When offices shuttered across the country at the onset of the pandemic, there was little time for businesses to plan for the new way of working. Many quickly adopted new technologies and employees built their home office spaces. Now, the future of work is being reimagined. Commercial real estate is in flux, and businesses are deciding between a return to the office, a hybrid approach, or full-on remote work.
Video conferencing and virtual meetings are at an all-time high. With billions of meeting minutes in Microsoft teams and a jump in Zoom users into the hundreds of millions in just a few weeks, these services are increasing in use each day. But cobbled two-screen displays, laptop cameras, earbuds, etc. aren’t enough to mend long-term office displacement. In office conference rooms, old displays without connectivity and wireless features won’t work for the collaboration needed today. Both the office and new home office spaces need to be equipped with technology that supports the work-from-anywhere movement.
The office can be adapted with a pairing of unified communications and automation technologies. In the past, many Fortune 500 companies sought such state-of-the-art technology for their headquarters, facilities, and meeting spaces, which can be used as a model for the remodels and upgrades that most businesses are making. As video conferencing has become essential, offices are planning more upgrades than before. In a corporate customer survey, more than fifty percent of respondents indicated the intention to add more video conferencing capability over the next few years, doubling pre-pandemic plans.
Companies with an existing technology system will have a leg up on transforming for the work-from-anywhere movement. Fishtech Group is one example. The data-driven cybersecurity company enables secure business transformations for its clients, and regularly uses video conferencing. For a consistent, secure experience in its two offices and two Cyber Defense Centers, all buildings were equipped with a Crestron system featuring native Zoom calling, remote cloud management, and room scheduling. Now, as the team prepares to return to the office, the system is being updated. Native integration with the company’s calendaring system allows employees to book rooms right from their desk to prevent additional contact and too many occupants from gathering in one room, and Zoom is easy to launch wirelessly from any employee’s mobile device. Indicator lights outside conference rooms were be added to provide an at-a-glance view of room occupancy; the data can also be reviewed by human resources or IT staff. Cloud management solutions are more critical now to limit in-person contact. The Fishtech team uses the Crestron cloud management system, XiO Cloud, so its technical team can manage the display and communications technology remotely, which streamlines configuration, troubleshooting, and updating with less in-person contact.
These experiences are now attainable for any company, startup, or small business. To create a hybrid office, former huddle rooms and larger meeting spaces can be easily upgraded with mobile UC technologies or existing displays can be retrofitted with solutions that enhance the audio and video quality for collaboration with remote employees, clients, and partners. Providing native integration with popular services like Zoom and Microsoft Teams is important, both to support starting meetings quickly and to provide an experience that most employees are accustomed to for any office transition to limit friction between in-office or remote workforces. The laptop cameras and computer speakers of the home office can be upgraded as well. Mobile UC technologies, desktop devices, and new home conferencing solutions can enhance the call quality in an executive’s home office, and the same indicator light used in the office can be used to alert family members when a meeting in progress.
The pandemic has created an opportunity for businesses to improve their technology and communications. Making the right technology choices is critical for businesses to remain productive and successfully handle the uncertain future of work, whether in office or at home.
Andrew Gross is the director of UC Enterprise at Crestron Electronics. Andrew leads a global sales team of UC Enterprise account managers and technical directors to support and sell the Flex product line. His team co-sells alongside Microsoft and Zoom professionals as he directs sales operations and corporate initiatives within the company to properly position the Crestron Flex product line.