As the vaccines become more available and our national COVID numbers continue to decline, we are really seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. So, it is time to plan what’s next.
What should we consider when planning for re-entry? First, it is clear that we aren’t going back to “how it used to be” particularly when it comes to working. The great experiment has shown that remote working is productive. It has also proven to be a great benefit for many staff. We can expect that our workforce will continue to be remote to some degree going forward.
While there will be some people who remain fully remote, I believe the vast majority of staff will be hybrid – working partially remotely and partially on-prem, at least in higher education. This will have a fundamental impact on IT. We’ve pivoted from supporting our workforce on-prem to supporting them remotely. Post-pandemic, there will be an expectation to support both. That expectation will be there even though, due to the financial fallout of the pandemic, we do not anticipate new resources for this effort.
So How will we support this Hybrid Workforce? Here are some things to do and think about:
- Continue to focus on remote support even for on-site workers. The tools that we have put in place work and the support is efficient, so there really is no reason to move backwards. It is important to communicate with our business partners that this is our plan going forward, and to be clear about how this will work.
- While we can focus on remote support, it is important to offer in-person support in areas that simply must have it. In a university setting, there are places where we must do in-person support, particularly classrooms. The key is to focus the in-person support only where it is needed, and to be clear with our community about how they will get support.
- During the pandemic, IT organizations have performed well and provided great customer service that’s been recognized by our partners. It’s important to continue to focus on great customer service post-pandemic.
- Be clear about equipment. Mobile people have laptops. Be clear about what you will provide for them when they are on-site. Do they need to carry their headphones and power supplies as well as their laptop as they move around?
- What are you going to do about printing? We have moved more quickly in the direction of online forms and a paperless workplace. Do we really need all the printers that you had pre-pandemic? Perhaps there is an opportunity to eliminate some devices, resulting in cost savings.
- Continuing safety procedures for your IT staff and your business partners is still important, especially immediately upon return. This includes healthy practices like face masks and social distancing, but also things like contactless delivery of equipment.
- As always, be focused and intentional about taking care of your IT staff. Returning to the workplace is going to be stressful for everyone, including them. Maintain the flexibility you’ve put in place during the pandemic, giving people space they need to make arrangements for elder care and child care as we transition back.
Enjoy and celebrate! It has been so isolating for everyone to work from home for over a year. Seeing people in person will be wonderful and we should celebrate that!