Back in March of the year 2020, we were all plunged into the ‘working from home’ world due to the Coronavirus (…don’t worry this isn’t another ‘working from home’ blog!). Fast forward just over a year and we are now on the cusp of beginning that transition back into the office.
The return to the office will be varied for most people, be that a hybrid or full-time option. Further adding to the considerations of returning to office life, this week the COVID-19 guidance changed in England. It is now no longer government guidance to “work from home if you can” in England. I am sure, in weeks to come, the rest of the United Kingdom will follow suit.
During the height of the pandemic, a whopping 60% of us were working from home. There is now an estimated 26% of the adult population believed to be working from home permanently. In fact, a recent study showed that over 500,000 people in the UK will never be returning to the office full-time!
But with all this change happening, it begs the question, what will the office environment now look like when we return?
It’s a question we are now facing regularly here at AVC Immedia. It’s also a question that we are now helping to solve for clients with our audio-visual solutions, as companies must now start to adapt their office spaces to this new normal.
Before the pandemic started, the board room was a place where all important meetings took place, face to face. The stuffy board meeting, conducted in a room with an oversized dark oak table and huge executive leather chairs alongside little to no technology. You could almost guarantee nobody would ever be ‘dialing in’ from another location either!
The board rooms and meeting environments we left are now dated in technology. Our meeting rooms didn’t need video-communication services such as Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, or even Zoom before, but now we want to be able to connect with our colleagues that still work at home. We need to improve our acoustic and visual options for meeting spaces. Just how do we go about reconfiguring our office spaces? All of these and more are becoming increasingly asked questions.
Fast forward to the current day and ‘Dialing in’ to a meeting is the new norm. Board meetings now take place through the use of video communication services on a computer, with board members spread all over the globe. It is now almost expected that the latest technology is present in the board rooms and meeting rooms. There is an expectation that the sound quality should be impeccable and that the screens are showing the very latest, crisp, and ultra-high-definition picture.
This new norm also means we have more space available in our office environments, due to the reduced numbers of returning staff. All of the above-mentioned factors mean that companies are now in a race to create the ultimate meeting environments. These environments must provide the very best experiences, mainly led through the latest technology. Companies strive to create new areas of collaborative communication. These areas will be fundamental to this new office life (thankfully replacing the pool table and beanbag-filled breakout room!).
In fact, this new normal is beneficial compared to the older, outdated board rooms we used before! According to research, adding interactive technology to meeting rooms (such as a Samsung Flip Display) yields extensive productivity benefits. Benefits include saving over 11 mins for every one-hour meeting (Wouldn’t we all like to save 11 minutes per hour meeting?!). Research also highlighted that 50% of people who took part in a survey reported improved employee engagement and increased creativity.
It’s clear then that many companies are now focusing on their long-term office strategies. I foresee many office spaces being redesigned if one of those strategies is to maintain and foster collaboration. They could be redesigned into collaboration areas or areas which can be genuinely multi-purpose.
The demand and expectation for high-quality video cameras and the strive for perfect acoustics will mean that companies will need to invest. This investment is not only in technology but in the environment that goes alongside it for effective collaboration.
Maybe by the time we all return to the office, the best piece of new technology we all need in this new office norm will exist? I suggest the ‘you’re on mute’ button that allows the user to know when they are on mute without everyone in the room bringing it to their attention. In the meantime, while we await the ‘you’re on mute’ button, the need for companies to mold their meeting spaces to our new needs and requirements is now.
Written by Keith Robertson, Group Operations Director at AVC Immedia