Well, our first in-person Enterprise Connect in three years is in the books, and it exceeded all our expectations: Not only was the crowd strong, but the energy and, frankly, delight were palpable. There were many hugs, actual backslapping, and a general feeling of happiness to be back together in person. It was a tremendous week for formal and informal learning, and for networking and intense conversations about the whole range of topics that are preoccupying our industry right now.
I want to pick out one thing that’s stuck with me, which is the risk that many enterprises may face in the coming weeks and months as their corporate management implements return-to-office for employees.
We all know about the risk that employees simply won’t comply, opting instead to join the Great Resignation and move to an employer whose hybrid-work policies they find more to their liking. But there’s another layer to the risk — namely, that even those who return to the office will find the experience unsatisfying and unproductive, will deem the experiment a failure, and will retreat back into remote-only work and be reluctant if not completely unwilling to ever come back.
Such unsuccessful experiments won’t be IT’s fault, but as so often happens, IT could be caught up in the drama and dissatisfaction. What could potentially torpedo return-to-office plans is the employee experience, and based on several conversations at Enterprise Connect, the challenge shouldn't be underestimated.
Start with one of the most under-discussed aspects of return-to-office, from an IT perspective: The network. Melissa Swartz of Swartz Consulting facilitated a peer discussion group at EC22 on the chip shortage and supply chain challenges and told me afterwards about the many frustrations her group described — most of which centered around long wait times for network gear. She mentioned some IT folks having to scavenge through underutilized parts of facilities so they could repurpose Wi-Fi access points and other equipment.
So, this adds another layer to the back-to-office challenge.
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