Reimagining Spaces for "Meeting Equality" with Poly and Microsoft
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The hybrid workforce is here. Yet many offices remain frozen in pre-pandemic time. A time when employees flooded the workplace to brainstorm face-to-face with whiteboards and sticky notes, and remote participants were the minority.
Those days are long behind us.
Now, 48 percent of employees prefer to work remotely at least part-time. Workers spend roughly 65 percent of their meeting time in video meetings. And many leaders have realized that work is not a place but something you do.
So, what does this mean going forward?
The office isn't going away by any means, but it does need to be reimagined as a destination for highly collaborative work and a conduit for company culture and human connection. This starts with a commitment to meeting equality and investing in the right technologies to achieve it.
The term "meeting equality" means ensuring employees can achieve equal experiences across all workspaces and locations — at home, in meeting rooms, on the frontlines, etc. The goal is to enable a work environment in which employees can join meetings from anywhere and still feel seen and heard as if they're in the same room as their office-based colleagues.
When offices ignore meeting equality, it creates several challenges for remote participants, including:
- Difficulty seeing who is in the meeting
- Missing important gestures, facial expressions and body language cues
- Being or feeling excluded entirely
- Inability to build or maintain trust with the team
Luckily, there are several steps collaboration leaders can take to get started on the journey to meeting equality. We discuss those below as well as key technologies to consider.
Before redesigning offices, collaboration leaders must understand what their employees need to be successful.
Developing dynamic personas is a great way to gain data-driven insights into your workforce. These personas allow you to make informed decisions about your office floor plans based on shared characteristics, services and requirements such as employee locations, work styles, tools and technologies used, and collaboration preferences. Dynamic personas enable collaboration leaders to better answer tools, space and experience questions, such as:
- How many meeting rooms, cubicles, huddle spaces and/or offices do I need?
- What percentage of my meetings include remote participants and, in turn, need to be video enabled?
- What's the right mix of large, medium and small-sized meeting rooms?
"Many organizations try to develop personas but oftentimes they don't have the time or resources to go deep enough," says Brandon Echele, WWT Senior Practice Manager – Collaboration. "Their personas remain very basic. Leveraging a partner like WWT can help you extract the information necessary for informed decision making about your office design."
With dynamic personas in hand, you'll be one step further along is your path to meeting equality.
According to recent market analysis, more than 90 percent of organizations are unable to successfully facilitate hybrid meetings. Moreover, fewer than eight percent of rooms worldwide are video enabled.
"You can't start implementing solutions once employees start coming back to the office," says Mehryn Corrigan, Microsoft Solutions Specialist. "You have to start planning now and thinking strategically about your most important rooms, where you need to rip and replace furniture and equipment, and where you can make small upgrades."
To deliver experience parity across the organization, collaboration leaders must come to a consensus on a standardized meeting platform. They should also consider implementing technologies like high-quality video displays and audio devices for meeting rooms and enabling remote workers with professional-grade headsets, cameras and speakers to equal the playing field. For example, Poly for Microsoft Teams Rooms (MTR) combines Microsoft Teams' familiar interface, the crisp video and audio quality of Poly Room Kits, and Poly Director AI capabilities to deliver a complete package for meeting equality.
"Poly and Microsoft Teams is a powerful combination," says Joe Mukherjee, Poly Director of Sales and Engineering. "Poly has more Teams-certified devices than any other company, and with the acquisition of Plantronics and Polycom, we're able to envelop employees in all of the rich capabilities that Teams has to offer wherever they choose to work."
The right room technology can make all the difference in your ability to achieve sustainable meeting equality.
While it's recommended to standardize on an internal meeting platform, you can't control how your clients, vendors and partners prefer to meet. This can complicate your mission to achieve meeting equality by creating digital friction for employees forced to navigate disparate meeting platforms.
By identifying opportunities for video conferencing interoperability, collaboration leaders can streamline processes and empower employees to join any meeting, regardless of the platform, within a single interface.
"You need a partner who not only has the cloud capabilities but also the hardware capabilities to render an interoperable experience," says Echele. "Because WWT works across leading digital workspace technology manufacturers, we're able to bring it all together to design and deploy complex architectures and advanced integrations that simplify the employee experience."
A great example of videoconferencing interoperability is Poly's Cloud Video Interop (CVI) and Direct Guest Join capabilities. CVI helps organizations seamlessly transition to Microsoft Teams as their internal platform of choice. Once standardized on Teams, employees can use Direct Guest Join to easily connect with external participants on the platform of their choice.
"Poly doesn't want to limit employees," says Mukherjee. "If you're a Teams estate, Direct Guest Join gives you a simple user experience. Employees book their meeting (Webex, Zoom, etc.), forward it to their Poly Teams Room device and it appears on the touch panel with one touch to join."
Enabling a simple and consistent experience is a key step in achieving meeting equality.
Designing your hybrid office is not a one-off project. It's an evolution. Room strategy, configurations and technology decisions must be continuously reevaluated and optimized based on analytics and insights.
Space utilization, scheduling and monitoring tools, like IR Prognosis, Appspace and Cisco DNA Spaces, help collaboration and facilities leaders understand room utilization, employee behaviors and environmental factors to intelligently adapt their technology spend and real estate investments. These tools can help answer questions like:
- How often do meetings consist of screen sharing versus mere video calling?
- What are the utilization rates of meeting rooms and spaces?
- How often do no-show meetings (aka ghost or zombie meetings) happen?
- How many people typically meet in a room?
- What is the air quality in my spaces?
- How often do employees use collaboration apps, like Miro and Mural, and digital whiteboarding capabilities during meetings?
"Data is going to drive your future," says Corrigan. "It's important to know the usage of your rooms and validate what's working and what's not. I think you're also going to see a lot more data around the meeting experience that will drive better decision-making going forward."
In a hybrid work model, the office can either become an asset or a deep fracture in company culture and collaboration. By taking these steps and reimagining your spaces with meeting equality in mind, you can repurpose your real estate investments in a way that pushes the business forward, empowers employees and builds an inclusive culture.