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During this time of remote work, many companies have continued their business operations by giving their employees the technology tools that keep them collaborating.
As we gradually get back to business as usual, what we call “as usual” may have changed as well. The last few months have shut down businesses or hindered their efforts to keep up their operations. Even if your organization was one of those that was already on board with collaboration technology, you’ve seen firsthand just how much people rely on each other when they can’t be in the same office, where they’re just a few feet away from asking a question, giving an answer, or providing an update.
Our post-COVID-19 era, if we may optimistically call it that, is one that will find thousands of organizations wanting to improve their collaboration environment for those working on-site and off. The following factors will impact and shape the new normal in the workplace:
Well-being: The offices you return to won’t be like the offices you left before the shutdown. Here are some ways you’ll maintain social connections while also providing for your employees’ well-being through recommended best practices and guidelines they must follow:
- Support monitored social distancing throughout the workplace, including collaboration spaces. A conference room that was designed to hold 10 people might now only have chairs for five participants at a time.
- Share safety protocols like frequent hand washing, social distancing, contact tracing, and the frequent cleaning of common devices and furniture.
- Create new spaces and redevelop existing ones to include touchless control and BYOD (bring your own device) capabilities.
Video collaboration: For people to work from home and on site, they need reliable, simple-to-use collaboration technology that integrates with their company’s network and applications. Having that high-quality, user-friendly technology also improves the experience for those connecting with them from various locations. Here are some areas to consider as you address a digital workplace equipped with video collaboration:
- Look at the ways your staff has used collaboration spaces and how those use cases are expected to change. Prepare for more activity-based workspaces while keeping in mind they might not follow the design you had in mind before COVID-19. Even with enhanced cleaning measures in place, people may not want to use the touch-enabled devices that book rooms, start meetings, or engage video.
- Provide a consistent user experience for those working from home. Standardize on a UCC solution that is easy to use and has the features that will accommodate your different user types.
- Consider non-traditional spaces like manufacturing floors as candidates for video collaboration.
Security: The expansion of the work environment to off-site locations, including the home, means that cybersecurity must also expand to include remote workers on a much larger scale than you may have previously anticipated. However, on-site work continues to be a mainstay of company operations. As your business transitions back to the offices, you’ll need to help your talent interact with on-site technology in a way that keeps information secure.
Consider these areas as your IT team focuses on your company’s information security:
- As you add UCC solutions for in-room and remote collaboration, review the cybersecurity features of those providers. Understand the built-in permissions and privacy protocols of their solutions so you know what steps to take to keep your information secure.
- Prepare for a resurgence of BYOD. Expect your staff to prefer using their own devices to interact with and control collaboration room technology.
- As you give access to company services to remote workers, consider how that access affects the security of those on-premise or cloud-based services.
- Address the home LAN with cybersecurity measures that protect company information, including documents and chat files.
Automation: In the workplace, many employees are booking common rooms and using a variety of control and collaboration devices that are also being used by their colleagues.
By automating in-office functions like scheduling and room control, you can improve the collaboration experience while also minimizing health risks by reducing the number of touch points. Some ideas for incorporating automation technology in your workplace include:
- Deploy virtual digital assistants like Alexa for Business to create a touch-free experience in collaboration spaces. Through voice activation, people can start their meetings and the devices that allow them to connect with remote colleagues, share documents from their personal devices, and wirelessly connect their devices to room displays.
- Offer personalized wayfinding employees and visitors through a combination of mobile apps and digital signage. This minimizes foot traffic by efficiently guiding people to their destinations.
- Automate workspace assignments so that employees know when and where they are scheduled to be on site. These assignments can be based on each person’s need to use on-site resources as well as their work preferences.
- Use remote concierge services to schedule, launch meetings, and monitor meetings. User management applications like AVI-SPL Symphony can do this, as well as remotely monitor and manage rooms, devices, the network, and the conference infrastructure.
Intelligent buildings: Intelligent building technology anticipates and responds to the way people work, and it streamlines their interactions with spaces and the kind of technology they need to use. These systems give insight into how spaces are being used so that a company can use the analytics to decide if it needs to reconfigure spaces and/or build new ones.
- Design responsive environments driven by AI and ambient computing. These rooms anticipate what devices and applications will be needed based on who schedules them, who is using the room, and the meeting purpose. Facial recognition tells system how you like the temperature and lighting in a room, and the preferred way of starting a meeting.
- The Internet of Things (IoT) and occupancy sensors, thermal cameras, and Wi-Fi tracking show the density of people gathered in various areas throughout the workplace. They provide alerts when they anticipate collaboration sessions will go over the approved number of participants. That information can be used to provide intelligent space scheduling that shows available rooms for supporting the required number of in-person participants while also maintaining social distancing.
- Integrated workplace management systems do the heavy lifting by monitoring spaces, down to the device level. This ensures that only rooms with functioning technology are available to schedule, and it lets the support team know when an issue needs a resolution. These systems help staff resolve these issues before an end user experiences any difficulty during a meeting.
AVI-SPL is helping organizations like yours determine what your “new normal” work experience will look like as you collaborate across offices and remote locations. If you have any questions about the issues shared in this post, or would like to discuss your organization’s collaboration strategy, contact us.
