Video conferencing and virtual collaboration was a business standard going into 2020, but nobody could have envisioned just how impactful and necessary it would become as millions of employees were suddenly forced to work from home for the first time. While work laptops or personal PCs have provided the basic equipment required to video conference, they’ve created a wide gap between our expectations from corporate technology and the home-based reality.
As time wears on and the work-from-home trend evolves from a stop-gap measure to a new standard business model, the disparity between office AV equipment and home equipment will be less and less acceptable.
For AV integrators, this shift could provide a new market of clients and projects, leveraging industry knowledge to deliver a variety of home solutions for every budget and need.
The Post-Covid Home Office
Virtually all home offices could benefit from upgraded cameras, microphones and speakers, since annoyances such as echoes, poor lighting in video and audible distractions from household activities can interrupt a meeting’s flow and detract from the experience.
With everyone from CEOs to new hires clocking in at home, there is a clear need to provide a wide range of AV solutions.
Thankfully, options exist for every budget and any size room, from HD cameras and basic desktop speaker phones to multi-camera 4K solutions with remote-controlled pan, tilt and zoom functions that pair with beamforming microphone array microphones that can be easily and discretely mounted on a room ceiling and connected to speakers.
Whether this need can be met by AV integrators depends on how companies choose to approach home offices; they could either deploy consistent technologies to all employees, or adopt a BYOD approach.
Whose Responsibility Is It?
As employers and employees navigate this new collaborative landscape, companies can take various tracks in regards to technology for the home. Initially, the easiest way to enable remote work is to ensure each employee has a laptop or a desktop with a camera, microphone and speaker.
Virtually any computer purchased in the last 10 years will have both. However, it’s almost certain that the visual and audio quality will be a significant downgrade compared with the sophisticated equipment deployed in conference rooms and meeting rooms.
Therefore, organizations must decide whether they will invest in home office technology solutions, if employees will be responsible for their own purchases, or if the existing tools will be ‘good enough’.
Understanding that this is not a temporary trend and that remote collaboration will only become more vital, companies that plan for the long term are likely to realize that a relatively small investment can pay outsized dividends in terms of productivity and professional-grade external communications.
Armed with extensive knowledge of the costs, features and benefits of the latest remote collaboration solutions, integrators can help business leaders envision a company-wide remote work ecosystem that provides excellent quality and functions as reliably as permanently-installed conference room systems.
The Post-Covid Office Space
Moving forward, companies will employ a variety of hybrid work models, so the collaboration tools found in traditional offices will continue to be a core facet of a successful, flexible organization.
Most office environments will resume operations in the next 12 months, and many will reconfigure spaces to be more suitable for social distancing or use staggered in-person schedules.
However, few companies or workers will go back to fully packed conference rooms in the near term.
It’s likely that rooms will be limited to 50 percent occupancy, or even less, and that bigger rooms may be desired.
This presents integrators with the opportunity to upsell based on specific benefits of camera systems, such as automated subject tracking with artificial intelligence or ultra-wide-angle lenses that allow participants to be seated just inches from the camera.
Throughout the pandemic, manufacturers have worked rapidly to develop new products and solutions designed for organizations’ ever-expanding range of needs.
The changing use of space, alternative work sites and high chance of changing regulations are pain points that integrators can address by arming themselves with full knowledge of all the available tools and tailoring solutions to each unique need.
In addition to pushing people to work from home, the business climate of 2020 also necessitated a near-complete halt to business travel and in-person meetings between organizations.
Virtual collaboration filled the gap effectively, and there is reason to believe that even upon a complete ‘return to normal’, some businesses and individuals will choose to travel less and hold more meetings virtually in order to save time, money and stress and to reduce environmental impact.
The Big Picture
Companies everywhere were forced to adapt in 2020, and now that they see the road ahead may be longer than anticipated, they may be more willing and ready to invest in proper home office technology solutions.
Independent contractors, CEOs and entry-level employees can all benefit from improving the video communications in their homes, and it’s up to integrators to show them how.