Before the pandemic, people accepted that they had to work in the office every day but now they have spent months successfully doing their jobs from home and enjoying the comfort and convenience this brings, most do not want to go back to the way things were.
“Many senior leaders are biased towards the traditional office-based working model because their experiences have taught them that collaboration is easiest when everyone is in the same physical space,” says David Labuskes, CEO of AVIXA. “However, the proliferation of new audiovisual (AV) and other digital technologies is making it easier than ever to communicate and collaborate in both hybrid and fully virtual environments. So, rather than reverting to the old model because ‘that’s what we always do’, businesses should capitalise on the opportunity to reinvent the workplace and design an operational strategy that enables employees to remain productive and efficient at home and in the office.”
While many organisations worldwide are moving towards a hybrid working model, some are struggling with the myriad of challenges it brings. According to Labuskes, this is because they tend to fixate on technology and disregard other key components of a hybrid workplace.
“Businesses should start by identifying employees’ needs and preferences, then evaluate the type of tasks they perform and finally determine which technologies would empower them to complete that work in a hybrid setting,” he advises. “It’s important to ensure they provide the optimal working environment for every employee, whatever their job roles or preferred work style.”
One of the biggest challenges is to find solutions that facilitate easy, equal and reliable connectivity between employees, particularly for collaborative discussions and meetings.
“We’ve all experienced fully virtual meetings, been a remote attendee who had to frequently interrupt conversations to remind people to include us, or been physically present and struggled to engage equally with in-person and remote participants,” says Labuskes. “These conversations can become awkward and stilted due to technology issues or because it’s difficult to maintain natural interactions when people aren’t sitting at the same physical table.”
To run a successful meeting that equally involves all participants, businesses must integrate high-quality audiovisual (AV) devices and technologies and carefully consider the layout of the physical meeting space.
“Essential components include cameras, microphones, audio pick-up devices, microphones, loudspeakers and multiple displays, all of which must be placed in optimal locations around the meeting room so everyone can easily see, hear and maintain eye contact with all attendees,” says Labuskes. “Implementing the right AV technology is critical; we instantly notice poor quality sound, lighting and video and they quickly become distracting and deter us from attending future meetings. Hosting meetings with poor technology is like pushing a grocery cart with a twisted wheel – you can do it but it’s frustrating and difficult to keep it on track.”
It is crucial for businesses to transform other aspects of the traditional office too. “Organisations must present the office as a place equipped with intuitive and reliable technologies that will enable employees to work productively, as well as space to access additional support, opportunities for enhanced collaboration, and social benefits,” says Labuskes.
Change management is essential here. “Humans naturally resist change, but we adapt if we’re explicitly told what changes we need to make, why we must do so and how it will benefit us,” says Labuskes. “To gain employee support for the new hybrid working model, businesses need to clearly communicate the purpose of the office space and guide them as to which tasks to complete there and which to work on at home. If employees know why they should be in the office, they will be more likely to return happily.”
Labuskes notes that businesses can seek help to plan their hybrid working strategy from organisations like AVIXA. “We know how to fix the wheel on the grocery cart,” he says. “We understand how AV technologies can be used to overcome the challenges of hybrid working. Not only are our members creating the AV technologies that are facilitating hybrid working, but they’re also the ones installing and maintaining them, so we can amplify peer-to-peer learning and sharing, and convene organisations to develop standards. We can also coalesce all those learnings into training and educational programmes for professionals.”
Labuskes predicts that it will be several years before businesses create the perfect hybrid working environment. “We were all forced to start this journey quickly and unexpectedly, and both technologies and attitudes to remote working are still evolving, so it will be an iterative process,” he explains. “What constitutes a successful hybrid working environment today will be different by next year, but I expect that offices will primarily become spaces for meetings and collaborative tasks, while employees will complete ‘heads down’ work remotely.
“It will be challenging, especially as these new technologies and office enhancements require capital expenditure, but if they’re implemented well, offices will become a hive of productivity and collaboration, and employees will feel connected wherever they’re working.”
This article was originally published in the Autumn 2022 issue of Technology Record. To get future issues delivered directly to your inbox, sign up for a free subscription.
Share this story