From Remote Work to Hybrid Work: The Tech You’ll Need To Link Home And Office
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From Remote Work to Hybrid Work: The Tech You’ll Need To Link Home And Office

Your tech life is about to get messy. Here are some solutions.

By JOANNA STERN
Mon, Mar 15, 2021 5:43amGrey Clock 5 min

Hope your magic Mary Poppins, go-back-to-the-office bag is ready. Let’s see, you’re going to need your laptop, your laptop’s power adapter, your headphones, your headphones’ power adapter, your ring light, your ring light’s power adapter…

Oh, and you thought this was just a one-time pack? That’s cute. Prepare to do this two to three times a week, as you split time between your home-office and your office-office for the next, well, forever.

Welcome to the exciting new world of hybrid work.

“Somewhere in the vicinity of 60% of the workforce are choosing the hybrid option,” said Gartner analyst Suzanne Adnams, “which means their ideal is working at home and coming into the office three days a week.”

If I had a dollar for every time I heard “two to three days at the office” while reporting this column, a socially distanced steak dinner would be on me.

What isn’t as clear? Where you’ll go once you get to the office. That depends on your employer. Here are three possible options:

• Same-old desking: Business as usual. You still get your own desk, but maybe now, your chair and your colleague’s chair are farther apart.

• Hot desking: The horribly named trend where employees don’t have a permanently assigned desk. Also referred to as hoteling, flexing or desk swapping, this is becoming the leading hybrid option for a key reason: It doesn’t make sense to have one desk per person if people only come in a few times a week.

• No desking: The office isn’t for solo work but collaboration. So instead of desks there are mostly group meeting areas, with a privacy phone booth here and there. Companies including Dropbox have committed to this route.

I certainly can’t tell you in detail what’s going to happen at your company, but I can say this hybrid life will make you even more dependent on your tech tools. The very tech that enables us to work from anywhere (laptops and smartphones, video calling, Slack) is also the technology that stands to make this so messy.

Your colleagues are at the office whiteboarding but you’re stuck at home in a little Zoom box? You survive the commute to the office, only to discover you left your USB-C dongle on the kitchen table. Hey, Bob From Accounting, stop screaming on your video call. This isn’t your basement!

But I have hope. Not only did we prove our tech resilience when we embarked on the Great Work-From-Home Experiment a year ago but the makers of our most depended-upon products are paying attention and adapting for this next phase. Here are a few of the biggest hybrid challenges and some potential solutions.

I’m back to the good old commute, but at my hot desk, I have nothing, not even a coffee-stained mug.

There are no two ways about it, you’re going to need a bigger bag. And for the record: Anyone who tells you a backpack is only for middle schoolers is just wrong.

When you head to your building (assuming you remember where it is), you might have to pull out your phone. Your employer might require Covid-era health check-ins and other precautions, but it also might give you the opportunity to book your workspace, through systems like Robin or Salesforce’s Work.com.

Congrats, you made it to “your” desk. I can’t guess the tech that will be available when you get there, but expect it to be pretty bare-bones, especially if you BYOL (you know, bring your own laptop).

In Salesforce’s redesigned spaces, for instance, employees get just a desk and two side-by-side monitors, Jo-ann Olsovsky, the company’s chief information officer, told me.

At least Salesforce employees will be able to keep other belongings in lockers and easily get other tech peripherals—mice, keyboards, headsets, chargers—from tech vending machines situated around the offices. You don’t pay. Just swipe your employee badge, hit the button for your item and grab it from the bottom tray.

If your office’s vending machines only dispense stale Doritos, you might request stuff through your IT department. Regardless, you’ll likely be dragging your favorite equipment to and fro. Certainly, more expensive gear that you don’t own two of—tablets, microphones, noise-canceling headphones—will be in your bag.

For the smaller stuff—battery packs, charging cords, a mouse and the miscellaneous adapters to connect drives, memory cards and cables to your laptop—you’ll need a dongle bag. Don’t have one yet? Oh, you must. The one I just got, the InCase nylon accessory organiser, has mesh pockets and straps for organizing different cords and adapters. It lists for $50.

I’m at the office with some colleagues. Other colleagues are at home.

If you think going back to the office means the end of video calls, I have bad news for you. Expect most meetings from now on to have a video component and there to be even more cameras in the office—and not just in the conference rooms.

“It’s hard to imagine going into an office now and all those little closed spaces that might have had a phone in them not being video enabled,” Logitech Chief Executive Bracken Darrell told me, adding that he expects some companies to put webcams at hot-desk stations as well.

