Simplify your “return-to-office” with the collaboration profiles – Part 1

Simplify your “return-to-office” with the collaboration profiles – Part 1

A recent Cisco survey suggests that 98% of businesses expect to return to the office with a mix of in-office, mobile, and remote work – what is being called “hybrid” work.  See more about hybrid work here.

To support effective hybrid work and get staff and facilities running quickly and safely, consider the use of collaboration profiles to:    

  • Build and execute your “return-to-office” plan  
  • Provide more transparent hybrid work policies
  • Optimize use of spaces, equipment, and technology

Profiles create a scalable and structured way to bring your unique collaboration needs into office spaces, equipment choices, and HR policy options. More importantly, profiles can enable IT leaders to quickly adapt to changing hybrid work preferences and changing public policy guidelines.   

Given the substance of this topic, we present this blog in a two-part series. 

  1. This first post is focused on the construction and refinement of your collaboration profile and how to make them actionable with relevant traits. 
  2. The second post, featured here (link), is focused on mapping collaboration profiles to your organization(s), gear, and physical spaces. 

At the conclusion of this series, you should be prepared to construct your own collaboration profile and consider how prepared your organization is for return-to-office with a hybrid workforce.  If this process involves more effort than you or your staff have cycles to take on, consider contacting your Cisco collaboration reseller.  Many are highly experienced in helping firms build out such profiles and structure how they manage collaboration practices. 

Develop Collaboration Profiles

A collaboration profile reflects common patterns of employee collaboration.  The profile describes where and how someone works.  Key attributes are location, equipment, and services. Profiles are used to roll out hybrid work environments or unified communications.  They can also be used for generally coordinating communications needs.  A basic set of profiles are shown below in Table 1:

Table 1:  Basic hybrid-work collaboration personas or profiles

Hybrid ProfileWork Venue and Preferences
Office WorkerMostly in-office at desk & meeting spaces with equipment optimized for desk-work
Remote WorkerMix of home office, in-office desk and meeting spaces with more mobile-oriented gear
Mobile WorkerMix of on-the-go, home office, and in-office desk and meeting spaces with mobile gear
Frontline WorkerOn-site common areas, retail, storeroom, and warehouse spaces using shared gear

These profiles are made “actionable” when traits are assigned.  Traits can include quantitative and qualitative measures of where, when, and how employees expect to work.  A firm can add their own unique traits for their unique collaboration needs, how they envision hybrid work, and any specific ways they plan to manage their workforce.

Populate Profiles with Collaboration Traits

For the four profiles, we offer starting traits to consider in Table 2 below.  These help IT planners and facilities managers with estimating space needs and collaboration procurement.  We start with four defining traits and show how these help leaders in planning their needs:

Table 2: Suggested profile traits and how they help planners estimate collaboration needs      

Collaboration TraitsHow These Help
(1) Time spent in-office (%)Estimate named, hotel / hot-desk, and area space needs
(2) Time spent in-office, in meetings (%)Estimate huddle room and conference room needs
(3) Preferred combination of gearEstimate gear and cloud services needs
(4) Preferred work venuesCombine with (2) to estimate mix of different collaboration space needs (huddle rooms vs. conference rooms vs. informal spaces) 

Build an Actionable Model for Hybrid Work

Traits can now be added to your four profiles to create your model for hybrid work.  In table 3 below, we have estimated some figures to populate the traits for each of the four profiles.  These estimates serve as placeholders only.   A firm should expect to come up with their own estimates to suit their own needs and purposes.

Table 3:  Collab profiles with populated traits create a working model for IT planners

Profiles \ TraitsIn-OfficeIn-Office MeetingsPreferred Gear ComboPreferred Work Venues (In Order)
Office Worker95%30%Laptop, Desk Phone, Headset, Mobile AppNamed Desk, Huddle Space, Conference Room
Remote Worker65%35%Laptop, Headset, Business Mobile, 2nd ScreenHoteling Desk, Home Office, Huddle Space, Conference Room  
Mobile Worker15%10%Business Mobile, Laptop, Headset, 2nd ScreenOn-the-Go, Home Office, Conference Room, Huddle Space
Frontline Worker95%5%WLAN Wireless Device, Area Phone, Mobile AppShop / Retail Floor, Back Room, Warehouse Floor

With collab profiles populated, IT planners and company leaders have much of what is needed to begin estimating their communications space and equipment needs.  In some cases, firms may want to take their return to the office planning a step further.  To work through more sophisticated scenarios, and to tackle a wider set of challenges, planners may want to build a set of complete collaboration personas. 

