What’s next for the office and workplace communication?

Pure AV at CommUniCate 2019

Unsurprisingly, the conclusion of our experts and our own experience is balance. Like many things in life, sustained success is about finding a balance - have too much of anything, and it starts to lose its appeal.

The latest research suggests employees want to split their time between the home and the office, seeking to spend on average a maximum of two days a week at home*. (read the full study)

Challenges with loneliness, stifled creativity, and the inability to “switch off” after work, are most often cited as reasons to get back to office-based working. While fatigue caused by high volumes of video meetings is another area that manufacturers like Microsoft recognise and are looking to address.  

Where are people working from home the most?Source: Finding a new balance, survey by Barco

Preparing the office space for hybrid working

So, how do we prepare our workspaces to support the new balance between home and office working?

Video-enabling our meeting spaces is a top priority for many of us.

Already 23% of our meetings are a mix of in-person and remote attendees, and as we shift to hybrid working, that number is set to increase. Yet, when we look at our physical workspaces, less than 15% of meeting rooms are thought to be enabled for video. 

We know that most of us use multiple video conferencing platforms daily, switching between Zoom, Teams, Google Meet and others throughout our working day.

We also recognise that room capacity is likely to remain restricted at least in short to mid-term.

With this in mind, here are some practical steps to prepare our office spaces for successful hybrid working.

1. Simplify the user experience

Think carefully about how you want to use the space. Before you even think about the equipment, visualise the process of entering the room, consider the room user’s journey; what is the first thing you will do, who is taking part in the meeting, what are you desired outcomes. Then consider the resources; what do you need to access during the session, do you need to share content, will people use their own devices.

Consider your complete environment, does one room have to accommodate every type of usage, or could you simplify the user experience by having a mix of spaces. If you are Teams users, perhaps some could be dedicated Microsoft Teams Rooms (MTR’s) with native walk-up and use access, while other areas are set-up as laptop driven BYOD environments.

Of course, often, a room has to serve many uses, and that’s okay. Once you understand how you want to use your space, a good quality AV integrator will combine the best technology into a solution to meet your requirements – all the while, keeping a clear focus on a simple user experience.

2. Remember the importance of sound and acoustics in a mixed meeting

Poor audio can kill a meeting. Working at home, with headsets on (once we are beyond remembering to unmute the mic!), our expectations of audio performance is set high.

When we wear headsets on our video calls; the remote voice is sent directly to our ears, our voice is picked up by a microphone just a few centimetres from our mouths. When we are back in our office meeting spaces, we become dependent on the microphones and speakers in the meeting room.

Audio quality is not just about the quality of the hardware. The location of the mic and speakers, the layout of a room, the furnishings, surface materials, ceiling height and shape, all impact the way sound behaves in a space.

Make sure that your integration partner considers the room acoustics when specifying your solution. The room environment can have a dramatic effect on audio quality and particularly the experience of remote participants.

Do not be tempted to cut costs when it comes to audio. Nothing affects productivity and meeting effectiveness in a hybrid meeting as significantly as the inability to hear and be heard.

3. Fix the consequences of rapid adoption

The speed and scale of the switch to remote working created by COVID-19, meant that, in some instances, we had to make compromises in the solutions we adopted. 

As we shift to longer-term adoption of flexible working, take the time to review the usage of what you have implemented. Identify where the challenges have been, find and share the successes.

It doesn’t mean throwing things out and starting again. Instead, work with your AV partner to phase out, or adapt what works less well. Consider a training plan, online user guides, how-to videos. If you have individuals that are thriving in the new environment, encourage them to share best practice with the broader team.

Take the best of what you have used in the home setting and extend it into your office spaces.

4. You are unique – learn from the experience of others but make the solution your own.

We can learn much from the experiences of others. But it is essential to translate that knowledge into the unique environment of our own workplaces. During the lockdown, by working with many different organisations, the Pure AV team has amassed a wealth of experience, that is carried forward into future project designs.

We learn we absorb we share, but we do not assume. Good solution design always starts with the customer, your use case, desired outcomes, and the experience you want to create.

Taking inspiration from others can be a great starting point, but remember, hybrid working is a broad topic, and the solution should start from the way you intend to work.

5. We are only human after all

To get the best from hybrid working, the way we measure and manage our people needs to adapt along with the technology we use.

Have you implemented adequate training on new systems? Does everybody know how to get the most from the technology? Do you have processes in place to measure and manage the well-being of those new to prolonged remote working? Are Management and employee expectations on the split between home and office working aligned?

Answering these questions as you adapt your workplace, will ensure that technology is well adopted and employees work in the places that deliver the best outcomes. Everyone gets the most out of the hybrid working approach.

We have come a long way in the 12 months since the CommUniCate19 event. The tools and technologies have again moved on, but the fundamental need for solutions that help us present, listen and share ideas remain central to organisational success.

Following the practices outlined above will help you implement the tools for long-term successful communication and collaboration within your organisation, whether in-office, remote or someplace in between.

Talk to our team about how we can help.

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