Take the Next Step to Optimize Hybrid Work
In this article
The "just get by" strategy of COVID-19 is over; the economy has killed the Great Resignation; and the dust has settled on hybrid work. What now? It's time to re-envision your workspace—from on-site facilities and meeting rooms to remote digital workspaces—to empower employees, ensure meeting equity, achieve interoperability, and develop an inclusive, collaborative culture, driven by a holistic strategy and supported by purpose-fit tools such as Poly technology.
The rules have changed for hybrid work, and new priorities have arisen, usually without new resources to address them.
One thing we know for sure is that hybrid work is here to stay. Gartner forecasts that 51% of US knowledge workers will work under hybrid arrangements by the end of 2023 and 20% will be fully remote. Further, the same study found that in general, employees now view hybrid work as an expectation, not a perk.
As a result, many organizations are re-envisioning employee experience—or if they're not, they should be. A recent Forrester study shows 51% of businesses were moving to hybrid work models, and two-thirds had adopted "anywhere" work (hybrid or remote) and warned of challenges in keeping equal footing between remote, hybrid, and on-site workers. Organizations will have to change long-established practices, from having ongoing dialogue with employees to developing new expertise, Forrester concluded.
At this point, most organizations know how many of their employees are working in a hybrid model, and they have a clear sense of what direction they need to go. Basically, they know they need to support hybrid models and create fulfilling, productive experiences for their employees no matter where they work. But they don't know exactly how to support hybrid work in a way that creates meeting equity, fosters connections, and instills a sense of belonging while keeping cost front of mind.
The current impact is financial, costing U.S. companies an estimated $300,000+ a year on average. Organizations are assessing their expenses, such as their facilities and their payroll. They are asking: If people aren't working in the office as much, do we need as much space? What should we do with the space we keep?
Of course, you can't just add a bunch of new workstations, convert a couple of private offices into conference rooms, and call it a day. If you want your physical and digital workspaces to function for the longer term, you have to envision how to make them work for everyone.
As people come back to the office, many remember or experience the benefits of working in person in the same facility with others, from little moments of connection that create a sense of belonging to unanticipated run-ins that spontaneously spark new ideas or move projects forward. Yet some level of hybrid warfare is still happening. Many companies want their employees to come back to the office more than their employees want to come in.
Technology won't bring employees back in, but the lack of the right technology or experience in the space could keep them away. Hoteling spaces may not provide the setup people have created for themselves at home. Often there's a lack of conference rooms on busy days (Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday). Open, shared, often noisy spaces which are now more prevalent may not be conducive to thoughtful individual project work, making calls, or having private conversations.
If some aspect of the office experience isn't better than their home offices, or if collaboration is not enabled, people will resent coming in. People don't want to go to the office to take calls from their laptops, walk around looking for their meeting room, or try to find space to meet.
Organizations need to take a fresh look at how their people work today and which tools can best support them. The old way of providing all the technology people need at the office no longer holds true. The new paradigm is understanding how people work, not just in terms of roles but also in terms of work styles and workflows, and then giving them the technology they need to support that from anywhere and through the transitions of hybrid work.
That new paradigm also holds for office buildings, team spaces, and meeting rooms. You need to understand who your users are and what they need in these spaces before you start spending money. Developing that understanding will help you defend your decisions and the budget you're asking for.
New tools and technologies are needed in this new world; for example, with hoteling, people now need tools like QR codes, desk reservation systems, and even tools to help employees find their hoteling desks, offices, and conference rooms in large, complex facilities.
WWT's 2023 Report on Digital Workspace identified creating a destination workplace—one that fosters collaboration and has the fit-for-purpose tools and technologies that really support it—as a key objective this year to entice employees back to the office and retain them once they get there.
When it comes to meeting and collaboration platforms, hybrid environments are still very much the norm. Today there are many discussions around Microsoft Teams, but it is difficult to transition and rare to use only one platform exclusively. The fact is, most organizations have standardized on multiple platforms, even if they have one or two main ones.
Microsoft and Zoom were not created from the ground up to be contact center platforms (although they can do some of that work), so you may have a company that has one set of technologies in the front office, but then in the contact center or customer management, they have something else.
