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Exclusive: Collabtech Group president on AV in a post-Covid world

Jon Sidwick discusses the legacy of Covid, and how homes are the "new huddle"

Are we ready for post Covid?

For most of this year we have been talking about continuing in a Covid world over the next year or so, even the most optimistic of us believed that we would have to learn to manage our lives around the virus whilst possibly hoping for some sort of vaccination option next year or so if we were lucky. 

Whilst not a great place to be, the rapid increase in medical treatment combined with society getting used to how to function with Covid would mean the world would have been different to 2019, but a lot better than 2020. A great example being China where Infocomm Beijing took place this October with tens of thousands of visitors safely attending exhibits and training through testing and checking procedures, social distancing and of course the wearing of masks. 

The implications on the AV industry meant continued stress on events, working from home becoming the normal where possible and most probably continued restrictions on travel and many aspects of life.

Then along comes not only the reports of vaccines proving to be incredibly affective, but then on 8th December the first non-test patient being given the vaccination in the UK, with millions set to follow in the coming months. 

This has suddenly shifted the future view and as an industry we have to change gear pretty quickly to keep pace with the change we will see. All reports suggest that the vaccination programs in many countries will effectively cover 95%+ of ‘at risk’ people by Easter, this points to a fairly normal world as we head to the summer, and remember even this year we felt the summer was somewhat normal following three months or so of lockdown. 

So, what are the implications? 

The events industry has already started to see the resurgence of events being booked with the summer set to be one where the world will want to be entertained. Large venue events take a long time to organise so we are seeing the creation  of multiple small to medium sized venues which create community as well as entertainment. One marketing company I know has created four event web sites in the last two weeks, imagine how this is going to grow in the coming months. From staging to sound systems, we have to believe that next year will be like no other, the events industry truly deserves this. 

In the workplace we have seen a fundamental shift which will have a long legacy where working from home is now seen as a right and where communication and collaboration is mission critical, not optional. 

So many large companies have been looking at how to manage their work force away from the office, some are bringing people back but often to an antiseptic environment with little scope for the normal creative, social and interactive workplaces we used to have. 

The starting gun on creating the new hybrid work place has now been fired. Companies know that within a year the workplace will return to being the heart beat and cultural centre of a business – the work community. The impact of this will be material to our world.

Working from home will become more important. Home will become the new huddle with companies supporting investment in the right equipment and physical spaces to deliver a great home working experience. However, in a hybrid world this will not be full time. Employees will be able to fluidly work in the office as well as the home to suit the individual as well as the company. 

This means the workplace will be redesigned with more flexible meeting spaces, far more focus on personal offices being equipped like meeting rooms and the ability to collaborate and communicate remotely with a great experience being standard in every space. Expect to see real focus on training rooms enabling remote workers to come in for training sessions (something really missed in the last year) where companies will invest in high quality enablement through technology similar to what we have seen in up market universities. 

Studies suggest that there are over 300 million spaces worldwide where some sort of UC collaboration can be installed, from home to huddle to meeting space, this is a massive number. With less than 10% of spaces currently equipped with a fixed solution, there is a massive opportunity for the industry to help companies shift to the ‘new normal’. This will mean focus on a fluid digital workflow environment based  on platforms such as Microsoft Teams where the user experience is critical. 

This combined with device and collaboration technology which ‘just works’ will be the goal of organisations in what we now believe will be a post Covid world.