Executives who work on collaboration platforms at Microsoft, Google, Slack and Zoom said a key need was for employees at home and at work to feel like they’re on a level playing field when on calls and working together. Here are initiatives they’ve launched:

Microsoft Teams: A system called Teams Rooms links conference rooms with remote users who want to join in. Voice recognition in new compatible speakers can identify who in a room is talking, and the person’s name will appear on screen. You won’t be embarrassed dialling in from home, either: A new presenter mode removes the background of your video and places you in front of the presentation, or positions the presentation in a box over your shoulder in “reporter mode.”

Google Workspace: Google also powers speakers and cameras for the office, but as people leave the house, they’ll be using their phones more for video calling too. An update to the Google Meet phone app will better display people on video. A coming update to Google Docs, Sheets and Slides will include the ability to overlay voice and video chat as people work together on documents.

Slack: An audio-room feature is coming, so users can quickly hop on a conference call. Think Clubhouse but for quick meetings. The company, which Salesforce agreed to buy, is also adding a feature for sharing prerecorded video messages. This could help a manager send an announcement to everyone, whether they’re in the office or at home.

Zoom: The pandemic’s breakout star has its own conference-room service called, say it with me, Zoom Rooms. The company’s Zoom Rooms Controller app for iOS and Android lets people in the conference room control meetings from their phones—no need to touch the grimy shared keyboard or room control panel.

A bigger challenge: What if the in-person meeting includes some physical stuff, like a whiteboard? How do the people at home keep up and contribute?

Google and Microsoft have tried to make that easier. Microsoft makes the Surface Hub—a giant Windows tablet for offices that runs the cloud-connected Microsoft Whiteboard app. Those on a Microsoft Teams call can view and add to the digital whiteboard. Same idea with Google’s Jamboard. People in the office can scribble on the giant screen and those in a Google Meet video call can view and add to it. Zoom works with third-party hardware makers to integrate whiteboarding.

I’m working from home today—how do I share that with the world?

The upside to all this is being stuck at home won’t be as bad as it once was. You’re already honing your setup, and some companies even plan to continue subsidizing employees home-office needs. And now that you’ve gotten used to overcommunicating your schedule and deadlines? You just keep doing that, wherever you are.

Google’s added some features to its calendar to help, including what it calls “segmentable working hours.” You can make it clear to colleagues what location you’re working from or if you’re doing something else, like exercising or commuting. Slack is also exploring adding more status options to indicate your whereabouts.

This return to the office may have a slick name—hybrid work—but make no mistake, it’s as hybrid as Frankenstein’s monster. Just remember, one year ago we got through a pretty cataclysmic work change, and we will do it again. Just don’t forget about the dog.



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A Killer Golf Swing Is a Hot Job Skill Now

Companies are eager to hire strong players who use hybrid work schedules to schmooze clients on the course

By CALLUM BORCHERS
Fri, Jun 14, 2024 5 min

Standout golfers who aren’t quite PGA Tour material now have somewhere else to play professionally: Corporate America.

People who can smash 300-yard drives and sink birdie putts are sought-after hires in finance, consulting, sales and other industries, recruiters say. In the hybrid work era, the business golf outing is back in a big way.

Executive recruiter Shawn Cole says he gets so many requests to find ace golfers that he records candidates’ handicaps, an index based on average number of strokes over par, in the information packets he submits to clients. Golf alone can’t get you a plum job, he says—but not playing could cost you one.

“I know a guy that literally flies around the world in a private jet loaded with French wine, and he golfs and lands hundred-million-dollar deals,” Cole says.

Tee times and networking sessions have long gone hand-in-golf-glove. Despite criticism that doing business on the course undermines diversity, equity and inclusion efforts—and the fact that golf clubs haven’t always been open to women and minorities —people who mix golf and work say the outings are one of the last reprieves from 30-minute calendar blocks

Stars like Tiger Woods and Michelle Wie West helped expand participation in the sport. Still, just 22% of golfers are nonwhite and 26% are women, according to the National Golf Foundation.

To lure more people, clubs have relaxed rules against mobile-phone use on the course, embracing white-collar professionals who want to entertain clients on the links without disconnecting from the office. It’s no longer taboo to check email from your cart or take a quick call at the halfway turn.

With so much other business conducted virtually, shaking hands on the green and schmoozing over clubhouse beers is now seen as making an extra effort, not slacking off.

