It’s clear that the office environments we return to this year won’t be the ones we left in 2020. Over the past two years, many employees have come to appreciate the flexibility of working remotely. A survey conducted by the Pew Research Center in January 2022 found that 78 percent of people, most of whom are working from home, want to continue to do so after the pandemic. Joblist’s US Job Market Report: 2022 Trends revealed that 45 percent of people who currently work remotely, at least part of the time, would quit if their employer required full-time in-person work. Compare this to 2019, when, according to the New York Times, about four percent of employed people in the U.S. worked exclusively from home.
As a result, 98 percent of meetings include at least one remote participant and most include even more. So, it’s no longer enough to have on-site rooms optimized to allow in-person participants to communicate comfortably. Instead, all the spaces people work, in the office and remotely, must be optimized for seamless collaboration and effective communication.
As you plan your company’s return-to-office strategy this year, it’s important to understand how your people work, where they work, and which technologies empower them to communicate and collaborate most effectively.
Each of your employees has specific technology needs to excel in their role, whether they’re at home or in the office. IT decision-makers must take these preferences into consideration and strategize ways to provide the necessary tools. Are employees in the office 99 percent of the time and prefer traditional communication devices and technology? Do they spend most of their time on the road and depend on mobile devices to get things done? Are they working from a remote office and need technology that allows them to participate virtually, but look and sound as good as if they were in a room with colleagues? These are just some of the many considerations.
Whether you have tens of employees or thousands, figuring out how they work and how you can best support each workstyle can feel daunting. But it doesn’t have to. Poly research shows that 92 percent of employees fit into six consistent workstyle categories. While everyone is still an individual, with different wants, comfort factors, and situational needs that can affect device choice, understanding the details of these six categories will be foundational to your return-to-office strategy.
Today’s employees work from a wide variety of spaces, including at their desks in the office, at home, in a customer’s office, at the airport, in shared or co-working spaces, in-office huddle spaces, and in conference rooms. And it’s up to the IT team to enable every employee, wherever they work, to communicate and collaborate effectively.
The secret to conquering this challenge is understanding that all these places can be broken into two categories: personal spaces and group spaces. By taking geography out of the equation, you can see how an employee desk in the office and a desk at home may be alike since both are individual spaces. It can also expand your viewpoint on meeting rooms as group gathering places for all your hybrid workers, who must be able to participate both virtually and in person.
Your technology choices need to ensure the same level of professionalism for all employees. In the pre-2020 office, employees in the building typically had professional communications devices, while those at home and on the road used the camera in their laptop with the same consumer headphones they used to listen to music. Now, you need to enable professional-grade collaboration for everyone from everywhere.
This means taking advantage of features like high definition (HD) audio and video, features like speaker framing, seamless content sharing between devices, and digital whiteboarding. It also means ensuring that no matter where the technology is being used, it’s easy for everyone to utilize. Before the pandemic, Sapio Research found that about 15 percent of the time spent in meetings is wasted time, largely due to inefficient meeting room equipment. And that won’t meet your organization’s need for productive collaboration in its new hybrid environment.