January 6, 2023
5 min read
We've all been in that hybrid meeting that starts badly and ends even worse. While all participants are knowledgeable, polite and familiar with meeting etiquette, the problem is that half of them aren't in the room. Those conferencing in from home can't hear Sam at the other end of the conference table from the webcam. Moving the camera closer to her partially solves the problem — until she passes the floor to Jim sitting on the other side of the room. Now, the remote staff cannot see him at all and can barely hear his disembodied voice.
The rise in hybrid meetings creates two classes of meeting participants with different experiences. Local participants get clarity and understanding, while remote ones face audio-visual problems that make it difficult to keep track of what's going on. This dichotomy can make work feel exhausting, unproductive and, ultimately, demoralizing for the latter group.
As hybrid workforces become increasingly common, it's more important than ever for companies to invest in providing an equitable experience for employees wherever they are. Remote workers need welcoming spaces to communicate, contribute and share their ideas the same way that in-person workers do. While providing a balanced hybrid meeting environment is not without its challenges, technology can help create a productive work experience for all employees.
The rise of hybrid work
Hybrid work has become a way of life for many people in the wake of the global pandemic. Two years after companies were forced to support people working from home, the trend is here to stay. McKinsey's 2022 American Opportunities Survey found that 58% of the 25,000 Americans surveyed are allowed to work from home at least one day each week, and 35% do so full-time.
And employees want the option to work flexibly — 87% take it when offered. With the American economy facing one of the largest worker shortages ever, thanks to what commentators call the Great Resignation, employers had better take note of this statistic or risk missing out on top talent.
The pandemic forced people to reassess their lives, and many decided to adjust their work-life balance, either retiring entirely or quitting their jobs in search of a better option. McKinsey found the need for flexible working arrangements, including remote work, high on peoples' lists. It is a top three factor, with 21% citing it as motivation for seeking a new job.
However, companies must work harder to support employees working remotely. In a 2022 survey of 20,000 people across 11 countries, Microsoft found 68% of business decision makers were challenged by the shift to hybrid work. Half of the employees reported that their relationships outside their immediate work group have suffered, while 43% now feel disconnected from their company.
What can companies do to improve their employee experience?
Better communication is key, with 95% of employee respondents to the Microsoft survey citing communication skills as among the most critical for them in the next year. A prevailing need was for that communication to feel genuine and real.
Unfortunately, authentic communication is difficult in meetings where remote employees cannot hear or see well. Fortunately, there's a way to fix this problem. Better digital experiences are crucial, says Microsoft. The right technology solutions can help employees stay connected to each other and company culture.
Technology solutions for a hybrid workforce
There are a variety of technology solutions available that support a hybrid workforce. Two of the main classifications are audio solutions and video solutions.
A seamless, friction-free meeting process with high-quality audio and video will bring together remote employees with enhanced communication. It can bridge the gap between remote workers and those in the room, breaking down barriers and providing a more immersive experience for both parties.
Wireless microphones enhance meeting audio for hybrid workers by reproducing speaker voices with crystal clear clarity from anywhere in the room. For example, Panasonic's WX-ST700 Wireless Boundary Microphone is optimized to reproduce dialogue in high fidelity by concentrating on capturing the frequency of the human voice. This portable microphone can sit anywhere around the room, picking up employees' speech, whether they're at the whiteboard or pacing around the conference room. A simple capacitive touch button enables employees to temporarily mute themselves when the microphone is in always-on mode or activate the microphone when in push-to-talk mode, providing ultimate flexibility.
Panasonic also offers audio setups to ensure high-quality sound pickup from fixtures around the conference room. No two conference rooms are the same, and different teams might use similar rooms in different ways. Whether people are speaking from permanent conference table positions or temporary podiums, the WM-KG645 18” Gooseneck Microphone has you covered. The microphone picks up sound from directly in front of the speaker and relays it using the WX-ST600 Wireless Desktop Transmitter Base.
Getting power to these devices is no problem with the WX-SZ600 4-port Networked Desktop Charging Station. This device charges Panasonic's line of wireless microphone transmitters and features a network port for remote monitoring. It enables staff to check how many ports are in use and the battery charge level for each device, ensuring that they are ready for action.
Pan, tilt and zoom (PTZ) cameras form the heart of Panasonic's hybrid meeting experience. These cameras, which are certified for use with Zoom video conferencing, can provide a view from around the room and focus in on speakers. This ensures that remote participants can see who is speaking in the room every time.
Panasonic's software control center gives these cameras access to presets and automatic speaker tracking. Direct integration with the wireless microphone system via the AW-SF300 Preset Visual Software even enables the cameras to track speakers by their voices so that no important points are missed.
Benefits of the right AV solution
Investing in the right audio-visual equipment to support hybrid meetings collapses the barrier between remote and on-premises staff. Correctly applied, they deliver crisp, honed sound that captures every nuance of what speakers are saying and how they're saying it. Dynamic tracking video frees remote staff from disembodied voice syndrome, allowing them to see facial expressions and body language.
Each of these enhancements to meetings might seem small, but they stack up; every subtle improvement produces a whole that is more than the sum of its parts. The result? A hybrid meeting that runs so smoothly, remote staff may forget they're not in the room.
Delivering this quality of digital experience doesn't just lift morale; it delivers tangible economic and intellectual benefits. Every minute spent communicating effectively rather than asking people to repeat themselves represents far more than a minute saved. It avoids breaking the flow of conversation, keeping meetings on track and helping valuable narratives unfold.
Friction-free hybrid meetings also make teams more effective at communicating complex ideas. They become powerful venues for education, ensuring that everyone has access to the same depth of knowledge, wherever they are.