Going back to the office: 5 Workplace Technology Trends

How workplace technology may change as teams return to the office

Articles on going back to the office are pouring onto the internet. How do people social distance, when should people go back, what are the risks? Google any of the above and you’re sure to find a plethora of information.

One thing that isn’t talked about is the impact on workplace technology.  Since the beginning, we’ve focused on workspace and education technology. Through this time of uncertainty, we continue to talk to customers, colleagues, and each other about what office technology looks like moving forward.

There’s no crystal ball. Each company’s approach to workspace technology will likely depend on their own strategy and how permanent they believe modifications will need to be. While organization’s approaches may vary, there are trends we expect to see as companies return to the office.

1. Transitioning Meeting Spaces

We believe many organizations will continue to use meeting spaces with fewer seated options to promote social distancing.

Until recently, the trends have focused on breakout spaces, since small groups often used the large meeting space. We expect to see the pendulum swing back towards larger meetings spaces. There will be a scaling that occurs as employers remove chairs to allow for social distancing in meeting spaces. The conference room that once fit 12 may now hold meetings of less than 6.

Companies that are planning for more permanent changes may transform training rooms into meeting spaces that hold larger groups. Large meeting spaces will need to empower all attendees to collaborate over video and feature technologies like:

  •  2-3 large displays so teams can see shared content and their remote colleagues simultaneously
  •   Better microphone & speaker coverage throughout the room
  •  Connectivity into your favorite video conferencing platforms

There are a variety of ways to temporarily re-purpose technology from small spaces where social distancing isn’t possible.  Companies may use the UC set up in private offices. They may also re-install the equipment on a mobile cart for use in alternative spaces better suited for social distancing (we’re happy to help with this). When smaller break out spaces can be occupied again the technology can be re-mounted as it was before.

2. Video Conferencing Training

The last two months have forced many people to adopt video conferencing. In many cases, without giving IT time to develop a planned deployment. While employees know how to make a call over video, some employers want to help them better leverage the technology. We are seeing more requests for employee training and best practices on video conferencing. This includes on boarding and basic user training as well as advanced features and technical admin training. Video conferencing is now weaved into the culture of organizations. Understanding how to use the technology to its fullest will help the collaboration experience.

3. Safety Messaging in Lobbies & Common Areas

What are visitors expected to do when they enter the lobby? How is your company communicating safety precautions and instructions?  We foresee a resurgence of digital signage in the lobby for those that don’t already have it. Digital signage can share safety messaging in a way that’s effective, easy to update and on-brand.

New technologies are also promoting themselves as part of a healthy work environment. We’re seeing hand sanitizing digital kiosks, thermal scanning solutions and virtual receptionists gain attention in the industry.

4. Work from Home Technology Kits

If work from home wasn’t a norm already, the push for quick home offices often meant a mix of technology accessories.  A lack of standard monitors, cameras and mics, made it more difficult to troubleshoot issues. Work from home technology kits may be an answer. This standardizes the home worker experience with those in the office. It also enriches the collaboration with those they are video calling. Quality headsets, microphones and cameras can reduce the distractions caused by poor audio or video. Dual monitors and power options extend these efficiency measures from our office to the remote worker.

5. Sound Masking & Acoustical Treatment

We anticipate office acoustic tools will find their place in the spotlight as teams get back to the office.

Sound is science.  And often we are asked to change that science, which is not possible.  However, we can treat spaces that with noisy air handlers or made up of predominantly hard surfaces that create reverberant environments. 

Acoustical Treatments absorb sound waves, trapping them to reduce their travel to our ears. There are a variety of modern acoustic panels that hang from ceilings, mount on walls, or act as partitions. Treating these environments reduces noise, dropping the overall “noise floor” or standard volume of the space. Acoustic panels may not be top of mind right now, but businesses will find the value in them as sound levels in offices increase.

Sound Masking is the practice of introducing ambient background sound into a space. Sound masking will be key outside of conference rooms as teams socially distance in the meeting space – again, raising the noise level. The difference is the confidential conversations that happen in conference rooms and boardrooms. People in a meeting room may talk louder as they sit further away from each other.  Sound masking placed outside of the conference room adds white noise to the space. This uniformly distributed white noise reduces the intelligibility of human voices near a user.  Instead of a passersby hearing every word, sound masking brings down the intelligibility of that conversation. It makes it hard for people walking by to hear what’s being said in the conference room. If people socially distance in the long-term, sound masking will become more important.

What does this all mean for me?

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to adapting the technology in your workspace. The right approach will depend on your business’s strategy and how you see the next few years unfolding. If you believe there will be permanent changes in how people work, you may take a serious look at long-term technology shifts. For example, transitioning a few training rooms into large conference rooms or investing in acoustic treatment. If you’re looking for solutions that are more flexible, digital signage may help your messaging.

Whatever path you decide to take, or if you have your own vision of technology in your new workspace and want to bounce ideas off an AV expert, give us a call. We’re happy to help.