No matter how soon it's safe to go back to the office, remote work will remain a lasting part of most employees' schedules. What was once an unconventional perk offered by startups and Silicon Valley tech companies has evolved into the norm for companies across industries.
With the pandemic forcing organizations to pivot their operations quickly (practically overnight, by business standards), remote work has become the method of survival for most companies. This has driven an equally fast increase in demand for technology to support communication and collaboration from anywhere.
Even with recent progress in vaccination rollout plans, bringing the possibility of going back to the office on the horizon, it’s likely that remote work is here to stay for the foreseeable future.
Research suggests that the status quo will ultimately move toward a balance between remote and in-office work, even post-pandemic. While workers are keen to return to the office in some capacity (less than 12% want to work from home full-time), the majority of employees expect to still work remotely some of the time. A recent study from PWC indicates that 55% of employees want to continue working from home at least 3 days per week.
As employers begin planning for a safe and gradual return to the office, they face a new challenge: how to support a hybrid workforce, in which some staff members are working at an office while others work from home.
To make a long-term hybrid work scenario feasible, organizations must invest in technology that fosters communication and collaboration between team members in any environment. The same PWC study showed that this is a key focus for a majority of companies, with over 60% of executives saying they expect to invest more in virtual collaboration tools and spaces that support hybrid working models.
Here are some of the conferencing and presentation considerations for corporate leaders to think about as they strategize to support their workers at home and in the office.
Reimagine hybrid conference rooms
The conference room will remain an important site for brainstorming, decision making, and company communications — the difference moving forward is that rarely will all team members be present in the room.
Companies will need to reimagine conference room design to fit hybrid working needs. This means implementing professional audio and video tools that enable participants to connect more equally both in the room and from afar.
Consider the nature of platforms and devices you will need to support. Will employees be able to use their own laptops and choice of conferencing software during meetings, as in a Bring Your Own Meeting (BYOM) model? In this case, you’ll need to ensure the in-room equipment supports various conferencing and presentation software products. Advanced display technology like Panasonic's EQ1 Displays can offer great ease of use and intuitive collaboration, with options to switch effortlessly between display and whiteboard modes. Solutions like Panasonic’s 4K professional displays, which have been used across college campuses and corporate settings, make it easy to share important information across locations. Many modern display solutions are compatible with popular systems like Cisco Webex Room Kits to provide integrated collaborative environments for professional teams.
Modern conferencing solutions need to combine the A/V features for remote communication as well as in-room communication.
Empower smooth collaboration from near and far
Printing out reports or projecting a slide deck solely to the conference room screen is no longer sufficient when half of the team is calling in from home.
It’s crucial to invest in technology that ensures all team members can access content, follow along with a presentation, and collaborate on projects with their team members in and out of the office. Consider solutions like the PressIT Wireless Presentation System, which eliminates messy cables and streamlines content sharing. This makes it easy for employees to connect their device to the conference room display equipment. At the press of a button, employees can instantly share their presentations, slide decks, or other content with all participants.
It’s equally important to ensure your video and audio equipment has adequate recording capabilities. The ability to save and share out recordings of important calls and meetings will become essential in the hybrid working model.
Collaborative presentation solutions will become essential tools to keep everyone in the loop, whether or not they’re in the room.
Ensure remote staff are included in the office
For hybrid conferencing and collaboration, quality video equipment is crucial and it must function well in both directions.
To ensure remote team members are engaged in discussions and work sessions, they need to be able to clearly see and hear their teammates in the office. Invest in quality camera and audio equipment to ensure remote employees feel connected to their team members sitting in the conference room, and don’t miss a beat during discussions. Without adequate equipment, it may be difficult for remote employees to identify who is speaking during a group call, or follow along with a presentation. Poor video quality will make the difference between missing or gaining important details during reports, training sessions, and presentations.
Employees at home need to not only be able to see and hear, but also to be seen and heard clearly. It’s equally important to ensure that your in-office staff feels connected to their remote teammates. When you’re sitting face-to-face in a meeting space, it’s all too easy to forget about the people on the other side of a phone or video call — particularly if their video isn’t prominently displayed or audio isn’t crystal clear. If a remote employee has technical difficulties, it may take a while before the office team notices the silence on the other end of the call. By then, they’ve missed important parts of the conversation.
This makes it crucial for employers to invest in quality display screens and visualization solutions that help everyone to feel included in the conversation and on the same page, even if they aren’t at the same table.
Hybrid operations are here for the long-term
While the combination of vaccines and safety measures can allow workers the freedom to return to the office, the expectation for employers to support — and enable — remote work isn’t going anywhere. Both employees and companies have seen firsthand that working from home is realistic and effective.
The hybrid working model promises to be the next norm for the corporate landscape, and it’s likely to stick around for the long-term. Now is the time for employers to prepare their infrastructure and tech stack to be able to support hybrid work teams. Consider the high-quality audio, video, and collaboration tools needed that help to engage employees in-person and remotely.
The future of work requires investing in technology solutions that support your workforce from any environment, whether they’re at home, in the office, or (most likely) balancing between both throughout the week.