Think back to early spring/late winter, before COVID-19 hit and the ensuing lockdown closed most of Ontario’s economy, including offices. Seems like a long time ago, doesn’t it? In reality, not much time has passed, but it sure seems like it has with so many changes in the office environment, including audio visual technology, required to get them open once again.
Before the pandemic, the days of office cubicles seemed to be long gone. The trend for office culture was one of open spaces, where teams could collaborate in close quarters. Nowadays, while the cubicle hasn’t completely returned, measures to contain COVID-19, including distancing, geometry, division protocols, means that there are barriers set between each office desk to keep people at least two metres apart.
Let’s take a quick look at how new COVID-19 realities have changed the work environment:
- Distancing, geometry, division:These protocols most accurately reflect the return-to-the-office strategy. Simply put, distancing means keeping apart from others by the aforementioned two metres, geometry speaks to the arrangement of office furniture to facilitate distancing measures; and division is about physical barriers to contain a possible spread of the virus, perhaps by coughing or sneezing.
- Mask protocols:Health experts will tell you the best way to protect yourself and others is to wear a mask when going out. In fact, it’s required in public indoor spaces and whenever physical distancing is a challenge. Locations include: public spaces (for example, inside stores, event spaces, entertainment facilities and common areas in hotels); workplaces, even those that are not open to the public; vehicles that operate as part of a business or organization, including taxis and ride-shares.
- Remote offices/working from home:Even before the pandemic, working from home was always part of the work equation. Now, however, it has become a much larger component, as employers and employees realize it’s not only possible, but in some situations preferable to work remotely.
- Audio visual technology:While important before the pandemic, audio visual technology is vital in the current remote/office workforce. It keeps employees and teams communicating and collaborating. Examples of audio visual technology solutions include: no touch automation (through the use of voice activation, occupancy sensor activation or meeting presets), video conferencing (including the integration with home office systems), and mobile collaboration solutions.
It’s Likely That Audio Visual Technology Means Work-From-Home Solutions Are Here To Stay
So, what comes next? Are we going back to the way things used to be, or will current measures, protocols, and strategies be with us even when the pandemic ends? Probably the biggest change to stay with us post-pandemic is the work-from-home experience, as it presents positives for employees and employers. For the former, benefits include a more flexible work arrangement, including not having to commute to and from the office, and for the latter it allows for a reimagining of the office space, and the ability to recruit talent.
Of course, many employees will want to return to the office, if only for the social aspects. Juggling the two work options and matching them with the right people and projects will be a post-COVID challenge and opportunity.
That also means that AV technology and office technology solutions will have to provide options for employees to connect no matter where they choose to work. Organizations will need to provide reliable access to meetings via Microsoft Teams or other virtual collaboration tools. The office will also need to adapt with safe and touchless connectivity solutions that enable workers to utilize meeting rooms seamlessly. Technology will also be called upon to empower employees with flexible mobile solutions to book meeting rooms and/or share information on demand to support in-office collaboration.
Are we there yet? That’s a question we at POI are asking. It is critical that employers revisit the purpose of the office, in terms of brand and culture. Issues they will be considering include:
- Stronger team cohesion
- Better use of real estate
- Flexible distributed team ecosystems, in the workplace and from home
- Happier employees and improved business results
With challenge comes opportunity to rethink direction, goals, and strategies. Contact the experts at POI today for assistance in envision the work environment of tomorrow, from the realities of today.