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Bringing People Back Into the Office, It’s Not Like Riding a Bike

As organizations continue to transform into a hybrid workforce, the old way of supporting employees won't always work and new strategies will need to be developed.

For many years I lived in upstate NY, a beautiful part of the country surrounded by lakes and forests.  Not far from my house was a bike trail that ran about 20 miles, so it was easy for me to wake up on the weekend and be on the trail in less than an hour.  I had my bike tuned for the best performance – the seat and handlebar were at the perfect heights for me, the tires were made for wooded trails, and the gears were set to give me the most efficient ride.

A few years ago, I moved to a city in a neighborhood with steep hills overlooking downtown.  It was a complete change from NY as you can imagine.  Houses are closer together, noise is constant, and “nature” consists of small grassy areas shared with dogs.  All during the day and especially weekends, the streets are flooded with people walking, jogging, and of course, riding their bikes – but not me.  I’ve been binge-watching Netflix instead, but recently realized that something had to change so I decided to begin bike riding again.

I dug my bike out of storage and jumped on thinking things would be the same as before.  It didn’t take long for surprise to set in.  What I hadn’t anticipated was how much things had changed and how my old bike didn’t fit my new environment.  I realized that while I thought it would literally be like “riding a bike”, it was nothing like that and I ended buying a new bike that better fits my needs.

This is the same challenge many organizations will be facing as COVID cases trend downward and decisions are made to bring employees back to the office.  While things may look the same, the actual experience for workers will be vastly different and new unforeseen problems will crop up that companies should be planning for right now.

Innovation

When buying my new bike, I went specifically to a bike shop with experts who could walk me through innovative technologies that didn’t exist when I bought my old bike, like for example sensors on the back with radar that tracks how close cars are and alerts the rider.

Companies sending workers home should take the same approach.  Find experts in the industry who understand the latest innovations and how they apply to specific personas to enhance the User Experience.

Digital Experience

Biking today is all about making the experience better.  Bikes can always be tweaked between rides, but how about during the ride itself?  Technologies exist today that capture biomechanics info in real-time to help you adjust your form while riding and can also automatically adjust seat comfort or handlebar heights based on whether you’re on flat pavement or climbing a hill.

IT organizations should expect that the move back to the office will create new issues for workers who have become comfortable working remotely.  While supporting these users, organizations should not only measure the attainment of SLAs as an indication of quality, but also the experience the person had while being supported.  For example, tracking User Sentiment in real-time and establishing XLAs will provide valuable insight into how users really feel about the support they’re getting and the resulting adjustments that should be made.

Support

When my old bike had a problem, I had two options to get it fixed – bring it to a bike repair shop that used their general knowledge to fix it or try to figure it out myself without much help. Fixing bikes today however is a different story with the resources available (e.g., YouTube videos, extensive online documentation, face-to-face video calls with repair techs who can walk me through it) and powerful diagnostic tools that can find the source of problems much easier.

Supporting employees can now be done with innovative tools that dive deep into their devices to identify what the underlying issues really are and many times resolve them automatically.  The User Experience is dramatically improved also with intelligent virtual agents (chatbots) that can actually fix problems.  And for those users who like to do it themselves, powerful self-service tools exist putting the power in their hands.

Security

Riding a bike in the city requires a level of security that is much stricter than what I needed on my NY bike trails.  I now need to lock my bike in a rack or to a light pole so it isn’t stolen, even if I step into a store for two minutes.

Security in the office should be just as strict since attacks from hackers and malware have significantly increased recently and are not just targeting people working from home.  Security solutions like DNS proxies to protect users from dangerous websites, zero trust administration providing system access to users for only what they need, and multi-factor authentication adding an additional layer of login security should be deployed enterprise-wide.

Configuration/Setup

As I said before, my bike in NY was tuned perfectly for how I was using it, however, getting it to that point took a while requiring me to make adjustments after each ride.  While I was ultimately able to customize my bike for my needs, the first rides weren’t as comfortable and my rides weren’t as enjoyable.  New bike designs now allow much easier and quicker customization though.

When bringing workers back into the office, organizations must ensure the devices they have will maximize their productivity.  A technology like zero-touch deployment can also be a great solution allowing users to self-configure their own devices with everything they need to be productive on Day 1.

Make the Return to the Office “Like Riding a Bike”

Returning people to the office is inevitable so it’s critical that plans be made now to handle it properly.  Employees need to be assured that the experience they’ll have won’t affect their productivity.  Applying old pre-COVID support models won’t always work anymore.  The nature of business has changed as have employee work styles.

If you think it’s going to be “like riding a bike”, make sure you’re taking advantage of new technologies and innovations to make the ride smoother and the User Experience enjoyable.  You don’t want to be riding through a city but be lost in the woods.

 


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