By: Lieven Bertier, Segment Marketing Director of Meeting Experience at Barco
It goes without saying that the pandemic has fundamentally altered how and where we work. The era of five days a week in the office, 9-to-5 is over, replaced by a hybrid environment that enables employees to alternate between on-site and remote workstations as best fits their schedule.
In many ways, the growing adoption of hybrid work comes at an inflection point for the industry. While government and business leaders are encouraging employees to return to the office more frequently, many either still do not feel comfortable doing so or are not yet ready to sacrifice the flexibility and conveniences they’ve enjoyed while successfully working from home. As a result, there is more pressure than ever on business and IT leaders to identify tools and structures that accommodate employees’ varying needs while also promoting their own future growth.
This transition already has shown the need for organizations to remain agile, engaged with their employees and adaptive to the changes. A key component of this is evaluating how technology can support the new hybrid environment and bring together the best of on-site and remote work styles to drive continued support and productivity. The businesses who can best use technology to understand and tap into their employees’ greatest needs, mitigate concerns and embrace flexibility stand the greatest chance to thrive in the new-look working world.
Here are three initial considerations for how technology will shape hybrid work, and potential starting points for hybrid strategy discussions with leadership and employees.
Laptops and personal devices are more essential than ever
The last 18 months have reinforced just how vital our laptops and personal devices are to our day-to-day professional success. Not only are these technologies still essential for completing tasks and managing content, but in many ways, they’ve become our gateway to engagement with our colleagues as meetings have shifted to virtual conference rooms and UC platforms. In fact, an April 2021 Barco research study found that more than three-quarters (77 percent) of workers say they could not imagine working without their laptop.
Given employees’ new-found bond with their PCs, there’s no reason to expect the reliance on laptops and laptop-driven communications will fade in the hybrid environment. For business leaders, it’s now a matter of empowering on-site and remote workers to do even more through them.
Workers have come to appreciate the simple connectivity and ease of navigating the most popular meeting hosting options (such as Teams, Zoom or Webex) in place of the at times complex wire networks and connectivity challenges of legacy conference rooms. Those returning to the office may not be willing to resume these frustrations, which often prevented meetings from starting on time.
To bridge these gaps, business leaders should consider elevating their virtual collaboration capabilities. Barco’s flagship ClickShare platform, for instance, connects with users’ laptops to automatically set meeting rooms and peripherals to pre-defined conditions – all while also supporting the virtual meeting hubs we’ve grown to know. These users can walk into the room and get started without extensive connectivity or technical setup needs.
Video: The Root of Hybrid
Remember having to battle your colleagues for coveted video conference rooms? The shift to remote work demonstrated that successful video-driven engagement can happen anywhere, and within the confines of a laptop screen.
As future engagement likely will involve a mix of on-site and remote meeting participants, video conferencing will remain the foundation of successful hybrid collaboration. Businesses can prepare for this by ensuring employees on both sides are video capable. Given what we’ve seen in recent months, there’s no reason why every on-site conference room cannot become a video conferencing room, and businesses can implement wireless connectivity along with better screens, microphones and cameras to complement workers’ laptop reliance.
Additionally, video has transitioned the nature of how some workers do their jobs. Customer relations and sales presentations once held in large conference rooms now can take place from afar, and with health and budget considerations and travel limitations at the forefront, such engagement may become the norm. Businesses can empower these employees for success by upgrading technology wherever they are. This can include everything from enhancing audio and video capabilities in customer and presentation centres to providing those leading such calls from home with the same peripherals they’d access in the office to ensure optimal quality.
Levelling the Playing Field
One of the most prominent considerations – and challenges – of the move to hybrid work is avoiding the feeling of a “less than” experience for remote employees. While there’s no way to replicate the conversations and person-to-person engagement that come in the office, remote employees don’t want to feel as if they are being left out of key decisions or unable to do their jobs at the same level as their colleagues.
Technology can help bridge these gaps and ensure remote employees remain equipped, confident and comfortable. Prior to the pandemic, remote meeting participants often struggled to find the right windows to share their ideas or keep up with in-room notes and on-screen content. Now, with collaborative technologies such as ClickShare Conference, all meeting attendees can view and exchange ideas through virtual blackboarding, annotation and polling. No knowledge is lost or overlooked, and every participant can feel like their voice is heard.
The hybrid workplace is dynamic, and the look and structure will vary for every company, team and industry. However, what’s clear is that technology is no longer just a functional part of the workday – it instead is now a potential differentiator in recruiting, retaining and maximizing teams. With the transition comes new opportunity to reimagine what the ideal workplace of the future will look like, and by connecting employee needs with innovative solutions, businesses can empower their teams to do their best however they choose to work.