Blog · 17 Jun 2021

Peeling the onion on the next normal

We look at how collaboration tools, workspaces and attitudes are all evolving due to the recent accelerated shift towards hybrid and remote working.

David Danto
Director of UC strategy and research

On the topic of resisting the inevitable trend of hybrid and remote working, there’s a common argument that bringing people into the same space creates a sort of “magic” as a result of impromptu connections.

Bumping into a colleague in a meeting or at the water-cooler is supposed to be the genesis of this kind of interaction. I’ve honestly never understood this old-fashioned model. Realistically, many of my colleagues and I haven’t worked in an office where everyone was in the same location, same city or even the same country for over twenty years. Clearly, successful distributed workforces need to be able to develop that so-called magic using technology.

By embracing long-term remote working, collaboration tools will continue to improve support of the hybrid future. There are already collaboration products on the market that use AI and machine learning to automatically capture the correct shot, remove noise, and so on. The next steps for these technologies will be to continue to close the gap between in-room and remote participants – creating “equality” or “parity” between everyone. We’re getting closer to that every day.

Rethinking our workspaces

In the world’s largest cities, organisations are shedding real estate in droves, realising that offices won’t need as many desks as before, and that the entire purpose of a central, shared workplace will change drastically. The traditional office – born out of a need to oversee a factory floor – is shifting from a place of individual work to a place for group work – brainstorming, discovery, ideation, camaraderie, celebration, etc. We can expect the usual 70% desks to 30% meeting rooms ratios to completely flip, with meeting spaces in high demand and desks only for the few permanent in-office employees and those visiting for the day. Despite companies having smaller footprint offices, there will be a much greater need for collaboration equipped rooms, specifically to support communication with the much larger numbers of remote employees.

It’s not only enterprise offices that will experience a change in design, our homes and schools will as well. The pandemic showed that working from a kitchen table or bedroom wasn’t as productive as needed. Beyond the technical improvements, having a permanent, physical workstation is also good for your mental health. Having a place to go to – and to leave and take a break from – provides much needed separation from the rest of home life. We can expect to see more house listings with descriptions, such as: two bedrooms, two bathrooms and two office spaces”.

Changing attitudes

New studies, conducted during the pandemic, showed a minimum 5% increase in productivity by remote workers – even if the only consideration is the removal of the daily, unnecessary commute. For the first time in the history of unified communications, the remote and hybrid working model has moved from ‘just tolerated’ to ‘company strategy’.

Supervisors will have to change going forward to fit in with this new strategy. The popular management by walking around no longer works with a hybrid workforce. This isn’t a problem because there have always been successful supervisors of remote teams - for example for 24-hour shifts and international teams. Those skills will now be needed for all supervisors, many of whom will need training to be effective within the new model.

The collaborative future

Coronavirus didn’t cause all these changes. They were already underway – instigated primarily by smart mobile devices, readily available internet, and cloud services. But as many have stated, the pandemic was an accelerant that compressed years of digital transformation into months. We’ll be feeling the impact of collaboration technology breakthroughs for many years to come.

We at Poly are proud to work with BT to bring cutting-edge and powerful solutions to organisations preparing for the future.  Together, we’re ideally placed to help you on your hybrid working journey. Please get in touch with your BT account manager to find out more. Or explore BT’s new future of work whitepaper which focuses on the three crucial pillars of hybrid working - collaboration, infrastructure and security. Find out more about Poly by visiting our website.