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Finding a New Balance in Today’s Hybrid Workplace
Heather Fudger /

Finding a New Balance in Today’s Hybrid Workplace

In this new world of work, organizations have had to make many adjustments to the way people work.  We have gone from an office full of people prior to the pandemic, to people working primarily from their homes in the midst of the pandemic, and now in the new normal, back to an environment where some people are physically in their offices, while others are working remotely.  Today’s workplace is also tomorrow’s workplace – a hybrid balance of working in the office and remotely.

According to a recent survey on hybrid work environments conducted by Sharp Strategic Alliance Resource (STAR) member, Barco, many workers are more than ready to go back to the office.  Driving forces are face-to-face collaboration and social interactions with coworkers.  Although working from home has its benefits as well, with everyone isolating for months at a time, employees are clamoring to connect again with coworkers and customers. In fact, the average employee would prefer a balance of working in the office three days a week and remotely two days a week. 

Additionally, the survey showed that while in the office, most workers preferred planned, structured meetings and collaboration, while doing their “heads-down” work at home, where there may be fewer interruptions. A hybrid meeting is a meeting where face-to-face attendees connect virtually with remote attendees in a way that all participants feel equally engaged.  To achieve this goal, the right technology must be put into place.  The Barco survey, carried out in September 2020, delves into what workers require to be productive in a hybrid work environment. The insights in the report are based on the findings of an international study of 1,750 white collar workers from seven countries:  The UK, US, Australia, India, France, Germany and the United Arab Emirates, and included a mix of all generations from Gen Z to Baby Boomers.

To gain a better understanding of what constitutes a productive work environment, we asked David Fitzgerald, VP, Global Alliances from Barco several questions about the survey results:

Sharp: Please explain the genesis for the study and why Barco decided to do it?

David: Barco has a long history of conducting research to uncover trends, preferences, expectations and challenges seen by current and potential customers to ensure we can understand what is needed to provide great experiences. The transformation we have encountered since March this year caused us to once again spend the resources to get timely data and deep insight into what people will experience in this new environment of hybrid working. The results were surprising. Employees clearly want to come back to work but also want to leverage the new freedom of working from home for heads down work more frequently.

Sharp: What to you was the most eye-opening result(s) of the study?

David: For us, the most telling result was the number of respondents that said they want to drive the conference call in the meeting room from their own laptop.  We believe this is caused by the familiarity most have with various platforms right from their own device where they know which licenses they have, where their data lives and where there is some clarity on the security and sanitary benefits of their own device.

Right after that is that 58 percent of respondents said the office meeting room did not support the technology and platform that they wanted to use for the meeting. Workers want to run meetings from their own PC and operate within the video conferencing platform of their choice.
 

Sharp: Do you feel that the reason there are more meetings now than last year is because of COVID-19? 

David:  With the loss of casual and impromptu interaction in the office and the limited time workers have as they transition back to a hybrid workplace, more meetings are set so they can leverage the opportunity for face-to-face collaboration while at the same time include external participants. In order to include the growing number of remote participants, formal meeting times and set agendas are trending up to keep everyone connected and productive.

 

Sharp: Do you feel meetings are less productive because they are more “check-in” based rather than task based? Meaning with many employees working remotely, managers are having daily “check-in” meetings rather than weekly or bi-weekly robust working meetings.

David: There may be a short-term trend of managers trying to ensure that employees are “working,” but the consensus so far is that employees are maintaining their productivity and may be working more than before because they have captured back some unproductive time such as commuting and preparing to go into an office every day

We see that managers will come around on that point but may continue engaging often to confirm the well-being of employees that might feel distant or ostracized.  Keeping employees engaged and feeling good is imperative to keeping a corporate culture and to ensuring employee retention.

 

Sharp: The findings in the study seem to reveal that employees prefer hybrid meetings but expect to see virtual reality tools to enable remote participants to appear “in person” in a meeting room.  Is it feasible to think that virtual reality is in the near future when it comes to corporate meetings? 

David: We see some move to this of course with the augmented reality (AR) type features we see in some of the major platforms for backgrounds and techniques to put participant heads into a common background like an auditorium, classroom or at a dais. This puts the participants more into the context of the meeting type or purpose.  In a recent Zoom conference, the keynote speaker referenced that full virtual reality (VR) integration in the conferencing platforms is not far away.
 

Sharp: Do you think that other parts of the world would be more adaptable to this technology than the U.S.?

David: The U.S. tends to lead on the video portion of the conference, but the trend globally will be to have more video conferencing and the pressure to turn on your video will increase. The reduction in global travel is driving more meetings with global participants.
 

Sharp: Based on the findings, do you think satellite offices will become a thing of the past and have those employees work out of their homes, with corporations keeping just the main headquarters?

David: Companies are considering a more dispersed workforce to limit exposure to any hotspot or micro event that may occur in a large HQ building or campus.  As people start spreading out from the cities, now that they are not required to be there every day, there will be more of a need to meet in local offices where available.

This may revive some of the co-working spaces to provide that distributed collaboration environment needed for meeting and collaborating.  There will also be a place for workers who may need a local space away from home at times to do focused work without work from home distractions.

Those co-working locations will need technology that allows members to bring their own laptops and support all the major video conferencing platforms so members can join hybrid meetings with others in the space or as a remote participant in this hybrid way.

The Windows collaboration display from Sharp allows workers to connect their devices to a large screen in a conference room and connect to remote co-workers for more efficient collaboration in the office.

Learn more about Barco >>

Download the study >>

 

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