Collaboration Profiles and End-User Personas

A collaboration persona provides some additional context to a collaboration profile and might include use cases, example job roles or titles, privacy needs, and demographics.  See this link to a blog post on a Cisco developed Knowledge Worker persona.

Businesses may have already developed employee personas for collaboration or other purposes.  For more information about developing profiles, see this interesting blog post from Ricoh on their development of end-user personas to address remote work: 

An interesting set of 5 personas were developed by strategic consultancy Grail Insights to help firms “prepare for a forever changed workforce.”   If planners prefer to work with a set of personas like these, they may include profile traits directly into the persona characteristics or simply assign a collaboration profile to each of the personas.   

We have demonstrated how this is done with the 5 Grail Insight personas below in table 2.  We use the Grail Insights provided descriptions and have assigned hybrid work profiles. 

Table 4: Gain Insight “Forever Changed Workforce” personas: mapping to hybrid collaboration profiles

PersonaOverview description of Persona Description (from Gain Insight content)  Profile
Office OracleA married Gen X employee in a senior executive role. Plays tennis. Watches cable TV. Has grown children. Recently bought a boat.Office Worker
WFH NativeA Millennial mid-level employee. City dweller. Avid traveler (pre-COVID). Career-minded. Has a plan, but plans change. Loves their dog. Probably a rescue.Mobile Worker
NewbieFreshly-minted Gen Z graduate, sharing an apartment with friends. A gadget lover. Plays video games. Goes out on weekends (pre COVID).Office Worker
JugglerA Millennial with three kids at home. Married to a busy entrepreneur. PTA parent. Home chef. Wine lover (ya know, kids).Remote Worker
ArtistA Gen X employee, married with one child. Homebody. Paints, draws, gardens. Dreams of opening a design firm.Office Worker

Note 1: For full persona descriptions (1 page each), please see the following link Note 2: These personas address knowledge workers and do not include Frontline profiles.


At the midpoint of this 2-part blog series, I think a quick peek to the end might be helpful and encourage you to read part 2 of this blog.  Think about one of your employees preparing to return to the office or starting back to the office but working under a new set of safety guidelines.  Now, picture the training session you rollout to your sites about “new ways of working” with the theme of “what we learned from the remote work period.”  And consider a 2021 PwC survey where 74% of employees want flexible remote work options to continue – that most of your employees will be very excited about more flexible work options.

During this training session, IT planners and company leadership discuss new office layouts, some more flexible options for how much time employees prefer to come into the office, and how new collaboration spaces and hoteling desks support a wider array of work preferences.  Go one step further and think about the display with 3 or 4 different equipment packages, now available to workers with state-of-the-art devices and purposeful applications. 

In many ways, many employees should see solutions to problems that they did not know they even had.  For more savvy users, it should be the first step in an ongoing dialogue to help different types of employees collaborate in ways that benefits each individual and the collective productivity of the business. 


  1. David Walters says:

    Quick follow up from the author here: there was a great suggestion from a colleague of mine, John Nelson. He was curious if IT managers and planners could benefit from creating a “Team” profile for hybrid working. This team-level profile could work in combination with the user-level profile to make sure that the various user profiles “fit” with the collaboration needs of certain types of teams and team leaders.

    Consider the difference between a sales team, an accounting team, and an engineering team. The teams could be structured from the standpoint of the amount of F2F interaction that are optimal for a given day, week, or month.

    The key point that John provided was how this could help a team leader, many of whom might really benefit from a template for how to lead a high performing team through this evolution to hybrid working. It might also help ID cases where the user needs do not fit with the team needs. Maybe this will be a topic for another article – part 3!

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