Foundations of Improving Collaboration in the Hybrid Workplace (Part 1 of 3)

Posted in: Command & Control , Corporate , Government

By Carl James on Mar 11, 2021

This is the first blog in a three-part series on returning to work in a new hybrid environment and how leveraging new technology will transform workplace collaboration.

Walls are getting kicked down. In the past year, businesses were faced with an operational ultimatum: adapt or fail. As a result, decision-makers in just about every industry have been forced to fundamentally change their opinion on not only the way their workforce functions on a day-to-day basis, but also how they communicate and collaborate at all levels.

The immediate solution took on the form of ramping up a digital transformation strategy and adopting virtual communication tools that enabled employees to work from home without sacrificing productivity. After months of adjusting to online meetings and recalibrating for an altered work-life balance, it looks like executives and stakeholders alike have largely decided that the hybrid workplace is here to stay. In fact, according to Microsoft’s Work Trend Index, over 80 percent of managers say they expect to implement flexible work-from-home policies even after the pandemic subsides.

Now with the dust settling, it is time for businesses to evaluate what collaboration in this new work environment looks like for their employees. In doing so, many will discover the benefits of a hybrid office model and realize that technology can easily be catered to the natural ways people work with each other.

Anything is possible with the latest unified communication and collaboration technology—a revelation that we explain in four boundary-breaking ways:

Collaborate with Anyone

Bringing together remote employees was the first battle fought and figured out. But as technology managers and CIOs continue to search for solutions that better support meetings and productivity, at the heart of attaining that goal is designing for collaboration. It’s more than a buzzword; it’s a systemized workplace transformation that requires taking a step back and understanding exactly how people work together for common business objectives.

In a new hybrid work environment, meaningful participation from remote employees will become imperative. Organizations that are ahead of the curve on this have recognized that their most important assets are the people—the talent. Whether it’s in a boardroom, conference room, small-group space or huddle area, collaboration with the latest unified communications and collaboration tools is no longer linear. As the workplace evolves, these tools provide advanced capabilities to make connecting employees in and out of the office much easier—often times with just a single touch.

Think about it as equal engagement and a mutual feeling of participation no matter where you are. It’s more than a straightforward video conferencing application. In-room collaboration will involve physical attendees as well as any number of remote participants using whichever web conferencing service has been established company-wide (in addition to any number of additional services outside partners and clients may use). In a nutshell, hybrid work in any meeting space is made possible by unifying centrally managed collaboration platforms with professional-quality displays and peripherals. A technology integrator on the pulse of designing hybrid work environments can ensure that these intuitive video conferencing systems also allow for dynamic content sharing and, most critically, supports workplace-specific collaborative use cases for improved productivity and to optimize technology investments.

Collaborate from Anywhere

By definition, a hybrid workforce encompasses both remote and on-site employees. If there’s a key takeaway from adapting to the disruptions of COVID-19, it’s that embracing this operational flexibility instills trust in employees and even boosts performance. With people realizing now that work can be done from nearly anywhere with the right collaboration technology in place, the demand for mobility is rising. For many businesses, there’s a good chance that some employees may need to communicate and co-collaborate in between a remote location and the office building. Whether they’re out on the field, on the road, or even at lunch, mobility will likely be an essential part of any future business strategy.

Team members can easily access the necessary tools and communication applications through tablets and smartphones. Deploying a solution that replaces the traditional room system hardware allows workers to join conferences from their browser or app via the cloud. What’s more, integrating advanced video conferencing platforms can give mobile employees the ability to BYOM (Bring Your Own Meeting), instantly creating a meeting space with their device and bridging the audio and video to the remote users for a collaborative room system experience irrespective of the location.

As put in a recent Forbes article, “we need to continue to refine our focus on working smarter and more efficiently through the use of mobility (…). That looks like less of a one-size-fits-all approach to mobile device management and more emphasis on the human element.” Whether it’s an architect sharing blueprint updates to stakeholders in real-time, construction crews touching base on road-side logistics, or even medical staff deliberating treatments and logging orders on a tablet, there are countless use cases where mobility enables mission-critical collaboration.

Collaborate on Any Device

Company stakeholders are understanding that employees can be empowered to work and collaborate in the ways they prefer. As an extension of mobility, returning to a hybrid work arrangement should include the freedom to continue using devices with which employees are familiar with. Referred to as BYOD (Bring Your Own Device), properly integrated video conferencing and collaboration platforms now make it easier to BYOD and launch a conference call from anywhere. It enables fluidity in a hybrid work environment. Establishing a BYOD policy typically centers around the use of wireless presentation platforms, allowing employees and other participants to share content from almost any type of device and opens up a company’s ability to hold presentations and collaborate without being tied to a desk.

What’s more, presentations are not limited to a single person who has access to the room’s AV system. More than one device can be used in a presentation—no matter whether the individual is physically in the room or connecting remotely. The team collaborating can experience a seamless presentation with information shared and modified between several devices. The power of BYOD coupled with multi-device sharing is in its practicality; it’s collaboration that’s tailored to how humans prefer to work.

Collaborate Anytime

Managers want people to work together and feel connected when in the office. Innovation and fresh ideas happen when a workplace is conducive to collaboration, so a new hybrid environment will require reimagining the office. Taking that one step further, businesses will want to focus on the human experience above the cost-savings. Collaboration should be simple and intuitive in meeting spaces, but it should also be convenient and adaptable.

After evaluating how employees work, bringing in an experienced communication technology integrator can make the process of workplace transformation a smooth one. And it can also shine a light on specifically when activity will be happening in and around the office. Dedicated meeting spaces come with time constraints, but there’s a solution that integrators are designing to allow for a more bespoke meeting experience.

The trend encompasses more impromptu, ad-hoc meetings in less traditional settings. Picture a turnkey wireless presentation solution that can be used to collaborate in areas that aren’t a formal conference room, including common gathering spaces, cafeterias and lounge areas. Take the headquarters of Pixar that was carefully planned and designed by Steve Jobs to create more opportunities for employees to cross paths. He referred to the concept as encouraging “unplanned interactions,” where colleagues can capitalize on spur-of-the-moment ideas. With a deeper understanding of workflow, businesses can work with integrators to implement these informal spaces with easy-to-use collaboration technology built for spontaneous interactivity.

In an effort to make organic interactions more productive, building and office managers are embracing this philosophy that smaller collective spaces are at the heart of future collaboration. More freedom and releasing time constraints equals not only improved efficiency, but also a better-connected workforce.

Rethinking Work in the Workplace

How can businesses reshape the office experience in ways that improve collaboration for the long term? Two things are clear: offices continue to play a vital role and remote work is here to stay. Therefore, technology managers and company leaders must seek to position the future of their hybrid workforce with flexible and dynamic collaboration solutions. From our perspective, the sky’s the limit.

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