expect tech to play an essential role in both the physical and mental health of employees. Corporate Intranet sites and custom apps may be used to provide crucial health tips across the enterprise. Yes, technology can help co-workers manage stress.

Trend Watch

For the latest on this, we asked Kurt Schneider, one of our vCIOs here, to comment. He shared with us an interesting Teams application that might just be right for you...

With no certainty when offices will formally re-open, one of MainSpring’s ProSuite clients is leveraging technology through the Microsoft TEAMS Shifts application. Managers can use Shifts to create, update, and manage schedules/calendars for all employees.

Additionally, managers will be able to inform employees about open or unfilled shifts to see if anyone wants to pick that shift up. This was implemented as a result of needing to manage in-person ratios and keeping in compliance with social distancing requirements.

Shifts also gives staff flexibility to select times that work for their busy schedule to be back in the office and for how long. We foresee this to be just the beginning of a trend as several other clients are inquiring about this resource to manage their workdays and when they can safely visit offices as needed. Kurt M. Schneider, vCIO, MainSpring, Inc.

From onboarding new employees to ensuring your company's cybersecurity protocols, any organization's IT team will be challenged in the coming months. Now may be the time to consider hiring a contractor to augment your IT plan and explore a solution like the one Kurt outlines above.

If you feel that your company would benefit from a technology refresh and IT management, read about MainSpring’s ProSuite Plan.