Simplify your “return-to-office” with the collaboration profiles – Part 2

Simplify your “return-to-office” with the collaboration profiles – Part 2

This is the second of two blog posts on how to use collaboration profiles to simplify and scale the return to office.  In our first blog post, we discussed the construction of a collaboration profiles – a way to capture work preferences and equipment needs.  In this blog post, we apply these profiles to build out:

  • Office spaces needs: desk and collaboration spaces
  • Personal equipment needs: desk, mobile, and app bundles  
  • Cloud collaboration services: cloud collaboration services to overlay spaces & staff

As we discussed in the first blog post, one of the overriding themes of return to office is the rise of “hybrid work.”  Hybrid work is a mix of in-office, remote, and on-the-go working. See more in this article from the Boston Consulting Group and the momentum behind hybrid working.  A key consideration is how remote and on-the-go employees can effectively participate during in-office collaboration. Spaces, tools and equipment, and collaboration applications need to be re-thought. 

In our first blog post, we constructed 4 profiles for hybrid work: office, remote, on-the-go, and frontline.  Not every firm needs all four.  Some firms may need more.  We now consider the next phase to build out your “return-to-office” plan, considering exceptions and special cases. 

Consider Exceptions to Your Profiles

There is no set of personas that can serve the needs of every employee in your business.  One study on communications personas (described as “usage profiles”) estimates that a set of seven personas can account for the communications and collaboration needs of up to 90% of employees. That said, those 10% like serve critical roles and have important needs.  Some exceptions to look for: 

  • Employees with special ergonomic needs that affect space or equipment requirements
  • Employees with added privacy or security needs such as specialists in HR and/or Finance 
  • Employees affected by any specific legal or regulatory requirements that affect communications

One way to test your profiles for exceptions is through a review of key scenarios.  For some background on how to construct collaboration scenarios, see this blog post from Carousel Industries on a “People-based Approach to Driving User Adoption of UCaaS.”   It may sound obvious, but keeping in mind that all of these efforts ultimately revolve around your people is critical.  IT Planners and company leaders need the support of the broad base of users, key thought leaders, and those who may have special needs.   

Apply Profiles to Spaces, Equipment, and Services   

With profiles built, traits populated, and exceptions in hand, the next step is to map your remaining staff to your collaboration profiles.   The result of this mapping determines the needs for various office spaces, equipment, and cloud services.    

Office Space: Planners can estimate the number of named desks, hoteling or “hot desks,” as well as the number of huddle spaces and conference rooms. With these numbers in hand, planners can compare their needs to existing office spaces.  Some additional capacity should be included using an assumed or actual variance in how office and meeting spaces are used. 

Meeting Space: Meeting space capacity planning may vary based on the status of social distancing rules. (CDC guidelines for office space can be found here. As rules change or evolve, conference room capacities may change.  A conference room may initially be rated for 10 people.  It may shift to 6 if social distancing guidelines are increased.  We may also find that when social distancing rules are relaxed, meeting room capacities can be increased.  This can all be modeled to enable planners to predict bottlenecks or periods where capacities are exceeded.  This is a good example of where a systematic approach to collaboration needs allows a very rapid response to changing requirements.

Equipment: Planners should perform the same type of audit and mapping for equipment.  How many desk phones, docking stations, headsets, WLAN wireless devices, video conference bridges, and video room systems are needed.   These requirements can be compared against current assets – both for those provided to employees and those positioned in the office. 

As planners review the mapping output, they should not be surprised to find many conference rooms are not equipped for video conferencing. Recent data suggest that only 15% of conferencing rooms are outfitted to handle remote video conferencing for remote participants.  This could be a sizable gap for many businesses planning hybrid work.

Collaboration Services:  With people, space, and equipment needs identified, the final step is assigning required collaboration services.   These may involve calling plans, meeting plans, and any special licenses for room systems, hoteling desks, and home office setups. In some cases, IT planners can use this opportunity to rationalize services.  Many firms run with a mix of different meetings and calling solutions.  At a minimum, planners can ensure that licenses and subscriptions from the same vendors are fully utilized.  Consider also the underlying network infrastructure needed to power services.  In some cases, the increased use of video will strain existing LAN and WAN transmission capabilities and require upgrades.

