Traditionally, video collaboration has been the responsibility of IT, but now the company HR and Facility also play a major role in the change as the whole way of collaborating and working needs to be rethought.

2023 should mark the return of employees to offices

Executive Insight 12/2022, 5 min read

The transition to hybrid work requires companies to reinvent their offices to motivate their employees to return and reduce the risk of losing business-critical competence found in individual employees. In the current turbulent environment, the security of video collaboration has also risen to a completely new level. For many companies, it is one of the biggest challenges they need to solve next year, states Pasi Mäenpää, CEO, Elisa Videra.

During 2022 we’ve seen companies struggle globally with the goal of getting employees back to the office, even for two to three days a week. Some have asked why they should even bother, but it all comes down to productivity, how it is understood and measured. 

There is no denying that employees are reportedly more productive working remotely than working at the office. However, when we work together, side by side, we also learn and innovate through social interaction. Similarly, tacit knowledge is shared and attained while working together daily.

Many employees are likely to measure their work performance on the basis of the tasks they have completed during a day or a week. For some, an empty inbox or a calendar packed with meetings are indicators of an efficient day’s work. Nevertheless, the value a company produces for its customers is different from an individual employee’s work input. The high productivity of an individual might even turn out to be a risk for the company’s productivity if it comes at the expense of the organisation’s tacit knowledge sharing.

In terms of the viability of companies, a critical task is to maintain and enable the interaction and learning culture in the era of hybrid working. Otherwise, the company faces a real risk of losing business-critical competence found in individual employees. The big question for many is how they tackle the issue and lead the change.

Rethinking the office to motivate employees to return

For those company leaders who expect their employees to return to the office, I have one simple message: getting employees back to the office is not a simple task – and they should not be forced to do so. Getting them to return voluntarily requires rethinking the office. 

During the years of remote working at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, many employees themselves invested in their home office space and – something which weighs even more heavily – they learned and became accustomed to working from home. No one wants to commute to the office just to spend the day in Teams meetings in an open office. In order to make the effort to commute, employees also want to be sure that they will be meeting colleagues and not sitting alone in an empty office. It’s not rare to find that an employee’s home office is more suited for the new way of working than the open spaces and large meeting rooms of office buildings.

To motivate employees to return, we need to ask ourselves the following questions: What type of environment would create new opportunities for interaction when in the office? How has work changed and what working habits should the office space support and enable? How should offices be furnished? How should the work be organised? 

The change requires not only the metamorphosis of the office space but also rethinking work itself. It requires setting new goals and key performance indicators. If the number of e-mails, meetings and messages indicates productivity in the employee’s remote work performance, the company level metrics of productive hybrid working may be just the opposite. Things like the amount of unstructured working time at the office might actually indicate achieving goals such as the sharing of tacit knowledge. 

This theory of the value of unstructured collaboration time applies not only to employees but also stakeholders and customers. 


HR and Facility to reinforce IT in the change

How should hybrid work be led and organised? This much we already know: Simply buying new devices for old surroundings will not change anything. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. Each organisation needs a solution that is fit for its unique situation and purposes – and the decisions made in the past affect the solutions needed in the future. 

To get it right the first time and avoid teething troubles, the current expectations and needs of employees must be taken into account. New groups within the organisation are also required to join in the process. 

Traditionally, the technologies needed to collaborate through video have been the responsibility of IT, but now that the question is no longer just about personal computers and meeting room equipment, a whole new way of collaborating and working needs to be thought about, and the company HR and Facility must also play a major role in the procurement. The technology for new office spaces and rooms to support hybrid working must be defined and planned in cooperation.

Valtori selected Elisa Videra to provide the the Central Government video conferencing services

Governmental administration has exceptionally high requirements for information security in all areas. When Valtori, the government ICT Center in Finland needed to renew their video conferencing services and their offering for clients, ensuring information security was a key factor in the project. 

“The top leaders of governmental administration in Finland are using Valtori’s services. One of the goals was therefore to have a security level 4 classified service that enables handling of important matters according to each governmental organisations’ current needs.” Explains Antti Närhinsalo, Product Manager, Valtori. 

Seeking security in a turbulent environment

Due to current data security breaches and the war in Ukraine, the role of information security has risen to a completely new level when organising hybrid work. For many companies, the security of this collaboration is one of the biggest challenges they have to solve in 2023. 

What if the internet is down or Teams is not working? Is there a backup system? We hear these questions a lot. For most companies, Teams and Zoom are reliable and secure options. However, there are companies, authorities and, for example, health care services who cannot rely on the promises of multinational companies but need on-premises systems in this current turbulent environment and in the future. 

The good news is that the solutions for secure video communications exist. The question is are we ready to go down that road and invest in them. 

The transition to hybrid work is not just about information technology but also requires the participation of employees, Human Resources and facility management. In designing an engaging collaboration experience and reinventing the office to motivate employees to return, companies also need partners that are specialised in building the experience. Most important of all, it is the job of the upper management of the company to facilitate and enable this journey.

Key points:

  • How employees measure their productivity differs essentially from the company-wide perspective. The high level of productivity of an individual might even turn out to be a risk for a company’s productivity if it comes at the expense of the organisation’s tacit knowledge sharing.
  • Getting employees to return to the office requires rethinking the office. To motivate them to return, we need to ask ourselves what type of environment would create new opportunities for interaction when at the office. 
  • Simply buying new devices for old surroundings will not change anything. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. To get it right, the current expectations and needs of employees must be taken into account, and new groups within the organisation are required to join in the process of defining new ways of working.
  • One of the main topics in 2023 will be the security of this collaboration: What if the internet is down or Teams not working? The good news is that the solutions for secure video communications exist. 
  • To design an engaging collaboration experience and to reinvent the office to motivate employees to return, companies need partners that are specialised in building the experience. In the end, it is the job of the upper management of the company to facilitate and enable the transition.

Pasi Mäenpää

Pasi Mäenpää

Chief Executive Officer at Elisa Videra and Executive Vice President, New Business Development, at Elisa Corporation

Pasi is the CEO of Elisa Videra and Executive Vice President, New Business Development, at Elisa Corporation. In his current role, he leads Elisa Videra’s global expansion in managed visual communications business. As a member of Elisa’s Executive Management Board, he participates in corporate strategy development, strategy execution follow-up and new business development initiatives.

Prior to his current role, Pasi worked as the General Manager for Cisco Systems in Finland and the Baltics, Regional General Manager for Netigy Corporation in Northern and Central Europe, Vice President of Sales for Fujitsu TeamWare Group in Europe and USA, and held various Director positions at Oracle Corporation in Finland, Austria, the Baltics, Switzerland, UK, and Eastern Europe.

Pasi holds a Datanomi diploma in Information Technology and Business Administration from Helia University of Applied Sciences and an MBA in International Business Management from Henley Management College, Brunel University London.

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