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After a year of disruption and adaptation, companies are rethinking their culture, spaces and technology stacks. Returning to the office would have featured a traditional response – if working from home had only lasted a few weeks.
Instead, we’re well past the year mark of remote and hybrid work, and employees have different ideas about what makes sense for the future of work. While they’ve come to appreciate the flexibility and autonomy of remote work, they also crave in-person interaction and workspace collaboration.
As a result, there are lots of questions surrounding how we’ll collectively define workspaces post-COVID.
So, how will the state of work move forward? What are employees’ new expectations? How can you ensure that your workspace has the right AV estate and technology to support teams moving forward?
Throughout the pandemic, organizations have surveyed and researched what a return to the office will look like. These sentiments and plans reveal that the world of work won't revert to pre-COVID “normal.”
Companies realize that flexibility of when and where staff work is now vital to those team members. According to a survey from SHRM (the Society for Human Resource Management), 26% of organizations will allow workers who did not previously work from home to do so permanently.
This shift runs parallel with a survey by Live Career, which found that 29% of workers would quit their current job if they could not continue working remotely.
Phasing and Hybrid Models Likely
However, that doesn’t mean that everyone’s going to work remotely all the time. There are likely to be phased-in returns or lasting hybrid models.
That’s requiring companies to rethink their offices. In the SHRM study, businesses noted that they are implementing changes to the workplace to ensure social distancing, including both physical spacing and technology solutions.
The research found that 77% are considering contactless procedures, while 68% are adding touchless fixtures.
Employee Expectations on Returning to the Workplace
According to a report by Envoy, many team members have lingering concerns about their health, with 66% worried about the safety of returning. The report also identified that employees want a hybrid model, with 48% saying they want to work in the office and at home.
In deciding when to come into the office, respondents said they’d like it to depend on what they need to do and who else will be in the workplace that day.
All this data points to the conclusion that employees want to return to the office – but with caveats. When they are in the office, they expect to meet with their teams or do other high-value work they can’t accomplish at home.
Thus, companies moving forward with reopening or adjusting their spaces need to reimagine them to support safety, collaboration and interaction.
It’s about more than just facilitating meetings, as most people are in a state of meeting fatigue. Side conversations or working directly one-on-one will resume, but employees need specific spaces, like huddle rooms, to meet these new expectations.
To execute such a return to the office, you'll want to examine your AV estate and determine if it’s ready to meet the new purpose and vision of your office.
Is Your Office’s AV Suite Ready to Meet New Work Models and Support Employees?
In assessing your AV estate and determining potential changes or upgrades, there are two areas to consider.
First is the purely technical side. Consider if you have the right systems in place to accommodate employee return and the bandwidth they’ll require. The design you had before, which may have less-than-optimal to begin with, may need an upgrade or need new integrations.
Additionally, in reopening, your AV estate’s health will depend on if you’ve regularly maintained it. If you don’t have a dedicated, on-site team for this, it’s hard to be confident in the reliability and readiness of your AV resources.
The equipment requires upkeep, and maintenance standards should be following best practices. Further, you’ll want to ensure you have proactive monitoring of the system to identify and resolve issues before end users experience them.
Support and managed services providers can be of service here. Outsourcing this element of your AV suite takes this heavy lift off your internal team’s plate, which allows them to do more important work and not have to be on-site if that’s still a challenge.
Second is the ergonomic perspective and reevaluating if your spaces, which seemed adept for your people pre-COVID, are suitable post-COVID.
Based on the data about employee expectations and concerns, you can see that many elements in the workplace likely need a redesign to balance collaboration and safety.
How you go about that will depend on your plan to reopen and why people will come to the office if they have an option to stay home. As noted, interactivity and social aspects are driving employees to return to the office. So, where do you need to focus when making AV changes?
Collaboration and Meeting Spaces
Collaboration and meeting spaces will be primary places where you’ll want to assess your AV estate and see what changes you need to make.
For example, you may want to go completely touchless. Another possibility is rearranging the layout to align with social distancing, and this could require additional screens or other equipment so that everyone’s not so crowded.
Seating in your office could already be tight. For those companies using a hybrid model, you could try hotdesking, but space things out more with an open layout.
This central hub of desks could also connect with screens or other technology pieces that enable employees to work together effectively.
New Ways to Communicate
You should also consider using digital screens and technology throughout your corporate office as a means of communication.
This approach provides many positives. It enables you to speak to employees about current policies, who will be in the office that day, company announcements and more.
Staying connected and keeping your teams in the know will go a long way in supporting this transition back to the office.
Ensure Your AV Suite Is Ready for a Return to the Office with an Expert Integrator
In reviewing these examples and ideas, you can see that returning to the office isn’t as easy as switching the lights back on.
The workforce has changed forever, and spaces need to adapt to meet those changing expectations and needs. An experienced technology solutions partner can help you determine the best approach for your organization and balance budget, safety and collaboration potential as the landscape of working together continues to shift.
Electrosonic offers a suite of support and managed services options, including the Workspace Support Services (Affinity), Workspace Management Services (Panorama), and Workspace Collaboration Services (Vista).
You can also download our whitepaper on how these managed services improve TCO (total cost of ownership) and ROI (return on investment) or contact us today to see how we can help you ensure your AV estate is prepared for the future of work.
Morgan Rottinghaus, Vice President, Strategic Partners at Electrosonic, recognizes the critical role that partners play in delivering added value to clients. She writes about the importance of connecting complementary value-added services through partnerships as a way of accelerating innovation and maximizing the benefits of technology investments.