For many businesses, 2020 has been a year of firsts. The ongoing pandemic has accelerated and necessitated that most employees work remotely – with virtual communication becoming critical to facilitating the day-to-day operations of businesses. Prior to the pandemic, at EPOS we found that employees lost an average of 29 minutes per week due to poor sound quality, interruptive background noise, and signal issues on voice and video calls. Now in 2020, with more and more of our collaboration online, the challenge of poor audio is not just a minor frustration, but a heightened obstruction to productivity.
New research conducted by EPOS has found that audio quality is now a non-negotiable for global businesses, for many it is widely recognized as key to maintaining client, employee, and partner communication. Decision makers are harnessing collaboration tools to save time and company spend, with 45 percent citing time savings and 41 percent naming cost savings as two of the most important reasons for using video meetings or calls over face-to-face. We also see this reflected in the current and future levels of projected investment, over the next two years almost all business leaders (95 percent) will be continuing to invest in new audio equipment for individual use.
Prioritizing employee needs
Research from Gartner suggests that post-pandemic 41 percent of remote workers are likely to continue working from home. As such, with hybrid and remote working styles set to become commonplace, ensuring that employees have a positive experience while remote working is key to efficient operations and business continuity.
Integral to this is having the right collaboration tools. When we think of collaboration tools, you might first think of Microsoft Teams or Zoom. But at the core of all these functions is, of course, the audio experience. In fact, our own research has found that 83 percent of global decision makers think that audio equipment has become more important over the last two years.
Furthermore, it found that 64 percent of respondents believe having quality audio technology today is more important than having a high-quality laptop or PC to enable communication with clients and partners. It is ultimately linked to business performance. However, despite the clear indication that businesses recognize the need for good audio - 20 percent of organizations have decreased spending in audio equipment over the last two years, which has been rationalized by the expectation that staff will either bring their own devices or use their devices in-built audio.
While this might seem functional, it leaves employees at risk of a myriad of audio issues including background noise, interference, and poor quality. All of which can impact bottom line. For organizations to tackle bad audio, it falls on business leaders, to better equip their workforce with the solutions they need to work effectively. The risk and reward of modern business are far too high to gamble with a simple plug and play experience; no two individuals let alone two job roles are the same, so why should their audio solution be?
Enhancing the workplace with quality audio
Our research has indicated that a superior remote working experience is becoming a true business differentiator, helping to realize employee potential while also improving productivity and confidence. With 56 percent of decision makers saying it has become much more important to maintain and establish connectivity with clients and teams, effective call quality is the first port of call to lead to better customer service, more connected colleagues as well as maintaining customer retention.
56 percent of business leaders and decision makers say that high quality audio equipment is essential to their business. So much so that, 78 percent of global decision makers are willing to pay extra for it. When choosing their audio solutions, business leaders need to map out how they want to work as an organization, and they need to think about the collaboration tools that will promote synergy in their teams allowing them to achieve greater results.
While some companies are yet to fully realize the benefits of effective collaboration and quality audio in day-to-day working life, EPOS has found that larger organizations are a step ahead. The more employees an organization has, the more frequently money will be spent on new audio equipment. These organizations purposefully allocate budget spend on collaboration tools, with 79 percent saying that audio is important to their success and performance.
Start future proofing now
In times of business uncertainty, it is tempting to choose the easier path e.g. investing in cheaper collaboration tools. Yet it is important to remember that this can create a false sense of security. By opting for high quality solutions that are digitally advanced – using features such as active noise cancellation or artificial intelligence for enhanced voice pick up – businesses can save money in the long run. Providing employees with the tools they need to be productive is particularly important in a time where the workforce is disjointed.
Beyond the pandemic, businesses must also look to how to secure the next generation of talent. This will become increasingly prevalent as Generation Z enters the workforce – be that remote or otherwise. Already, Generation Z’s representation in the global workforce is set to pass 1 billion by 2030, and yet only 29 percent of our respondents cite younger employees needs as a key factor in the increasing importance of audio. To thrive in the future, businesses today need to begin to understand this growing workforce demographic’s motivations, values, and ways of working. Organizations that meet these head on and offer flexible experiences coupled with well-connected, high quality technology solutions will find themselves positioned to not only attract but retain top talent.
Looking to the new year – it is clear that the future of the workplace is hybrid with a combination of virtual and face-to-face experiences. With work being carried out across multiple locations, underpinning it all must be a seamless employee experience. Our research shows that already businesses leaders are beginning to recognize the need for quality experience, and a commitment to investment in audio to match, with 95 percent of decision makers planning to invest over the next few years. Each individual audio experience will be critical to communication and collaboration. To enable this and to help employees unleash their potential, enjoy the workplace environment, and ultimately perform - effective and progressive audio solutions are key.
Jeppe Dalberg-Larsen, President, EPOS