Nov. 2, 2022 - The evidence is in: Hybrid work arrangements, with some staff in-office and some working remotely on any given day, are now a fixture of business life. The best ways to facilitate those arrangements, though, have been a bit murky — until now.
The fundamental challenge is summed up neatly in new research from Crestron and Reworked, Tackling the Modern Workplace by the Numbers:
The last two years have created a host of new workplace variables ranging from the Great Resignation to the Great Migration. The result includes a mix of unfamiliar faces and teammates that aren't a cubicle over but instead miles apart. This is a driving force in the modern workplace where organizations have yet to formalize hybrid work policies, and employees are still trying to adapt to a work environment where they could be interacting with colleagues, in-person or through a screen, on any given day.
But there are ways to rectify that tension — and find an equitable solution for all parties.
The Fundamental Problem
The report looked at surveys returned by 800 workers (at every level of various organizations, from entry-level staff to management) and 500 IT pros. The numbers revealed that a growing number of staffers work remotely at least one — and usually more — days per week. But IT departments disclosed that their companies diverge over whether that arrangement is a good thing: As data shows across the report, every week over 80% of employees have meetings that include at least one remote participant.
The reality, though, is that an element of the workforce will be remote at least some of the time. When it came to collaboration, Reworked researcher Nidhi Madhavan noted, "Sixty percent of employee respondents said that at least half of their meetings involve remote participants; 30% said that nearly all of them do."
The hidden figure in this is that all those same meetings involve in-office participation. The next set of numbers reveals a fundamental problem with that arrangement:
[D]espite the availability of meeting rooms, in-office employees are more likely to be taking hybrid calls individually at their desks. Only 25% of people working in the office say they usually take meetings in conference rooms. Meanwhile, 47% say they take them at their desks, and 28% say it depends on the type of meeting. Employees at smaller organizations are slightly more likely to take calls in conference rooms, as were managerial employees.
The issue's one of human nature: You're going to join a meeting in whatever manner you find most comfortable, most intuitive. If a conference room is lacking, and you know your laptop provides a better videoconferencing experience than that larger space, odds are good you'll simply join from your desk — which defeats the entire notion of in-person collaboration.
So, what's an IT department to do?
The Fix — and the Business Opportunity
Crestron's Senior Director of Product Marketing Sam Kennedy noted this very problem — and its solution — in a keynote address for the "Digital Workplace Experience Summit" (presented by Reworked as well):
How do we match the remote-work experience when a hybrid employee comes to the office for critical in-person collaborations? How do we "make the commute worth it?"
Kennedy suggests that there's first an employee perception that needs to be understood by those facing that issue: "Work's a thing I do, not a place I go."
That concept informs what's at the heart of making the hybrid workplace, well, work. "We have to provide a frictionless experience for the employee that comes in the office," Kennedy notes. "We have to provide them with a one-touch 'join-meeting' solution whether they're remote or attending a meeting in person."
The other aspect of making the experience "worth it" is achieving true meeting equity for all collaborators, no matter their location. (More on how that's accomplished — and why's it's critical —can found here.)
The good news in all this is that IT departments are acutely aware of the issues highlighted by the research. "The next year could see employee experience technology stacks evolving at many organizations as they look to iterate on the hybrid experience," notes Sarah Kimmel, another Reworked researcher who contributed to the report.
• 79% say their organization will update its hybrid work strategy in the next 12 months.
• 53% say they have increased the amount of virtual collaboration tools available to remote employees
• 51% say they've provided remote employees with additional hardware.
• 71% of them said they're likely to replace their collaboration platform in the next year.
And if those stats aren't flashing "opportunities for technology integrators" in bright neon lights, add this nugget:
Another emerging solution of interest is "Intelligent Video." Intelligent video is the integration of video technology and analytics software that can be used for a variety of purposes such as tracking movements or events. In the context of hybrid meetings, it could improve meeting participation and promote more natural conversations between remote and in-person participants. According to the survey, 63% of IT leaders said they're actively looking for ways to add value from these types of solutions.
Of course, every one of the solutions that an IT department is looking for needs to be carefully designed and deployed, and Crestron dealers have a leg up in this regard. As Kennedy notes in the aforementioned keynote, "You have to think about every space, who's using that space, what they're using it for." And the best technology integrators are intimately familiar with that kind of discovery process.
There's a lot more data in the report to mull over, with opportunities for integrators from digital signage to accessibility solutions.
Download the Tackling the Modern Workplace by the Numbers report.