True interoperability is possible, but in reality, the providers don't necessarily gain from pushing that. WWT and Poly can create a modular experience—the technology is there—but in reality, organizations have not had the will to create a completely agnostic, modular experience. Although software exists to bridge these different experiences and platforms, it's never exactly the same as using the original; there are always a couple of caveats, things that work differently.
Technologies that support hybrid work are getting better and moving closer to having an in-person experience and creating meeting equity. These technologies include:
Camera framing & tracking
When people are working remotely, they are framed individually, but when they come back to the office and are in a meeting room, the camera may include multiple people in one frame. The people working remotely may feel left out, or the people in the office may feel lost in the crowd while the people at home get more focus in their own frame.
Poly frames everyone the same with a people-framing option that shows each attendee in their own frame, whether they are in a meeting room with other people or alone in a remote workplace, creating meeting equity.
Camera tracking is not new, but AI has made it much better, especially with tracking the action and fine-tuning video production rules such as:
- Using the rule of thirds to frame people as viewers would expect to see them be framed.
- Making transitions smoother as the conversation organically unfolds, dissolving instead of jumping between people taking or going to a really wide shot.
- When auto-tracking is enabled, ensuring that the camera auto-zooms in a smoother, more natural way.
- Group framing to focus on the two or three people engaged in a conversation versus the entire group.
New audio technologies
Noise can be an incredibly destructive force in meetings.
Polyperimeter is a new capability in some of Poly's latest software for meetings that take place in rooms with glass walls or other reflective surfaces, which can cause numerous problems like:
- Tracking people outside the room as they walk by; Poly has AI that can tell the difference and even know if they walk into the space from outside to now include them in the video of the meeting.
- Solving audio issues such as reflective sound with a reduction feature.
- Acoustic fence technology that allows you to set an audio perimeter around your device so it won't pick up anything outside that space.
- NoiseBlock AI that can distinguish between human sounds, keyboard typing or the classic crinkling of chip bags that introduce unwanted noise at working lunches.
Poly can't change how companies build their conference rooms, but they have solutions for numerous challenges:
- Poly has a team of engineers who focus on future experiences and solve these types of issues.
- Some problems can be solved with video technology, others with audio technology; some issues require the development of new technologies.
Poly is continually improving and fine-tuning these technologies and making them available across their portfolio.
How your company deals with hybrid work is a key business issue. Here are three key steps to ensure you build a successful hybrid work program.
1. Start with a holistic strategy for supporting hybrid work.
WWT can help you:
- Develop a deep understanding of business objectives now and in the future
- Envision what your hybrid work model could be and how it could meet your business needs
- Build or refine dynamic personas
- Create a comprehensive hybrid work strategy
2. Make sure you have the right purpose-fit tools to support your employees no matter where they work.
It's important to stay on top of new approaches, capabilities, and technologies to support your employees across personas, workflows, and work styles.
As a result of the close relationship WWT has with Poly, WWT often has early knowledge of and experience with new Poly tools, features, and capabilities and can provide deep expertise and knowledgeable advice.
Visit the wwt.com platform to explore unboxing and demo videos developed by WWT technical experts. You can also schedule a demo or proof of concept, built within WWT's Advanced Technology Center (ATC), to learn how Poly technology can suit your environment.
3. Stay on top of the changing needs of your employees
This is a dynamic topic in changing times. If you have already developed personas, consider revisiting, refining, or expanding them more frequently until things stabilize. Also, remember to stay in close communication with your managers and employees and create feedback loops to ensure you are not missing anything important.
About the Authors
Michael Jennings, WWT, Technical Solutions Architect
Jennifer Adams, Poly, Senior Director of Hybrid Systems & HyperX NPI
About WWT and Poly
WWT is a Poly Platinum partner. Together we bring world-class collaboration solutions to help solve the dilemma of work from anywhere on any platform. Poly and WWT are trailblazers when it comes to solving the dilemma of work from anywhere, creating equity between those in the room and those who aren't. Whether in a meeting room, office huddle space, a remote hub, or your home office, we've got you covered. WWT outfits your office space and personal space, with the Poly gear that enables employees to thrive in the era of hybrid work.