Marc Dowd
Marc Dowd (Principal, European Client Advisory)
Tom Schwieters
Tom Schwieters (Vice President)

We held the first IDC Digital Leadership Think Tank of 2022 in January, with nearly 40 attendees from across Europe joining us to hear the latest IDC research into the realities of hybrid work, and to share their best practices, experiences and challenges with the group. 

Research from IDC

Our Future of Work VP Mick Heys has been deeply involved in this area of research in recent months, which has thrown out some interesting data points. For example, according to our surveys, if employers mandated a full return to office work, we find that 8% of employees would give notice immediately. Experience tells us that those 8% are far more likely to be people working in areas of highest demand, where alternative, more flexible employment is easy to find — and of course these are the very people that organisations will find hardest to replace with such a policy.

The research also identified top priorities for employees in a return to the office. Security ranked highly, with measures such as ventilation and space management to reduce the risk of Covid infection. Also, among the top needs cited by employees was the ability to move around the office to socialise and collaborate with their colleagues, but also to be able to move between the office, home and other spaces without compromising their ability to work effectively. This is a simple request, but not an easy thing to deliver, technologically or organisationally.

Supporting Younger Employees

One of the groups that we have identified as being hardest to support in this way is younger employees who miss out on the social experience of learning and becoming “part of” the organisation. They are more likely to live in shared accommodation and do not necessarily have suitable spaces from which to work outside an office environment. This is not universally true, however, and we know that those who have grown up with social media and multiplayer gaming have the tools to create communities and friendships without traditional structures. There are many dynamics to consider when tackling this situation.

Places to Be

A company mentioned during our session has intentionally purchased marquee office space in prestigious locations to lure people to their companies and back to the office. In the world of Instagram and TikTok, it’s no bad thing to be seen in desirable places. We also discussed the research that identified organisations creating “spoke” locations outside hubs, nearer to employees’ homes, so that a comfortable and productive space can be provided that does not penalise people with high time and financial costs for commuting. Alternatively, organisations are looking at providing individual budgets for the use of co-working spaces where people can work in an appropriate environment alongside people from other organisations. Networking is valuable inside and outside the company walls.

The Physical Environment

Perhaps one of the most telling parts of our conversation during this session was about how companies are managing their office spaces to be cost-effective and productive.  Without question, every company has examined their office leasing agreements in the past two years and are making ongoing decisions about the value of their investment in office space. As one of our contributors pointed out, going into an open plan office to merely sit on conference calls is a far worse experience than doing them in a quiet location at home. Innovative ideas regarding quiet/loud zones marked out with different colour carpet, or highly flexible partitioning to allow teams to create the environment that suits them without prohibitive costs, have been trialled with some success. We heard of a tracking system that allows people to opt in to be able to be found in larger office estates, with a surprisingly low opt-out rate! Clearly one of the big differences that we will see in successful businesses in the next few years is the most effective and ingenious use of office space that provides an environment that does not deter people from coming together to collaborate in person.

This was a really enjoyable session, thanks to the input of our colleague Mick Heys and the many insights from the IDC Digital Leadership Community. I look forward to next month, when we will be discussing the current state of Information Security, ransomware, and zero trust, and no doubt we’ll touch on the subject of how we secure hybrid working too. I hope we’ll see you there.

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