Additional Considerations for Planners

Special Profiles to Consider:

  • Customer-facing staff: depending on the customer support model, many firms would benefit to create one or multiple profiles for customer-facing staff.  These profiles may have special office space, equipment, application, and policy needs.   Some notable profiles are shift-based contact center workers or salaried staff that work heavily in trouble-ticketing systems.  
  • Field techs: another important profile is the field tech.  It may be a disservice to lump them into the “mobile” persona.  Techs often have advanced communications and equipment needs.  Their “desk” is often the inside of a van or working on clipboard or mobile devices in front of the customer.  Effective field techs can make or break a business and typically warrant special consideration.  Field tech profiles can vary even across a business, depending on role and responsibilities.  
  • Quiet and do-not-disturb:  if there is one thing that 2020 has taught is both the challenge and benefit of a distraction-free workspace.  This profile can might simply be an option for Office or Remote workers where a distraction-free work environment is paramount.  In some cases, special equipment or office setups can service to reduce distractions and can be aligned to this profile.   

Changes in Office Design

Expect hybrid working to shift office space allocation.  The use of collaboration profiles enables IT planners to both quantify and programmatically approach office space re-allocation.  This hinges on the assumption that remote workers will spend more of their in-office time in a collaboration space. 

For profile traits, we have modeled various % of time “in office” and “in meeting.”  In traditional office planning for telephony and audio conferencing, the rule of thumb was 10% conferencing spaces vs. named desk spaces.  With some basic calculations, we can estimate the new space allocations needed for a hybrid office.

Using the profiles built in our first blog post, I model an office of 200 employees and assume 30% office workers, 25% remote workers, 15% mobile workers, and 25% frontline workers.  With that breakout of personas, the number of individual workspaces drops by roughly 30%.   At the same time the number of collaboration spaces increases from 10% to roughly 25% relative to named and hotel desk spaces.  The overall impact of this change results net-net reduction in total space needs.  In this case, overall space needs are reduced …. with a summary of impact shown below in Table 1.

 Conf. Rms / DesksNamed + Hotel DesksOverall Space
Typical Office Design10%150 (100%)100%
Hybrid Office Design25%107 (71%)85%

These results are consistent with examples reported from company leaders.  See the recent article on how hybrid work impacts office design and space needs which includes a discussion with Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan.

Dimon said some employees would work under a hybrid model, with some days per week at a JPMorgan location and other days spent at home. According to Dimon, “a small percentage, maybe 10%,” will work full-time from home.

To be sure, remote work “will change” how JPMorgan manages its real estate, Dimon added.

At JPMorgan’s offices, they will transition to an “open seating” arrangement “in which digital tools will help manage seating arrangements, as well as needed amenities, such as conference room space.”

“As a result, for every 100 employees, we may need seats for only 60 on average. This will significantly reduce our need for real estate,” Dimon added.

Making Hybrid Work Sustainable: One of the challenges reported with extended periods of remote work is the impact on employee well-being.   A survey from the Limeade Institute of the 2020 lockdowns (link) found that “burnout” had increased by 30% through extended periods of remote work.  Many blame the fatigue involved in extended periods of videoconferencing.

IT planners can address these types of burnout and fatigue concerns through a proactive approach to managing spaces, equipment, and policies.  Collaboration product managers at Cisco describe the fight against this fatigue as collaboration “sustainability.”  For more information, see this infographic on intelligent workspace solutions.


A recent Cisco blog post discusses key lessons from 2020 and how to equip and empower employees in response.  A key facet of the author’s post is around leadership.   The author points out that in 2020, many IT planners and senior executives found themselves in the position of “reacting” through the various challenges of the pandemic.  IT planners and company executives should look to lead in these times.

A recent McKinsey survey reports that 47% of employees feel a “lack of a clear vision” from employers about flexible work in the post-pandemic world is a cause of concern, representing a serious talent risk. Consider collaboration profiles as a visible way to showcase company policy and vision.  With a transparent and scalable approach to manage user, equipment, and space needs, businesses can capitalize on some key lessons of the pandemic, enhance employee engagement, and be better prepared to demonstrate leadership in what might come next.  


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