COVID-19 has highlighted that many of us were ill-prepared for a prolonged global disaster. Better accustomed to hurricanes, tornadoes, and other natural disasters, we had (fortunately) never experienced a crisis like this in our lifetimes. Now that we have had to learn these lessons the hard way, how can we use this knowledge and experience to ensure we are better prepared in the future?
We can all agree that business continuity is the most important aspect in any crisis. As the world begins to return to “normal”, we should take advantage of this opportunity to evaluate how we have managed the current challenge and think about how we can better prepare ourselves for the next crisis.
When evaluating how well your systems functioned during the crisis, here are a few questions with which to begin:
With many cloud services’ free offers expiring shortly, are you prepared to pay the bill for continued service? Will this service improve your disaster response in the future, or can alternatives meet this need?
Now is the time to evaluate your options and anticipate how these will assist you in maintaining business continuity in a second wave of lockdowns, or a more traditional disaster.
While most applications have seen a spike in utilization, are there any applications with suspiciously low usage?
This may be pointing out your workforce has developed their own solutions or workarounds for your systems, causing security and intellectual property concerns.
Who are your most crucial users? Who should belong to Phase 2 or 3?
Rolling out emergency procedures can be time consuming, and you should prioritize when possible to ensure your business continues to be as capable as possible during interruption. While executives are a natural answer, your front-line client support should not be overlooked. New product development, marketing, and even accounting should be considered for lower priority in your disaster collaboration plan.
Are your offices ready to handle users who have increased their adoption of video services?
Social distancing requirements may require a sustained uptick in video meeting adoption as some team members are in the office while others are at home. Additionally, some employees may be uncomfortable being in an enclosed space with others. Evaluate your office to include any conference rooms or huddle spaces that could be equipped with video to keep up with increased demand. It is becoming much cheaper to outfit rooms with basic video conferencing and content sharing technology. Defined corporate standards should provide easy templates to quickly outfit these spaces.
When evaluating your current response and working to refine future plans, there are a few other areas to consider that also impact business continuity:
Redundancy and Resilience
Luckily, the world has been moving to many cloud-based platforms in the past few years: between file storage and sharing, cloud video, and shared productivity apps, we are already in a much better place than we would have been even 10 years ago. However, there are strings attached to that cloud: licensing, security, and the ability for end user devices to access these technologies are all limiting factors. Some areas to ensure you have covered:
- Securing video meetings against intruders, with a passcode or other method
- Your device must be secure – but it must also connect to a secure platform. Are the management platforms, manufacturer portals, and individual device logins secure against attack? (For a more in-depth look, listen to our recent webinar with Crestron on AV and cybersecurity.)
Enabling Working from Anywhere
In the past, we have joked about working from our backyard hammock, the beach, or a boat. For these uncommon occurrences, the low-res webcam built into laptops, or those headphones you got with your phone, are perfectly adequate. The recent scramble to acquire webcams, headsets, and other remote work enablement devices has proven the need for quality hardware. Luckily, these items will not just sit in dusty boxes – they can be utilized in-office as well, improving the user experience and promoting the adoption of video meetings.
Consider purchasing employees basic hardware, such as those provided in AVI-SPL’s work from home bundles, as a hedge against potential second-wave quarantines and future disasters. AVI-SPL has expanded its offerings to provide solutions specific to COVID-19 office space needs:
- Temperature checks with the Aurora Temperature Check Tablet
- Touchless hand sanitizer stations such as the Liberty Cable NOVI-AHS
- Additional wireless demand will require a more durable network. Consider adding more WAP’s like the Luxul WS-80
- Improve the videoconferencing experience with webcams, such as the Logitech C925E and audio solutions such as the Yamaha YVC-330
- Wireless content sharing to enable social distancing while working in a group, using tools like the Barco ClickShare
Manage It Remotely
Are there elements of your collaboration technology environment that you cannot manage remotely? How will you handle a situation where a fire, tornado, or other natural disaster compromises your server or office access? While we have been relatively lucky lately that we can access our offices when required, this will not always be the case.
If you work in a corporate HQ that oversees and supports a company-wide technology environment, how will your satellite offices cope if HQ is gone?
Is your company planning on equipping multiple smaller offices, rather than one large office, to gain social distancing space?
Once again, a plan for redundancy and resiliency is needed. Systems such as AVI-SPL Symphony will allow you to monitor and control remote office technologies while enabling remote troubleshooting and meeting monitoring. This cloud-based application enables you to run a support desk from home and promotes social distancing: minimizing the number of on-site trips required and the number of staff required in-office.
Utilize Your Trusted Advisor
One of the most important life skills – in AV, UCC, or any situation – is to know when we have reached the limits of our knowledge. Even experts consult with other experts, and it is always a good practice to check in with others to get a second opinion.
AVI-SPL’s teams are at your convenience for that expert opinion. Beyond your account manager or service manager, AVI-SPL’s talented design teams can develop corporate standards that account for increased social distancing, remove touch elements from your conference rooms, and improve the reliability and scalability of your collaboration environment. Let us know you need help, and we will provide the service and support you require.