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2020 was a year of change, in many ways. Especially in the digital workplace we experienced a flashpoint, ignited by the pandemic, in which the future caught up with us. Today, we collaborate in a daily reality of remote, virtual and hybrid meetings. The shift from mainly face-to-face and in-person collaboration was almost overnight, the acceleration of the digital transformation was unprecedented. What are the tech trends for 2021 that will drive an engaging, productive work environment? What should the workplace look like when we get back to the office?
Technologies like touch, wireless presentation, UC&C solutions, AV control management have drastically changed meeting efficiency and collaboration over the past years. Cybersecurity, mobility, IoT, social and environmental issues speed up the tech requirements and demands for ever-changing workplace. Still, we can consider 2020 as a true catalyst for these enhanced technologies. Changes were implemented more rapidly than we could ever imagine, and the new reality of hybrid finally found its place in our new normal. But what’s next?
Can hybrid meeting still be improved? Is touchless tech the way forward? Will we be giving instructions to tech with hands and voice in the office? Or can we always look our best in remote meetings (indeed, think Snapchat filter 😊)? What about having our own avatar attend a meeting that we can’t dial into? Or a bot taking meeting notes? How futuristic or realistic is that?
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Our latest global study showed that a certain “working from home fatigue” has kicked in after months of quarantine. Employees are so ready to return to the office, after months of struggling with remote collaboration with colleagues and missing the office social life. On average they want to spend a maximum of 2 days at home, after restrictions are lifted. Now ‘s the time for enterprises to start thinking about what the office will look like, in the coming months and far beyond that. Office lay out changes are not the only items on the list.
In 2021 tech solutions will keep on revolutionizing the workplace and the meeting room deck will make its comeback. Since a new hybrid meeting reality was introduced, employers are looking to facilitate seamless collaboration between employees working partly remote and partly in-office. Which is clearly reflected in the choice of tools, greatly driven by high-end video technology. Meeting tech solutions will need a good dose of flexibility and ease-of-use to be able to match the smooth VC experiences we had at home.
From our latest research on hybrid meetings, we learned that employees have high expectations for technology-driven improvements for their future meetings.
Employees stress the need for solutions that improve efficiency and usability, and which streamline hybrid workflows. They don’t want to waste time, look for higher meeting productivity and require faster access to hybrid meetings. So, one-click apps to join a video or voice recogni¬tion technology or all-in-one solutions that bring a high-end collaborative AV experience for all are high on the current wish list. If your company has not invested in a video-enabled meeting culture, your ship has sailed. The time is now to equip meeting rooms for flexible, hybrid ways of working. A good AV set-up and efficient content sharing and collaborative tools are the bare meeting room necessities in 2021.
However appealing some trends may be, just think of Instagram-style filters for video conferencing, your own avatar or software for remote co-creation, these will only find their way to the meeting deck if the tech can assure a seamless user experience and no additional efforts from IT or employees.
Employees expect tools to help them gain a higher engagement and that enable better collaboration with colleagues. Content sharing inside and outside the meeting room should be done with just one click. Blackboarding, annotation, moderation, polling and virtual breakout rooms are features that we want in any meeting room in the coming year.
Further down the road, we expect to see virtual reality tools in the meeting room to enable remote participants to appear ‘in person’ in a room or AI that provides feedback on participants and their engagement in meetings. Tech will make suggestions on how to improve productivity in your meetings. You will get an automatic reminder to send out a meeting agenda, and one to finish the meeting in time. An app will suggest you to ask questions to involve a more silent colleague, it can lower the temperature in the room, make changes to lighting and ergonomics or offer you a relaxation exercise if your blood pressure is rising. Possibilities are endless. Meetings will become smarter, and so will your employees.
What it all boils down to, is that the meeting technologies we dream off, facilitate more human con-nectivity between physical and virtual participants. 2020 taught us that collaborating remotely with colleagues, clients and others does not come naturally. It takes continuous effort, requires us to put on that webcam (even on bad hair days) and constantly interact during countless of virtual calls. It’s hard to find a solution that makes remote meeting as smooth as face-to-face meeting. And yet, the key to better collaboration and higher connectivity lies exactly there. Hybrid ways can work if tech in the meeting room is on your side, making your workflows simple, easy, wireless, smart.
“There will always be a need for face-to-face interaction, we just need to find the right balance between physical contact and virtual collaboration. If enterprises can achieve this blend, supported by the right technologies, and help staff adapt to the raft of changes that are happening to every facet of their lives, they will be fit for the future and ready to deal with the challenges we all face in 2021, and to seize the opportunities that will surely follow.” (Lieven Bertier, Segment Marketing Director Workplace at Barco)
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