When the pandemic was in its early stages, our research conducted here at IDG highlighted the uncertainty gripping organizations as they navigated so many unknowns. In the current post-vaccine environment, organizations are looking forward and planning for their return to office. While organizations seem to be taking a measured return to office approach – 37% have already begun, and another 47% say they will begin in the second half of 2021 – things will look different in those offices.

Planning for Hybrid Office Environments

Organizations need to plan for a mix of environments with more than a third (38%) saying they will support a hybrid work environment going forward, 23% will support a remote only environment—and 39% supporting office only.

Surprisingly, this study found that although 59% of organizations agree that the WFH shift has created a more positive view of remote workplace policies and will likely impact how they will plan for office space, tech staffing and overall staffing in the future, only 28% of employees will be permanently working from home even after it is safe to return to work, compared with 21% of employees who were working remotely on a permanent basis prior to the COVID-19 crisis.

Top Concerns for Hybrid Work

Hovering over hybrid work are concerns stemming from the split between working remote or in the office. This mirrors earlier concerns expressed throughout the pandemic, including – ability to efficiently collaborate (55%) and employee and/or IT staff morale and burnout (54%).

Enterprise organizations – possibly because of the complications in managing the size of their workforce, are much more focused on employee morale (63% vs 48%), and health and safety (45% vs. 29%) than SMB organizations.

Addressing Concerns with Technology

A variety of technologies will be invested in to address these concerns. Enhanced collaboration/meeting tools (56%) and enhanced security controls (53%) top the list of tech investments, with headphones (31%); “hoteling” applications to enable employees to reserve desk space (27%) and wireless devices (25%) round out the top three.

Given the complexities of managing large employee bases, enterprise organizations are much more interested in the “hoteling” reservation technologies than SMB (36% vs 20%). Automation of business processes (39%) tops the list for technologies being invested in specifically to maintain health and safety in business workplace facilities overall, but there is a sharp divide by company size. This is number one for SMB (39%), but drops to number three (42%) for enterprise organizations. Enterprise organizations are more focused on online training services for health and safety instructions (47%) compared with SMB (33%).

Adapting to the Changing Customer

Switching to an external focus, and how the pandemic has impacted customer interactions, more than half (56%) of tech decision-makers agree that the pandemic has changed how customer choose to interact with their business. Maintaining and improving the customer experience continues to be a top business priority, and the pandemic continues to accelerate companies’ digital transformation efforts.

The digital business objectives that have increased in importance align with concerns expressed with RTO plans including increase operational efficiency (65%); improve security (65%); improve business resiliency (61%); improve customer experience (59%) and increase internal collaboration (56%).

Entering this next phase of business will mean welcoming back employees in a variety of models. Therefore, ITDMs will continue to navigate and adjust for change. Investing in the right tools that will allow employees to collaborate efficiently and effectively, with the necessary security protocols, will be essential for them to continue to drive business forward.

Download the presentation or contact us to request a meeting with an IDG sales executive to walk through the full study.