For most enterprises, not only will hybrid work be new, but it will be a necessary adjustment to the realities of a post-COVID-19 workplace. There is no singular blueprint for a winning balance as some businesses will embrace the hybrid work model, while others will proceed reluctantly. Add to that a shaky economy, where business leaders need to deal with larger issues, such as softening demand, rising costs and ongoing supply chain shortages.
This backdrop is important when making investment decisions around unified communications (UC) and collaboration technologies. While these offerings can deliver substantial business value, they are not a silver bullet to ensure success with the hybrid work model. UC decision-makers must have realistic expectations. No matter how effective a UC platform is, it's just one of many factors driving hybrid work and must be viewed as part of a more holistic strategy by IT leaders.
With that said, the focus here is on how to budget for collaboration technologies to support hybrid work. There is no precedent for investing in collaboration technologies with the hybrid model, and the right starting point is to assess end-user needs for three basic scenarios.
1. Office-based workspaces for employees
This will be the most familiar scenario, where office-based workers are stationed at a desk or workstation. More modern offices have adopted an open setting by doing away with personal workspaces in favor of shared spaces with long tables or nomadic forms of hoteling. Regardless of the setup, many forms of work remain singular, where team-based interactions aren't required.
With hybrid work, this is now just one mode of working. IT decision-makers need to recognize how office-based individual work differs from the two other scenarios below. For this scenario, it must be noted that desk- or workstation-based work is primarily about communication rather than collaboration. UC needs here will be more about one-to-one interaction or managing workflows.
Many of the endpoints and hardware needed for this are already in place -- PC, desk phone, mobile device -- so the main investment will just be for UC or UC as a service (UCaaS) licenses. Based on the SaaS model, budgeting will be a straightforward matter of managing a monthly subscription cost for each user.
This model provides cost certainty for both IT and line-of-business managers, but keep in mind that the need for UC features will vary by the type of workers and the nature of their jobs. Most UCaaS providers offer multiple pricing tiers based on the mix of features, so this needs to be mapped to get an accurate picture of the overall investment.
2. Home-based workspaces
This is the new wrinkle that hybrid work brings, and in most cases, it will be a new way of working. While the nature of the work won't be much different than the first scenario, the home environment will often lack the trappings of the office. This is where investment will be needed beyond UCaaS licenses.
In some cases, IT will need to provide new endpoints and devices, and in others, upgrades will be needed in order to support today's UC applications. Older devices may not have enough capabilities, especially consumer-grade devices not designed for business needs. The same goes for broadband service and possibly mobile plans, as business-grade connectivity is essential for home-based work.
The level of investment here will be determined by your organization's broader plans for hybrid work. If the intention is to have the majority of workers based at home most of the time, then the requirements to support them will be more permanent than casual. This would call for investing in more and better-quality endpoints and devices to make home working more comparable to the in-office experience.
Where the scope of home working is to be more limited, it will be easier for workers to get by with what they're already using, so fewer adjustments will be needed at their end. Keep in mind, though, that home-based work entails more than singular tasks or workflows. Workers will also be collaborating in this environment, and in most cases, new devices and endpoints will be needed to properly support that.
3. Office-based meeting spaces
This scenario flows from the last point in the above section. There are two basic modes of working -- singular and team -- and the first scenario addressed the former for office-based work. When it comes to collaborating in teams, however, different spaces are needed, and that's where meeting rooms come into play.
Some jobs require little in the way of team-based work, but many other jobs are increasingly collaborative, making meeting spaces an important part of the modern office. Today's technology -- UC in particular -- makes collaboration easier and better than ever before, so IT leaders must allocate sufficient resources for creating and supporting meeting spaces.
Collaboration has become fluid now. Teams of all sizes will be meeting on a regular or ad hoc basis. This means IT must take a more flexible approach to investing in office space, where there is a mix of rooms to support both small and larger teams. Not only that, but these spaces must also support remote participants, many of whom will be office peers working from home.
Since the success of hybrid work rests heavily on striking a balance between office and home environments, these meeting spaces have a vital role to play. Aside from enabling collaboration for the entire team, they provide the vital bridge to link home and office, which helps create a stronger culture across the organization.