office workers wearing masks
Image: Luis Alvarez/Getty

People working at home can keep in touch with in-office colleagues via a new service that makes it easy to place calls via Teams. Verizon Mobile for Microsoft Teams integrates Verizon Wireless business numbers with Microsoft Teams to allow outbound calls through the desktop application, an integrated IP phone or directly from a mobile device.

Sampath Sowmyanarayan, chief revenue officer at Verizon Business, said in a press release that the new service will help large enterprise customers adapt to the current hybrid work environment.

“We continue to see global demand for unified calling platforms to keep distributed workforces connected,” Sowmyanaryan said.

With the new service, a user’s mobile identity becomes a unified calling and collaboration endpoint, according to Verizon, which makes it easier for employers to apply enterprise policies to mobile numbers. This service also could reduce the costs associated with managing mobile and desktop phones.

SEE: Microsoft Teams: A cheat sheet

Many tech companies have set reopening dates and expect workers to be in the office at least one day a week at first. Apple and Google are starting this new policy in early April. Microsoft employees are halfway through a 30-day grace period the company set to help people ease back into the old routine. Twitter reopened its offices this week. Companies in the financial world are also dusting off coffee pots and resuming business travel.

All these re-entry dates mean that now there will be some in-person days as part of hybrid work plans. That doesn’t mean remote work is disappearing, at least for most companies. In an IDC survey from December, 45% of IT and line-of-business leaders said hybrid work would be an enduring part of embedded work practices and only 2% indicating they had no plans to implement this practice.

Amy Loomis, research director for IDC’s Worldwide Future of Work market research team, said business leaders have recognized that reopening offices is not an all or nothing proposition of “return to office or rethink working here.”

“Rather than viewing remote work as a point in time event that we have passed, they are recognizing that remote and hybrid work are part of our de facto set of options for work moving forward,” she said. “Lesson learned from 2021 is that organizations need to be prepared to shift gears and ways of working on a strategic basis, not simply reactively.”

Loomis said that executives still want people back in the office but the reasons have changed from concerns about control, trust and productivity to hopes for greater capacity to build culture and keep employees engaged. Based on her observations, companies are making remote work rules more flexible both in terms of how many days per work week people can be remote as well as who gets to work remotely.

“We also see sizable investment in reinventing and redesigning office spaces to foster more fluid ways of working between on-site and off-site locations,” she said.

Although many workers want to hang on to the option to work from home, there are groups within the workforce who want to go back to the office.

“While we have not done an employee sentiment survey at a global scale we know anecdotally that younger employees who seek face to face experiential learning and have cramped home office challenges are more eager to have a change of venue to an office or satellite office setting,” Loomis said.

Future Forum’s Brian Elliott, the executive leader of Future Forum and SVP at Slack, said that flexibility now ranks second only to compensation when it comes to job satisfaction.

“Our research shows 78% of workers want location flexibility and nearly all want schedule flexibility,” he said.

Elliott said companies are using this transition time as a chance to reevaluate, refresh or maybe even start over with workplace models.

“There are clear benefits to a hybrid model with enhanced flexibility – employees are reporting better work-life balance, greater productivity and even a higher sense of belonging than working full-time in the office,” he said. “People have different needs and well-designed hybrid workplaces are more inclusive of all employees, whatever their background or circumstances.”

Elliott also sees a trend away from centralized command-and-control approaches (“one size fits none”) to team-level agreements. This means setting new expectations about “when and where people come together with a purpose that fits the rhythms of their team.”

People are rethinking who they want to work for and this means that leaders who want to attract and keep talented employees must be intentional about changing work models, according to Elliott.

“They must set principles and guardrails that define how flexible hybrid work will work in their organizations,” he said.

Companies need to focus on the benefits of working together in person and establish “a reasonable rationale and value to being in person for all workers of all ages, stages of work and life,” according to Loomis.

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