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A post-pandemic workplace utopia for AV Communications?

Russell Harpham, business development for Bose Work at Bose Corporation, looks at how Covid-19 is set to impact on work-life balances and traditional workspaces

A story we have seen consistently over the last year is how much the pandemic will affect our work-life balance and how this change will impact the traditionally accepted workspaces around the world.

From someone who has spent 20 years delivering technology into the workspace I agree there will be big change. However, I see this more as an acceleration of something that was already happening.  With technology permeating more aspects of our lives, we already saw work-life balance changing prior to the pandemic, but the last 12 months provided an unexpected pressure test for both technology and our work environment.

The pandemic has pushed everyone forward 10 years in terms of their appreciation and acceptance of the work from home (WFH) label. There is now a wider acceptance and an understanding that a productive and collaborative workspace can – and does – exist outside of the traditional meeting room or office. As for the technology, video conferencing, multi-point voice calls and screen sharing have become as ubiquitous as the hallway conversation. The difference now is current technology is so intuitive and readily available that everyone, from my eight-year-old son to my 80-year-old father, uses it and they do so with ease.

Immense exodus
The exodus from the workplace to WFH was immense and immediately highlighted which companies were agile enough to manage the shift and support their employees with minimal disruption. As back-to-back videoconferences and audio calls began to take up most of our workday, it became clear that as good as audio technology was, there was a distinct lack of performance in noise cancellation with
the UC platforms being used. We can all recognise the fatigue that sets in when speech intelligibility becomes impossible against difficult background noise. If WFH and open space calls are to continue, more manufacturers will need to improve noise cancellation capabilities.

Back in the office, enterprises are beginning to understand that spaces will need to change to support the hybrid workplace as few are planning to bring everyone back as before. More will convert to a greater decentralisation of their real estate, and we are already seeing plans for more coworking spaces across the world, to allow workforces to spread far and wide without losing talent or business efficiency.

In fact, building efficiency has also been a focus for a lot of companies, using IP-powered monitoring devices to analyse occupancy data and energy usage, and this will continue to be pivotal to future workplace strategies. Pro AV will be an important part of that journey. The rapid advance of innovation in AV technology will mean that along with higher AV performance will come integrated AI, adding more robust capabilities to measuring the room’s efficiency. This linked a company’s IT infrastructure will mean greater control of the technology, remote support and room monitoring out of hours. This is just the beginning.

If you are hearing of the ‘frictionless’ meeting room, I encourage you to watch that space closely, because voice recognition and control will take on greater importance within the meeting space. This is a natural consequence of maintaining functionality in a room that is used by multiple people. Manufacturers already have products in the market that will make this accessible for SMB’s as well as large corporates, it won’t be just the preserve of those top, forward-thinking enterprises.

An interesting insight into the workplace mid-Pandemic has been made by CBRE, the commercial real estate consultants. They recognised a growing theory that of the large campus organisations that remain, there will be more consideration for providing work accommodation on top of childcare and wellness facilities, which will add a different consideration when it comes to the work life balance.

investment averse

If all this sounds intriguing, well hold on, as not everyone has written blank cheques to get this accomplished. The last year has made many companies risk averse towards additional investment, which has impacted projects in the private sector, but many public sector projects have carried on under the remit of them being key and essential services. A number of private organisations have waited until recently to gain a better understanding of the impact the pandemic has had on countries, the availability of technology and the innovations that are being released. The next few months are critical as companies re-evaluate the technology they want in their offices and meeting rooms.

The workspace, for the most part, will become more focused on client presentations, training, networking and collaboration — all of which will drive the demand for better experiences. At Bose we are all about the experience and through Bose Work we’ll continue to develop the innovative technology that improves people’s work lives.