After a remote work experiment of more than a year, organizations around the world are now beginning to consider what the future of the office will look like, including how hybrid teams will communicate and the tools they will use to do so.
There is already a wealth of data that suggests UCC platforms like Zoom and Microsoft Teams will continue to play an important role in the future of the workplace, and that means videoconferencing isn’t going away anytime soon.
These trends have been discussed for months, going back to the fall when COVID-19 vaccine development, approval and distribution began, forcing companies to think about a return to the office.
Now, IT departments and their organizations are faced with the challenge of future-proofing their hybrid work model.
Hybrid, remote work is not a new concept
However, according to David Danto, director of unified communications strategy and research at Poly, the concept of remote and hybrid work isn’t new at all.
According to an IDC study sponsored by Poly, 14% of workers operated out of their home before the pandemic – not an insignificant amount. However, that has ballooned to 45% now. Going forward, remote work is still expected to remain at a 22% clip.
“It took this global pandemic for us to prove that what we’ve been saying for two decades about remote and hybrid working is true,” Danto said in an interview with My TechDecisions.
According to the study, higher employee productivity is cited by respondents to a survey as one of the top benefits for allowing some employees to work at home.
Before the pandemic, remote workers were stigmatized as being lazy and unproductive, but it took a massive global remote work experiment to prove that untrue, Danto says.
“So this becomes the first time in history, or at least in the history of Unified Communication, that remote working and hybrid working isn’t just tolerated, it’s now a corporate strategy,” says Danto, who presented similar information at an Enterprise Connect virtual event last month.
Future-proofing the hybrid work model for remote workers
Organizations everywhere scrambled to procure just enough technology to make the switch to remote work feasible in the short term, and employees supplemented any gaps with consumer-level technology to get by.
Now organizations have to consider how to better equip a workforce that wants to stay home.
According to Danto, that means investing in professional gear aside from the built-in audio and video devices in a laptop and rolling that into the IT department’s inventory.
“If I’m a company, I have a fleet of gear up in my ecosystem in my office that I track and manage that I understand,” Danto says. “And I want to do the same thing for the people at home. I want to make sure that they’ve got equipment that I can always see, that I can inventory it, that I can make sure it’s got the latest firmware that it’s got the right bandwidth and that at least I have some view into that.”
These devices include things like headsets, cameras, microphones, speakerphones and more, and those devices should be compatible with communications platforms like Zoom and Microsoft Teams.
Future-proofing the in-office experience
Future-proofing the hybrid work model, however, must also address the on-site collaboration tools that employees will be coming back in the not-so-distant future.
Workers have spent over a year using tools like Zoom and Microsoft Teams from their home offices, and the platforms have been convenient and easy to use on their laptops or mobile devices. As workers migrate back into offices, those meeting room spaces have to be equipped with the same technology and ease-of-use features as workers had at home.
Brad Sousa, the chief technology officer at audiovisual solutions provider AVI Systems, said at a recent Enterprise Connect event that included representatives from Zoom, Logitech, Poly and other UCC leaders, that employees now expect a good audio and video experience.
For workers that will continue to work remotely, they must still feel like they’re a part of a meeting that includes in-office employees tuning in from a conference room. Ensuring that workers have similar experiences regardless of where they work will be key to maintaining a productive hybrid work model.
“The quality of the experience is becoming table stakes, there’s, there’s an expectation of what the experience is going to be,” Sousa said.