8 CIO insights that will change how your team thinks about return-to-office

Major responsibilities have been placed on the shoulders of information technology professionals amid the return-to-office. During the latest InspireCIO Forum webinar, a team of veteran IT experts across multiple industries discussed the most pertinent points of focus shaping their approaches.

The three panelists—moderated by Edward Wagoner, CIO Digital, JLL Technologies—represented a diverse range of markets and perspectives:

• Kevin Boyd, CIO, University of Chicago
• Rachel Lockett, CIO, Pohlad Companies
• Manuel Dietz, VP Corporate IT, Bosch

Eight major themes resonated throughout the webinar, and these insights can be used to reshape how your team approaches return-to-office, with an eye on using technology to enhance the workplace.

1. “If you don’t make the investment in technology to improve the workplace experience, you probably won’t remain competitive.”

The technology used as part of organizations’ return-to-office strategies correlates to employee retention. Organizations do more than encourage employees to get back to their desks when they invest in technology, they create a workplace experience that enhances safety, collaboration, and productivity. They are also cultivating the long-term trust that inspires top talent to embrace the idea of a long-term career.

2. “We’ve seen a huge advancement in the technology that supports remote collaboration.”

Teleconferencing technology has come a long way in just the past few years. We can all remember when the idea of running entire organizations via video chat would have been laughed off as unfeasible. Now, it’s a daily reality.

Encourage your team to take a closer look at the latest workplace experience and business intelligence solutions. You might be surprised by just how sophisticated this technology has become and see that video chat and conferencing are only part of the solution.

3. “Technology has allowed us to remove travel and reduce meetings and those impacts on the environment.”

The shift toward the hybrid workplace has created unexpected opportunities for IT teams with sustainability metrics to manage. Fewer commuting hours translate to fewer released emissions. Reducing the number of hours spent by employees in the office could also mean using less energy to power facilities and generating less physical waste.

4. “We had to redefine the definition of a commutable distance.”

The return-to-office has forced many organizations to see things from starkly different angles:

• “Was that weekly process really necessary?”
• “Are we really using this much floor space?”
• “Can we attract the best talent by making this role remote-only?”

The pandemic and subsequent return-to-office have accelerated the shift toward a more hybrid-friendly workplace experience. There is an opportunity to get ahead of this learning curve if decision-makers are willing to ask tough questions about how investing in new technologies could substantially change—and enhance—their facilities and operations.

5. “This transition back to the office will put new stress on employees and their families.”

According to Lockett, Pohlad Companies has made a commitment to respecting the unique experiences of employees as they’ve navigated the pandemic. The approach highlights an important question. How much is an organization willing to support their talent to get them mentally engaged and productive?

Chances are that the return-to-office will put unique pressures on team members as we head into 2022 and beyond. Organizations can support a productive, engaged workforce by considering these needs as they weigh their next investments in technology.

6. “If half of the team is on campus and half of the team is remote, is that going to create issues with promotional opportunities?”

How can managers ensure that their remote workforce gets as much attention as those employees who choose to spend more time in the office? How might economic and social dynamics affect which employees are more likely to commute or work remotely? How can technologies as well as policies and processes support fairness?

Boyd pointed out that taking a talent-first approach to navigating the return-to-office helped the University of Chicago uncover these questions and avoid limiting opportunities for advancement.

7. “We signed up all of our managers for new training on how to lead in a hybrid workforce.”

Despite each panelist having more than 20 years of IT experience, they all agreed that we’re working with imperfect knowledge in unprecedented times. Just because a manager was successful leading a team in person does not mean they are automatically successful leading a hybrid or remote team.

Instead of demanding a posture of expertise, all of us should be open to growing pains when implementing new processes and take the necessary time to empower employees to employ new technologies correctly.

8. “We sent out a transition IT team to check and replace every employee’s mouse batteries.”

Small gestures of kindness can make a significant impact. This is even more true while many are challenged mentally by stressors and health scares. When employees return to the office, thoughtful and welcoming gestures will go a long way toward making the transition back as smooth as possible.

Your next major investment in technology can also be the solution that prepares your organization for the next big disruption. Contact us today to learn how we can help.

Watch the recording of the latest InspireCIO leadership forum.