Commercial Integrator 2023 - 51

C llab rati n
TODAY and TOMORROW
Tepid Return-to-Office Results So Far
Over the last year or more, businesses have hoped that a
wave of new corporate initiatives, driven by senior leadership,
will reignite a faster return to the office. The results have been
tepid so far. Millions of square feet of office space remain unused.
Office real-estate vacancies stand at 19.6%, the highest
since the Great Recession, according to data from JLL. The
numbers are even higher in major U.S. cities. The reasons are
obvious: Many employees no longer believe that the benefits
of working in the shared space of an office outweigh the challenges
of long commutes, travel hassles and loss of work/life
balance. They need more compelling reasons to be back in
the office.
However, our survey shows that full-time remote work is not
without its challenges. Although a staggering 92% of surveyed
businesses have made hybrid work a business priority, 77%
of their employees suffer from meeting fatigue when working
remotely; moreover, 73% of participants feel disadvantaged
when attending meetings remotely as compared to joining in
person. The challenges range from the technical, such as the
80% who cite a lack of bandwidth and internet issues, to the
social or professional. With regard to the latter, 79% of employees
report weakened relationships with coworkers and loss of
business culture/mentorship opportunities because of remote
work. Given these difficulties, there is an even stronger reason
for businesses to draw employees back in the office.
Making investments in modern offices will re-energize employees
and inspire teamwork, creativity and networking in businesses.
Every aspect of the physical office - from the lobby to the
boardroom - must be digitized. Meeting rooms, in particular,
are getting increasing attention. Some 36% of the organizations
we surveyed report they are building additional meeting spaces
to accommodate more meetings between distributed teams. In
addition, 33% are building newer types of meeting spaces (e.g.,
phone booths, digital hives, jump spaces and meeting pods).
There is a growing focus on turning meeting spaces into
collaboration hotbeds, with modern technologies that allow
employees to be at their productive best. This includes
AI-infused audio video, high-quality displays and digital
whiteboarding. Meeting insights and analytics offer a better
understanding of space utilization, performance and engagement.
We are seeing greater adoption of technologies that
enhance ease of use and boost utilization. These include intelligent
workspace-reservation software; scheduling panels that
display meeting-room availability and room-health metrics;
in-room digital meeting controllers for fast, one-click-to-join
meetings; and room sensors that not only ensure optimal occupancy
but also release the space if the meeting ends early
or if the participants don't show up.
Equally important is a growing need to create inclusive video
meetings for all by enabling new furniture (V-shaped, instead of
round or rectangular tables) and optimal camera placement,
including multi-camera technologies.
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As businesses invest in newer technologies, they are realizing
that one size does not fit all. A broad range of options exists today.
We asked businesses the main benefits to their organization
from remote work or hybrid work; reduced costs and greater employee
choice were listed as the top two. Employee choice is the
freedom to choose not only where to work but also how to work.
Consequently, a greater choice of workspaces and technology
options is an expectation when employees come into the office.
When it comes to meeting rooms, we see a good mix of the
two options: BYOD and dedicated in-room devices. BYOD gives
users greater flexibility to collaborate with the meeting platform
of choice on their preferred device. With this, users don't need to
learn additional room technology. In addition, BYOD gives users
access to their critical data and applications. This option is also
more cost-effective, allowing businesses to build collaborative
spaces using flexible components across different form factors
and price points. Some 57% of the IT decision-makers surveyed report
insufficient budgets as a key challenge in the next three years.
BYOD Has Its Own Set of Challenges
But IT admins cannot control the user experience, nor
can they monitor or manage devices centrally. There is an
emerging need among IT managers for greater control and
manageability across their organizations. One in four (27%) of
the IT decision-makers we surveyed report manageability as a
key concern with their current videoconferencing setup. This
has led to the popularity of dedicated in-room audio/video
devices that allow centralized control and management while
also ensuring security. Dedicated devices offer more robust
feature sets and higher-quality audio-video experiences to
users, and they provide greater manageability to IT. However,
they come at a higher initial purchase price and incur greater
ongoing-support costs.
Both BYOD and dedicated devices are here to stay. Each approach
depends on each business' unique needs and preferences.
Many organizations are opting for the middle ground, building
dedicated-room solutions for many of their rooms while designating
others as platform-agnostic BYOD rooms. This hybrid
strategy gives employees a range of options and choices, while
balancing the business needs for security and manageability.
This year, we will see continued innovation and enhancements
in the collaboration platforms and the devices that connect
to them. Transformational leaps in AI and analytics, as well as
growing developments in interop across meeting platforms,
are making it easier for users to have effective and productive
communications, while giving them the choice to work from anywhere.
Businesses must take the time to not only evaluate which
collaboration platform to use but also look closely at matching
the technology with use cases. Each space - office and home -
serves distinct needs. Technology must support all of them.
Roopam Jain is vice president of research, information
and communications technologies at Frost & Sullivan.
JUNE 2023 Commercial Integrator 51
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Commercial Integrator 2023

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