Boosting productivity starts with AI, says Sean Wargo

Boosting productivity starts with AI, says Sean Wargo

AVIXA’s vice president of market intelligence discusses the difficulty in measuring employee productivity and how AI can help overcome meeting overload and better connect remote attendees 

Alice Chambers |

Although working from home was not a new concept at the time of the pandemic, it was a new norm for many employees. “The pandemic was a very disruptive time for us all, being forced to immediately change from a largely in-office work experience to fully remote,” says Sean Wargo, vice president of market intelligence at the Audiovisual and Integrated Experience Association (AVIXA). “Employees were very productive when they first started working from home but as time passed, normalcy and distraction set in, and issues with the home setup began to arise.” 

Microsoft’s 2022 Work Trend Index found that 87 per cent of people were productive when working from home. The number of meetings for the average Microsoft Teams user had increased by 153 per cent from March 2020 to February 2022 and Microsoft suggested that this peak has become the new baseline.  

“Does an increase in meetings indicate that employees are more productive?” asks Wargo. “I’m not sure. Of course, we’re communicating more than we used to but that doesn’t necessarily mean we’re getting the work done. Businesses need to consider a new level to productivity gains now.” 

For Wargo, this comes from artificial intelligence. 

“Some days it’s hard to keep up with the number of meetings you’ve got in your calendar,” he says. “It can be impossible to digest all the information and, understandably, people end up misremembering tasks and deadlines. But AI-powered tools like Microsoft Copilot in Teams help them to manage their workload by summarising information. The ability to have something transcribe meetings helps employees to be more efficient.”

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Copilot in Teams outlines key discussion points and suggests action items in real time during meetings. If users join meetings late, they can use the feature to generate a summary of what they’ve missed and meeting participants can use it to ensure there are no unresolved issues from the meeting agenda.

AI is helping to better connect employees too.  

“Technology companies are integrating AI into products to isolate speakers in a meeting, filter background noise and control lighting levels,” says Wargo. “We saw great examples of this at the Integrated Systems Europe event, where there were demonstrations of meeting rooms with smart speakers and cameras, and multi-camera platforms. With these, AI plays the role of a production manager for a meeting, switching between pictures of attendees who speak to make meetings more engaging for those taking part.” 

Microsoft partners Crestron and Sony showcased their AI-powered framing cameras at ISE. Crestron’s 1 Beyond PTZ cameras are equipped with visual AI framing and tracking capabilities and Sony’s PTZ Auto Framing cameras use AI analytics to pan, tilt and zoom on speakers in a meeting. 

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The Crestron 1 Beyond PTZ camera tracks meeting participants with AI-powered framing (image credit: Crestron)

With these advanced technologies, companies are creating solutions that bridge the gap between differing remote work environments and paving the way towards achieving digital equity, by connecting teams more effectively and inclusively.

“Digital equity is about ensuring every employee is represented and able to equally contribute to a meeting,” says Wargo. “For example, there is an equity issue in that not everybody’s home environment provides a good wInterview, AI, Issue-32, AVIXA, Teams, Crestron, orking space. They may not be able to access the best broadband or might sit at their kitchen table. A truly equitable experience removes the socioeconomic differences that might occur from a forced remote environment. A similar thing happened with schools being unable to achieve equitable remote education. Some employees will have to go to the office to work at their best.” 

Wargo argues that collaboration technology like Teams and AI-powered tools will create a pull back to the office. “There will come a time where the office is the better place to do your work,” he says. “A home was not built to facilitate all the work that’s required of us. Offices are changing to the hybrid meeting needs of their employees, investing in the technology that creates their ideal office spaces.” 

This article was originally published in the Spring 2024 issue of Technology Record. To get future issues delivered directly to your inbox, sign up for a free subscription.   

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