Americans played a record 531 million rounds last year. Weekday play has nearly doubled since 2019, with much of the action during business hours , according to research by Stanford University economist Nicholas Bloom .

“It would’ve been scandalous in 2019 to be having multiple meetings a week on the golf course,” Bloom says. “In 2024, if you’re producing results, no one’s going to see anything wrong with it.”

A financial adviser at a major Wall Street bank who competes on the amateur circuit told me he completes 90% of his tasks by 10 a.m. because he manages long-term investment plans that change infrequently. The rest of his workday often involves golfing with clients and prospects. He’s a member of a private club with a multiyear waiting list, and people jump at the chance to join him on a course they normally can’t access.

There is an art to bringing in business this way. He never initiates shoptalk, telling his playing partners the round is about having fun and getting to know each other. They can’t resist asking about investment strategies by the back nine, he says.

Work hard, play hard

Matt Parziale golfed professionally on minor-league tours for several years, but when his dream of making the big time ended, he had to get a regular job. He became a firefighter, like his dad.

A few years later he won one of the biggest amateur tournaments in the country, earning spots in the 2018 Masters and U.S. Open, where he tied for first among non-pros.

The brush with celebrity brought introductions to business types that Parziale, 35 years old, says he wouldn’t have met otherwise. One connection led to a job with a large insurance broker. In 2022 he jumped to Deland, Gibson Insurance Associates in Wellesley, Mass., which recognised his golf game as a tool to help win large accounts.

He rescheduled our interview because he was hosting clients at a private club on Cape Cod, and squeezed me in the next morning, before teeing off with a business group in Newport, R.I.

A short time ago, Parziale couldn’t imagine making a living this way. Now he’s the norm in elite amateur golf circles.

“I look around at the guys at the events I play, and they all have these jobs ,” he says.

His boss, Chief Executive Chip Gibson, says Parziale is good at bringing in business because he puts as much effort into building relationships as honing his game. A golf outing is merely an opportunity to build trust that can eventually lead to a deal, and it’s a misconception that people who golf during work hours don’t work hard, he says.

Barry Allison’s single-digit handicap is an asset in his role as a management consultant at Accenture , where he specialises in travel and hospitality. He splits time between Washington, D.C., and The Villages, Fla., a golf mecca that boasts more than 50 courses.

It can be hard to get to know people in distributed work environments, he says. Go golfing and you’ll learn a lot about someone’s temperament—especially after a bad shot.

“If you see a guy snap a club over his knee, you don’t know what he’s going to snap next,” Allison says.

Special access

On a recent afternoon I was a lunch guest at Brae Burn Country Club, a private enclave outside Boston that was the site of U.S. Golf Association championships won by legends like Walter Hagen and Bobby Jones. I parked in the second lot because the first one was full—on a Wednesday.

My host was Cullen Onstott, managing director of the Onstott Group executive search firm and a former collegiate golfer at Fairfield University. He explained one reason companies prize excellent golfers is they can put well-practiced swings on autopilot and devote most of their attention to chitchat.

It’s hard to talk with potential customers about their needs and interests when you’re hunting for errant shots in the woods. It’s also challenging if you show off.

The first hole at Brae Burn is a 318-yard par 4 that slopes down, enabling big hitters like Onstott to reach the putting green in a single stroke. But to stay close to his playing partners and keep the conversation flowing, he sometimes hits a shorter shot.

Having an “in” at an exclusive club can make you a catch. Bo Burch, an executive recruiter in North Carolina, says clubs in his region tend to attract members according to their business sectors. One might be chock-full of real-estate investors while another has potential buyers of industrial manufacturing equipment.

Burch looks for candidates who are members of clubs that align with his clients’ industries, though he stresses that business acumen comes first when filling positions.

Tami McQueen, a former Division I tennis player and current chief marketing officer at Atlanta investment firm BIP Capital, signed up for private golf lessons this year. She had noticed colleagues were wearing polos with course logos and bringing their clubs to work. She wanted in.

McQueen joined business associates on the golf course for the first time in March at the PGA National Resort in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. She has lowered her handicap to a respectable 26 and says her new skill lends a professional edge.

“To be able to say, ‘I can play with you and we can have those business meetings on the course’ definitely opens a lot more doors,” she says.

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This stylish family home combines a classic palette and finishes with a flexible floorplan

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Just 55 minutes from Sydney, make this your creative getaway located in the majestic Hawkesbury region.

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