The COVID-19 pandemic caused an unprecedented digital wave in the video conference, collaboration tools, and technology adoption. This has led businesses to lean on IT more than ever. Now, corporate offices are asking IT to step up once again with cases declining and companies planning for a return to in-person work.
Video conference is the new normal that we have leveraged the past 12 months working from home. According to Owl Labs, During COVID-19, 94% of respondents used video conferencing the same or more than they had been and 60% of respondents used video more or much more. We have learned to work in the new hybrid workplace model whether we like it or not.
We all have become more tech-savvy having to fend for ourselves and joining collaboration platforms from laptops, tablets, or even your kid’s home computer. Overall, we have figured out how to work remotely and leverage technology to stay connected and productive. Now we all want to get back to the office to see our team members, bond with co-workers and have an environment free of children and pets.
There is one major issue, are your office spaces outfitted with the collaboration tools you have been using from home in every meeting space?
According to Microsoft, only 15% of corporate meeting spaces are fully enabled with video conferencing and collaboration tools today. If this is your corporate office’s current state, they will not be prepared to handle the way we have been working the last 12 months in each meeting space.
Here is a very common scenario: Many companies have limited dedicated conference rooms for video and collaboration meetings. Even if you have AV systems in most meeting spaces, they are typically cumbersome to use, not outfitted to support multi-platform video collaboration and you need to call IT to “set up the room.”
With most folks likely not working in an office five days a week anymore, most meetings will be with workers in and out of the office. Are we going to commute to an office where the video conference rooms are scare, or we are running up and down the hallways until we find a huddle room that has a screen and video camera to hold the meeting?
Sorry, but if I can do video and collaborate over documents from my bedroom without having to spend money to travel to an office that has limited tools, I am not going. So how can companies expect entire teams too? We as a collective workforce have proved we can work on collaboration platforms without being in a physical office.
If your company is one of those that only have video collaboration tools in 15% of the space, what can you do? Here are our top six tips to ensure your company is ready to support its employees’ digital experience as they return to the office.
- Do an inventory of all meeting spaces. Figure out what tech is in each space. Ask yourself, how many only have a speakerphone or no phone at all? How many have a screen where you can share content wired/wirelessly? How many can support a video meeting on any platform (not just Zoom)? How many have video cameras so everyone in the room will be seen by the remote participants?
- Figure out what rooms need the technology upgraded. Reach out to an IT consultant and have them recommend solutions for each space. Prepare a budget.
- Look at OpEx versus CapEx models for upgrading. Maybe your firm cannot afford to put out all the cash to upgrade the tech in all meeting spaces. Look into AVaaS partners where you can get the equipment at a monthly fee. Think of it as outsourcing the equipment so you have your office ready when the employees come back and are ready to collaborate in person and with remote workers efficiently.
- Automate and optimize your collaboration spaces. Meeting spaces outfitted with all the tech goodies to collaborate might be limited, so investigate room scheduling and booking platforms. Rolling out these platforms will allow your employees the ability to book the space and IT assets before they come to the office or on the fly. You should be able to pull up an app on your smartphone, enter in tech tools needed for the meeting such as video, audio, wireless content sharing, digital whiteboard, etc. and it will tell you what rooms are equipped with these systems, when they are free and allow you to book the meeting space based on the technology needed. This will also discourage employees from booking meeting spaces with all the tech tools when they only need a huddle room for a one-on-one meeting.
- Prepare for adoption and change communication. We should not need to call IT to make the tech tools work in meeting spaces. We figured out how to use collaboration platforms ourselves from home, so we don’t need to waste time coming into an office for a meeting that starts 15 minutes late because no one knows how to use the tech in the room. Create change communication programs, create guides for end-user adoption and make sure the end-user experience is super easy when they return.
- Promote the benefits of coming back and collaborating in the office. Let employees know all the health and safety measures your office has done to make them feel comfortable. Educate them on the technology collaboration tools throughout the office, so they won’t be sitting in a cube with their laptop on Microsoft Teams calls because none of the meeting spaces have the tech, not available or they don’t know how to use a room system. An “in-room” system experience is 100% different from launching a meeting from your laptop from home.
The way things were before the pandemic is no longer acceptable since we all have become comfortable using video and collaboration tools from home. How we work today and how we will work back in the office has fundamentally changed. Being in the office and not having a meeting space that will accommodate remote participants to fully collaborate is no longer acceptable. 87% of all communication is nonverbal, so let’s please not go backward to pre-pandemic traditions of huddling around a single phone or laptop.
The world has changed. If your corporate office does not provide meeting spaces you can book on the fly, have video and audio equipment in them for remote users to join, or provide spaces you can pull up on an app and book by the technology you require for the meeting, walk out, and go home. Pop open your laptop, log in to Microsoft Teams and collaborate over content, video, and audio like you have been doing for the last 12 months.
I, for one, can’t wait to be back in the office. I just hope we all embrace the hybrid workplace model so my clients and colleagues can join regardless of if they are in the office or not. I won’t miss the days of sitting in a huddle room cramped around a speakerphone trying to follow along.