When the COVID-19 pandemic drove most workers out of their offices, IT professionals everywhere had to scramble to provide employees with the tools necessary to conduct business outside of a traditional workplace. Video conferencing became crucial not only to maintaining productivity, but also in fostering the connection that workers experienced in their pre-pandemic workplaces.
Now, as vaccines roll out and businesses start to contemplate their next chapters, what’s emerged is a hybrid model of work that includes both office occupancy and work from home, along with new possibilities and challenges for IT departments to explore. Chief among these is how to deliver true connection between employees working remotely, those returning to the office and those who will work from home and the office a few days a week.
Are we going back?
As businesses enter this next phase of work life, the first question many employers will have to face is how much of their workforce will be returning to the office, and in what capacity. Here, there’s some discrepancy between the expectations of the workforce and their employers. According to a study conducted on behalf of EPOS, an audio and video technology company, by market research firm Ipsos, U.S. employees only expect a 29% increase in in-office time relative to the fully remote parameters of the pandemic, while employers expect a 74% increase. But while workers are not expecting a full return to pre-pandemic office life, the study shows they’re also indicating a desire for greater connection, with more than two-thirds of the respondents stating that they want more in-person collaboration in a post-pandemic world.
In order to accommodate employee expectations, employers will need to create the kind of infrastructure that allows for continued remote communication, allowing those who are working remotely to effectively engage with their in-office counterparts. Currently, that means reliable, high-fidelity video conferencing.
The challenge of remote audio
While video conferencing has allowed teams and clients around the world to connect without losing the semblance of face-to-face interaction, that freedom has come with pitfalls, particularly related to audio performance. In their study, EPOS discovered that 88% of decision makers believe that audio issues have caused their companies problems in the past year and have created an estimated 31 extra minutes of work per week for the average end user. For a company with more than 100 employees, that equals approximately $70k per annum in lost revenue.
Meanwhile, 63% of global end users claim to have experienced sound-related issues during business conversation, ranging from background noise to interference to segments of conversations lost outright. The impact is profound, with 15% reporting the loss of a key piece of work and 17% believing they appear less professional because of audio issues.
The hybrid model and the audio advantage
The EPOS study highlights two key points: First, employers will need to build a bridge in the workplace of the near future between the kind of in-person interaction that’s considered most constructive and a workforce that expects remote connection to be a continued part of their day-to-day life. Second, the delivery of high-quality audio is a key technological cornerstone of this bridge, and companies that provide it will have a leg up when it comes to productivity and the avoidance of potentially damaging roadblocks to communication.
To achieve this, businesses will need to invest in audio infrastructure, and the right equipment is a key factor therein. Video conferencing equipment will need to be upgraded and made easy-to-use to provide easy access to high-definition picture and sound.
Products such as the EPOS EXPAND Vision 3 are built with the hybrid workplace in mind, offering sharp, intelligent video solutions that keeps everyone in the picture and all voices heard. Headsets and headphones such as the ADAPT line, optimized for voice communication, are now essential to ensure your productivity in both workplace and remote settings. And speakerphones offering plug-and-play conference solutions, such as the EXPAND series, ensure you can broadcast rich, natural sound to avoid the loss of important information.
Thankfully, these solutions are being embraced by employers, with 86% responding that they plan to purchase new audio equipment to accommodate for the needs of the hybrid work model.
Building on the best of both worlds
The massively transformative nature of the COVID-19 pandemic has thrust us all into unfamiliar territory, and navigating this new world requires an understanding of both the key challenges to be faced and the opportunities to be exploited. And audio technology plays a key role in both aspects. As the professional world begins to truly explore the hybrid work model, employers and their employees are sending a clarion signal that an audio experience free of issues is key to their success. Technologists who embrace that message and provide services to facilitate its fulfillment will no doubt find the benefits of the new, hybrid work environment coming in loud and clear.