As the coronavirus quickly spread throughout the UK, businesses up and down the country, both big or small were left with no choice but to close their offices and to make the shift to remote working. Research from YouGov suggests that 32 percent of UK SMBs and enterprises struggled with the transition to remote working. So, what does the future of the workplace look like and what solutions are already available to help businesses cope?
- The ‘less paper’ office future (opens in new tab)
Rising to the challenge
Solution providers have jumped into action and we’ve seen the likes of Microsoft Teams, Skype for Business, Webex Teams, to Zoom, Blue Jeans and Slack all offering their services for free and providing support. As lockdown restrictions are eased and a level of normality is resumed, these providers not only have the capability of delivering reliable meeting experiences but they are also well placed to scale these solutions right across an organization.
These offerings have allowed organizations to test these platforms during lockdown in order to roll out full-feature packages post-pandemic. It has also given organizations the time to consider the scalability of the solutions that have been deployed. While these may have been fit for purpose during the pandemic, if they cannot be scaled effectively, the need to replace them could prove costly. The other challenge for organizations is making sure that these solutions can function across multiple platforms and integrate with traditional room-based video conferencing.
How to succeed with remote working
It doesn’t come as a surprise that without the correct technology and solutions in place, organizations and individuals will struggle to benefit from a more productive way of working. During the period of lockdown, laptops have become the go-to technology for rollout across the wider workforce, as this technology is quick and easy to setup and use on the go. Security for homeworkers is an essential consideration that businesses need to prioritize. The security of the laptops and computers used by remote workers must be maintained and checked to ensure they meet the security standards of the company.
Organizations need to ensure the best possible audio and video coverage for remote workers. If the microphone and camera are of poor quality, facilitating remote meetings is going to prove problematic. Where required, users should be provided with high quality USB webcams and headsets to guarantee that video and audio meetings can continue seamlessly without issues or unwanted interruptions.
Having the right collaboration platforms in place such as Microsoft Teams or Webex Teams enables colleagues to stay connected at all times with features such as instant messaging across multiple devices.
The workplace of the future
While organizations have been left with little choice but to embrace remote working, this trend is likely to continue growing as lockdown restrictions are eased and organizations consider returning to the workplace. The working habits of organizations and employees are changing, with many employees now taking advantage of the benefits that working from home brings. With this in mind, there is likely to be an increase in the number of remote workers joining meetings online, rather than being physically present. But for organizations looking to strike the right balance between home and office working, what technology can be put in place to ensure businesses can ensure protection for its employees?
Before the pandemic the sector was seeing a rise in wireless conferencing solutions. This adoption is likely to continue growing as organizations will be looking to implement solutions to enable users to walk into a meeting room and control the room’s technology, such as the camera, display and audio from their laptop. The sector may see a rise in the uptake of these solutions as they help limit unnecessary contact with room equipment.
- Planning the return to the office: What enterprises must consider for the future of the workspace (opens in new tab)
Tech to maintain social distancing
Building intelligence such as room booking and people counting solutions may become more prevalent as they offer some governance around occupancy and proximity. Collaboration platforms such as Microsoft Teams will enable users to take video calls at their desk if they cannot practice social distancing. In meeting spaces, wireless presentation and conferencing solutions will allow users to control the meeting room and share content from their laptops rather than needing to operate the room equipment.
There is likely to be an upswing in the adoption of desk booking systems, so that when a user books a single desk the other surrounding desks or space are automatically booked out too – helping to further ensure social distancing measures. This type of functionality allows staff to pre-plan visits to the office and be sure they have a safe environment to work for both employees and guests. There could be a decline in the usage of interactive screens and meeting room control panels in an effort to avoid unnecessary contact with screens.
Digital signage could be a key tool in educating the workforce as they return to the workplace. Displays can be positioned throughout the office to ensure employees can view instructions relevant to the area they work in and be kept up to date with important information such as social distancing and safety measures. Where interactive screens are present, clear instructions on cleaning protocol will need to be outlined by organizations, particularly in shared spaces where equipment will be used and occupied by multiple people throughout the day. There may also be a shift towards more automated meeting rooms without the need for control panels.
As organizations look to adapt to the challenges and current restrictions that are in place, they’ll need to have the correct technology in place to help employee stay productive. Now is a good time to test out these solutions and strike the right balance between remote working and returning to the office. Whether its unified communications, desk booking systems or digital signage, there are tools available to help make a smooth transition back into the workplace.
- Office of the future: Biophila, holograms and nanotech in 2030 (opens in new tab)
Steve Franklin, Executive Director, Cinos (opens in new tab)