Flexible, hybrid workplaces have been developing for many years, but the disruption of 2020 and the resulting social distancing measures has fast-forwarded this trend, shifting the way we work with breathtaking speed. Almost overnight, office workers were relocated with 32% reported working from home between April and May this year1.
A healthy majority have responded positively to the shift with three in four agreeing that working from home will become the new normal (78%) and if they were offered more remote working or flexible working options, 76% indicated they would stay longer with their employer.
Even as restrictions begin to ease, and workplaces prepare to transition back to physical offices, the future of work will likely be defined by a hybrid mix of online and traditional working environments.
Not only must social distancing and hygiene practices be considered for physical spaces, those who work remotely should be able to connect and collaborate with their work mates as effectively as they would when co-located.
While these factors pose a whole new set of challenges for businesses, it also provides ample opportunities to innovate and reshape work as we know it, and move towards workstyles characterised by persistent connectivity, increased mobility and effective modes of communication.
As this new working reality starts to set in, meeting spaces are becoming the frontline of return-to-office efforts with smart solutions to playing a vital role in ensuring safety.
One such solution, Microsoft Teams Rooms, is becoming a popular option for turning the humble meeting room into a video-enabled collaboration space. It’s an evolution of the Skype Room System that first brought smart room control functionality to businesses spaces, but they’ve packed in a whole bunch of extra handy features to make the meeting experience even safer and more productive.
By reducing the number of touch points, organisations can limit the spread of germs between participants present in any room. Detecting when an attendee enters the room, proximity join allows invitees to automatically join the meeting hands-free, avoiding the need to connect via a touchscreen.
This is possible because the user’s device acts as a beacon with the Teams Room system. And while meetings are in progress, users can also connect other devices to share media.
Microsoft have been busy rolling out other touchless features too. For example, participants can now give voice commands to Cortana instead of having to handle the control pad. In fact, all the basic functions – starting or ending a meeting and inviting participants – can now be completed using voice commands.
Ensuring social distancing measures are followed can be hard to manage in the hustle and bustle of an office. Microsoft Teams Rooms occupancy sensors can keep track of the number of people occupying a space.
If there are too many people – based on the size of the room and social distancing requirements – the system will publish an on-screen message to alert participants of the problem.
Of course, hygiene is important– but so is remote participant engagement, which can traditionally be challenging. There are a number of features that can help here as well.
Surface Hub 2, Microsoft’s all-in-one whiteboarding and collaboration device, is great for helping remote teams co-create and stay engaged. But not all organisations provide Surface Hubs, or they may not be available in all rooms. In this case, content cameras are a compact, lower-cost alternative that can be used to share an enhanced, real-time stream of a physical whiteboard.
However, it’s more than just streaming: the camera optimises the content, making it easy for remote participants to read and view everything on the board. Even if a presenter steps in front and momentarily obstructs the view, the cameras catch up when the presenter moves aside, and the newly added content is digitised.
This overcomes the enormous problem of keeping remote participants engaged, as they’re always in the loop of what’s happening in a room.
Another helpful new feature for remote workers is the inclusion of a whiteboarding button for Microsoft Teams calls. Users can simply launch the whiteboard on their device and share it with meeting participants for real-time brainstorming. Once the meeting is over, the whiteboard can be posted straight to Teams, saved for ongoing editing, or exported as a png or vector file.
Even better, this functionality is not limited to Microsoft devices – it plays just as well with iOS devices, such as an iPad.
Speaking of device compatibility, all the meeting experiences detailed can be extended by a multitude of devices from a range of vendors who are producing peripherals compatible with Microsoft Teams.
Following recent updates, Surface Hub 2 can now work with the Teams Room system, allowing users to maximise screen real estate for whiteboarding or collaborating. Just roll the device into the space and use proximity join to participate in the meeting, or link it to a Teams Room device so the audio and video are automatically coordinated.
For customers with a previous generation Surface Hub, a major recent operating system upgrade allows them to take advantage of these same features without having to purchase newer devices.
Are you ready to switch to a more modern, efficient meeting experience? If you’re looking to embrace the new normal to keep your employees safe and productive, contact a Data#3 collaboration specialist today to design the right solution for your organisation.
1. Roy Morgan Research (2020), Nearly a third of Australian workers have been ‘#WFH’ [ONLINE]. Available here.