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Audio in a post-Covid workplace

Nancy Knowlton, Nureva CEO and Pro AV Watch List pick, on the future workplace after Covid, and audio’s place in it

If there is one good thing about Covid-19, it is that it has sped up the move to a hybrid work model Certainly, there had been experiments galore or accommodations for special circumstances that “allowed” WFH, but Covid-19 proved that WFH is viable and that work can be done by people fully or primarily working from home. This shift has been described as “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reset work using a hybrid model … allowing us to make our work lives more purposeful, productive, agile and flexible.”(1) 

This last part of the statement is the most exciting aspect of the shift – a change in the nature of work to make it truly human-centred. Whereas in the past, the prime concern was delivering against business needs. Now thinking appears to be shifting toward deeply considering individual human concerns in that delivery. Organisations have an opportunity to redefine ways of working, both where work happens and when it is undertaken. Of course, not all work has this flexibility, and flexibility most often has distinct boundaries. For entities that do, the benefits to businesses and their staff are significant.

Technology has long held the promise of making profound and positive changes for people. Now it appears that the time has come for a major step forward. Unlike other occasions where sharp behaviour changes occurred (such as September 11th, for example), it wasn’t long before things reverted to normal – travel resumed to pre-event levels, and everyone went back to the office.

This time it feels different. It’s apparent in the engagement that we have with companies that are planning for the inevitable return to the office. Most commonly, hybrid working means that individuals and teams will have predefined days where they work from home and predefined days when they are colocated with their colleagues in the office.

There is an overt acknowledgement that there will always be some remote team members in every meeting. This is manifested in a couple of ways:

  • All meeting rooms in a company are being outfitted with a full collaboration solution – audio, video and a display
  • Other open spaces are being considered as collaboration spaces with mobile solutions that can be available, as and where needed

Quality group audio is fundamental to the experience for remote participants. Now that everyone has been remote, they know the problems that poor quality audio can cause – wasted time, disrupted meeting flow and frustrated remote participants. Group and personal collaboration tools are taking centre stage for many companies along with a focus on new collaboration processes.

We are deeply engaged with a number of global companies on their collaboration tools strategies and deployments. Some of the fundamental elements that we have built into our audio solutions have been repeatedly validated through these engagements. Our focus on ease of use, ease of deployment and management, integration with other tools and services, continuous auto-calibration, intelligent sound targeting and Active Zone Control have made it an easy choice for IT managers to select and deploy broadly across their organisations. 

If anyone had told me a couple of years ago that I would spend 14 months plus working from home, I would not have believed him. Now that I and our whole team have done that and foresee more WFH time as we more formally adopt a hybrid work style, we have had good time to reflect on collaboration and the tools and resources people need in this new environment. We are living the WFH element of the emerging hybrid way of working. From our perspective, that enables us to directly understand customer needs more acutely while giving us the same opportunity that hybrid promises – for the company and our staff. It’s an exciting time to be creating collaboration solutions and an exciting time to be in business.

(1) “How to Do Hybrid Right,” Lynda Gratton, The Harvard Business Review, May-June 2021, page 68