As Australia slowly returns to normal, and states across the country ease restrictions, in NSW, workers are encouraged to return to the office from the 14th of December. \u00a0Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced a repeal of the public health order mandating that employers allow employees to work from home "where it is reasonably practicable to do so".\nWhile office workers are encouraged to head back to the office, some employees are not keen on returning to their pre-COVID routines of long commutes to be in an office when they have demonstrated they can work productively from home. \u00a0Business leaders are challenged with re-creating the energy and workplace culture they had before the pandemic. So how can employers create a future-fit modern workplace that engages employees and encourages them to come back?\nCHG-MERIDIAN recently hosted a live panel discussion with a series of experts who discussed designing a future-fit modern workplace.\u00a0 James Kemp, CEO and co-Founder at Amicus, Mark Pattie, senior solution architect at Data#3 and Stephen Kerr, VP of Sales from CHG-MERIDIAN discuss how business leaders can create an environment that drives employee engagement and fosters collaboration, yet still reduce their costs.\u00a0\nHere we share a summary of the discussion, highlighting four key steps business leaders can take now to drive engagement in the modern workplace.\n1. Repurpose empty office workspaces\nIt's essential to recognise that office workers will need time to adapt to an employer's preferred way of working post-pandemic. This may require a mindset shift and an adjustment for those who've become used to working remotely. It will also require employers to re-think the purpose of the office, and the need to offer a level of flexibility they may not have allowed before the pandemic.\u00a0\nDuring the pandemic, remote working emptied corporate offices across Australia, forcing business leaders to confront the changing role of physical workspaces.\u00a0 James Kemp, CEO and co-founder of Amicus, -challenges the traditional view of workspaces as a place used for the sole purpose of working a nine to five day. \u00a0Kemp proposes that businesses cannot create a positive workplace culture with a half-empty office and that the purpose of workspaces has shifted to being a social hub and collaboration space. \u00a0Repurposing workspaces into a more positive, social environment boosts morale and the likelihood of employees returning to work from their homes. \u00a0Additionally, companies who choose to introduce hybrid working into everyday operations should also consider downsizing their offices to minimise the surplus of space, resulting in more intimate workspaces and considerable cost savings.\u00a0\n2. Equip your employees with devices that are fit for purpose.\nAs IT departments focused on 'keeping the wheels turning', and remote workers were not able to swap out their devices, IT refreshes were be delayed. \u00a0But running end-user devices longer actually costs much more in servicing and support. What's more, without access to a choice of modern technology, employee experience and productivity suffer, and employees may turn to preferred personal devices to get work done, risking company data on unsecured devices.\u00a0\nSteve Kerr, VP of Sales for CHG-MERIDIAN, shared that due to the sudden need to stand up remote workforces, he observed a massive investment in technology, particularly around notebooks and desktops and tools needed to help people work remotely. \u00a0Due to having to spend money fast, companies made purchasing errors. \u00a0"What we're finding at the moment is you've got a large and growing footprint of devices in the in the enterprise space, which might not necessarily be fit for purpose," said Kerr.\u00a0\n3. Consider the user experience for your hybrid workforce and adapt your office technology in meeting rooms to create an equitable experience for in-office and remote users.\nFlexible working is going to be a part of the future way of working, so business leaders must allow for this in their technology strategy.\u00a0 Employees are looking for the flexibility and autonomy to work their way, in the locations that suit them, and they want to do it on devices they choose.\u00a0 Not only do end-user devices need to be up to the task, but collaboration tools, video conferencing and meeting room technology also need to work seamlessly, irrespective of whether employees are in the office or working remotely.\u00a0 Kemp comments that currently, there are not many people in the world that have not experienced a video call, and it is now acceptable to have a video call with a supplier, a partner, a client or a colleague.\u00a0 Video call experiences in the physical workplace now expect to be just as efficient as what we experience at home.\u00a0 In the past, technology integration has always been an afterthought in the physical design of a workspace.\u00a0 When designing a modern workplace, the integration of technology is at the forefront of the design process, being just as essential as office windows and walls.\u00a0\nWhen it comes to collaboration, Mark Pattie, senior solution architect at Data#3 shares that Microsoft and Cisco, \u00a0have both been investing in how they can integrate their platforms.\u00a0 Pattie discusses a typical scenario where organisations "might have some Cisco AV equipment in your nice big boardroom in the office, and you may be running Microsoft Teams for all of your users to collaborate. So one of the significant challenges now is making that all work together".\u00a0\n4. Work with a service provider that can help you procure, deploy, manage and refresh a diverse and distributed fleet of devices, wherever they may be located.\nEstablishing a high-tech working environment, better collaboration, and faster processes is often difficult at first. Managing this for a remote workforce is even more of a challenge. Today, IT departments are struggling under a load of rolling out and administering IT equipment for hundreds or even thousands of workplaces.\u00a0\u00a0\nPattie shared one of the common challenges he is seeing with how companies are managing their technology devices.\u00a0 He states that with a hybrid working environment, business leaders need to consider that their IT department is working remotely as well. \u00a0They need to be able to support users that are working remotely and in the office. They can no longer rely on being on the corporate network; they can't just directly connect using old technologies, so organisations have to consider moving to a new way of managing these machines, employing cloud-based technologies. \u00a0Working with a trusted partner that can service every postcode will help organisations provide a seamless user experience, both remotely and in the office.\nTo watch CHG-MERIDIAN\u2019s panel discussion on how to design a future-fit modern workplace, you can register for the on-demand webinar here.