Hybrid work is no longer new, but it’s still the working model of choice for a large number of employees and organizations. In fact, recent research shows that a full 52% of U.S.-based employees with jobs that can be done remotely are now following a hybrid work strategy.
Adopting a hybrid workplace model can bring many benefits for employees and employers alike. Because many professionals prefer hybrid work, companies that offer it may have an advantage in attracting and retaining top talent. They may experience lower turnover rates, greater employee engagement, and more cohesive organizational cultures.
But all of this depends on getting hybrid work right. Organizations will need to create effective hybrid workplace policies, redesign office spaces to better support on-site collaboration, and implement technologies that enable remote productivity. Chief among these is a high-performing videoconferencing solution that can give in-office and remote workers an equal presence in hybrid meetings.
Microsoft Teams Rooms fit the bill perfectly, so it’s no surprise that their popularity has skyrocketed since 2020. Microsoft Teams Rooms are purpose-built audio and video conferencing solutions designed to deliver a native Microsoft Teams experience within an on-site meeting room. Intended to bridge the gap between people working remotely and those in the office, Teams Rooms incorporate HD video, audio, and content sharing, and they can include nearly any number of participants, from a small huddle room to an “all-hands” meeting.
The technology in use in Microsoft Teams Rooms has a long history. First brought to market as Microsoft Lync, then replaced by Microsoft Skype rooms, Microsoft has been certifying devices for use in on-site meetings for a decade or more.
For as long as Microsoft technology-based meeting rooms have been around, third-party vendors have been manufacturing devices (according to Microsoft specifications) for use in these conference room systems. Each equipment manufacturer did things a bit differently, though. For example, some allowed for third-party device integration, and some didn’t. This lack of standardization meant that things didn’t always work perfectly.
With the advent of Microsoft Teams, Microsoft decided to introduce more standardization into their meeting room systems. When Teams was first introduced, each Teams Room system ran on a Microsoft Windows PC, and Microsoft controlled that machine’s image, making sure that all of them were exactly the same. This reduced the number of issues and glitches that end users experienced, ensuring more consistent performance of Teams room devices.
However, it also meant that every Microsoft Teams meeting room had to be running a Windows PC. This inherently increases cost and management complexity, and adds additional vectors for PC-based malware or viruses.
Microsoft began supporting Android-based Teams room devices a few years ago, but we didn’t initially recommend that our clients install Android Teams rooms, even though the devices were less expensive. At first, the feature set that was available on Android was much smaller, and the user experience wasn’t very smooth.
All of that has changed, however. Today, the features available for Microsoft Teams rooms on Android are nearly the same as those available for Windows-based Teams room systems. The devices typically have a lower price tag than a comparable Microsoft Teams Room on Windows, and because the Android operating system is lightweight, installing updates is a breeze—much faster than the process is on a Windows device.
Newer meeting device options, like the Neat Bar and the Neat Bar Pro, offer superior-quality audio and video, attractive designs, and highly a capable remote management platform. In the past, only Windows-based systems could be fully managed from afar by an IT service provider or the organization’s own central technology department. But Neat’s management platform enables remote teams to effectively control and troubleshoot Teams room devices in the field. This way, an offsite administrator can understand the root cause of issues, reboot systems if needed, or simply monitor performance.
Neat’s technology supports meeting equity, a key concept for modern videoconferencing, which strives to foster inclusive and interactive meeting experiences for all participants, regardless of where they’re located. The Neat camera can automatically select individual meeting participants, giving each their own frame, so that they all have equal roles in the meeting—and equal voices in the conversation. The Neat camera also allows users to set a physical distance range, so that people outside of offices with glass walls won’t accidentally get recorded for the meeting. Even though Microsoft controls the look and feel of the Teams meeting room software, Neat devices are flexible and configurable.
A common misconception is that Android-based Teams meeting devices might be insecure because Android is an open ecosystem, with availability of many malicious or questionable “apps”. In fact, this isn’t the case. Android is used solely as the basic operating system, upon which the only software that can be run is the Neat device image. This makes Neat devices at least as secure as Microsoft Teams Rooms on Windows.
Neat meeting room devices can also easily join Webex or Zoom meetings, making it easy for organizations that can’t always control the meeting platform that will be used.
We’re proud to partner with Neat to bring these highly-capable, easy-to-use Microsoft Teams Room solutions to our clients. It’s a relatively new company, but Neat boasts an impressively deep bench when it comes to engineering expertise. From cost to available features, there’s much to love about the Neat Bar, Neat Bar Pro, and Neat Center, featuring smart camera technology that frames meeting participants face-on, to ensure that all participants can clearly see and hear one another (coming in Fall of 2023).
Netrix is uniquely qualified to install Microsoft Teams rooms because our collaboration team brings years of audio-visual expertise, as well as industry-leading knowledge of IT, networking, and the Microsoft ecosystem. This gives us unrivaled depth in both key areas essential for the success of a Teams room—the cameras, microphones, and other audio-visual components, and the computing and networking technologies that connect and power them on the back end.
Want to learn more about how we can help you support your hybrid workforce? Reach out to a member of our expert team to hear how we’re helping our clients collaborate, be productive, and take advantage of technology’s full potential.