Technology for remote working should be easy to use, UC-compliant and fun.
Few organizations planned to make 2020 the transition year to working from home; yet, that transition was upon us swiftly. In a matter of weeks, businesses and individuals deployed whatever AV and IT they would need to keep communicating, interacting and driving results.
Some of the best-placed solutions became work-life lifelines for millions of people. Software, such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams, has become invaluable for communication and collaboration in work-from-anywhere environments. Hardware, however, has become vital, as well. Greater bandwidth, in addition to high-resolution web cameras, noise-canceling headphones and additional monitors, are just a few examples of the technologies enabling workers—and students—to focus as well as they do in person while still working apart.
Keeping up with the demand for these technologies has been an adjustment for manufacturers. Updates and new products can’t roll out quickly enough. Yet, the area in which we have the most control is the one to which users look the most: building the right products for the right time. Products brought to market should meld usability, flexibility and design, while ensuring a long lifecycle. To design a future that will support a work-from-anywhere global culture, every manufacturer will have to reengage with three essentials of product design while, at the same time, understanding what defines our work life today.
1. Go beyond the basics: We expect businesses further to embrace the hybrid model once we move into the post-vaccination phase of the pandemic. This will allow businesses more readily to merge in-person and remote-working technologies, while enabling employees to switch between them seamlessly and on demand.
One outcome of the merging of our work environments is that more spaces must be able to accommodate video. Although, before the pandemic, it might have been acceptable to outfit one or two specialized meeting rooms with conferencing technologies, working professionals now need instant access to all their remote colleagues. What’s more, that interaction must meet the same auditory, visual and accessibility levels that a face-to-face meeting would offer. Although they are already very popular, video bars and all-in-one devices will accommodate these video-ready spaces with technologies and capabilities like auto-framing and single-cable connectivity.
Furthermore, offices and meeting rooms must be redesigned to provide more spaces for collaboration while, at the same time, maintaining social distancing. Collaboration technologies more readily allow for people to remain remote, enabling them to collaborate with colleagues without having to occupy the same space. Collaboration technologies also provide a similarly adaptable environment for remote employees who occasionally visit the office, if they decide to meet with colleagues and clients in person.
2. Use technology that supports and reinforces productivity: The requirement for easy-to-use, transparent technology that truly enables productivity has fostered appreciation for all-in-one conferencing devices—in particular, those that offer a premium audio and video experience and that connect with a popular third-party cloud service (think Microsoft Teams, Google Meet and Zoom). These devices are an important part of future-proofing a business, and they allow any small meeting area quickly to be transformed into a productive, high-end conferencing environment. This will be essential not only for employee interactions but also for client calls.
Although built-in webcams are certainly handy, they often lack the audio power of a more dedicated conferencing device. This is a more significant challenge than it might appear. With a traditional webcam, conference participants have to sit very close in order for others to see all the participants clearly and to hear what is being said. The low-end microphone simply cannot support multiple people, especially if they are sitting in different parts of the room. Consequently, audio quality drops tremendously, with voices competing with ambient sounds that are loud enough to hear. This causes audio confusion. The result is increased difficulty and fatigue, creating a challenging environment for meetings.
With remote work here to stay for the foreseeable future—indeed, it’s likely to remain for many individuals even after the pandemic has subsided—virtual connectivity will continue to be a top priority. By relying on a more dedicated conferencing unit that offers superior audio, auto-framing and remote manageability, businesses can avoid common pitfalls and ensure that strong communication is maintained in a virtual environment, regardless of location.
3. Create an enjoyable—even a fun—experience: No one knows when it will be safe for everyone to return to the office, but it’s clear that a significant portion of the workforce will continue to work from home, given the proven productivity and potential for companies to save on office space. Technology will play a pivotal role in making sure remote work remains efficient and productive, so businesses have to consider this as they plan.
Meetings can only run as well as their weakest link. A single participant’s poor audio or video can negatively affect every one’s experience. So, invest in high-quality technology that complies with unified-communications (UC) standards and intuitively delivers the audio and video needed. Longevity, flexibility and ease of use should remain top of mind when specifying technology to meet the needs of both remote and in-office employees.
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