Can an office make you a better team player? It can and will!
Today’s workspaces are being designed to put remote and in-person workers on equal footing. In the new world of #Hybrid work, teams anywhere can collaborate around virtual whiteboards, brainstorm in totally immersive environments, and work productively together at the “office”—whether that’s company headquarters, a satellite location or booked workstation, a café or airport, or your own home or car.
The move to hybrid work is underway, driven by new tools and technologies to make virtual meetings more accessible and more inclusive, and demand from employees and managers for more flexible work models and schedules.
Many people want to go back to the office when they can. But just as many want the option to work from home at least some of the time, while others may never want to return. The workspace of the future will need to accommodate all of them.
“A year from now, hybrid meetings will be the norm,” says Shiraz Cupala, product leader for Microsoft Teams Meetings Platform Innovation. “So the question becomes: How do we connect the pieces so that when we’re all in that hybrid room together, everyone has equal access to information and an equal voice at the table?”
The move to hybrid work doesn’t mean that offices are going to disappear. Workers will still want and need a physical space to come together and connect. But the office spaces of the future will shift away from cubicles and corner spots to collaborative team spaces that address the needs of both remote and in-person workers.
Options range from conference rooms and smaller focus rooms with enhanced audio and video capabilities for hybrid meetings to smaller office space for one or two people. Within those spaces, the technology allows seamless and immersive interactions among remote and in-office workers.
Fully in-person meetings have worked for years; during the pandemic, #Teams facilitated fully remote ones. The challenge of hybrid meetings will be to create a space in which the seven people, say, calling in from home, have the same interactive experience and access to information as the five people, for example, in the conference room. Equal participation and presence are the goals.
Spatial audio and high-quality video will allow everyone to be seen and heard. Improved functions like “raise hands,” chat, and reactions will enable remote workers to participate in more natural and expressive ways.
Just as digital documents created more efficient ways to annotate and collaborate, new digital tools offer new and more effective ways to share content and information during the flow of a meeting. For hybrid meetings, enhanced #PowerPoint features will allow speakers to see and interact with their remote audience members. At the same time, those working from home will have better access to that content, thanks to features that promote inclusivity (high-contrast views for hard-to-read slides) and interaction (the ability to go back to previous slides you may want to view again).
Whiteboards have long been essential for collaborative work, from the scribbled notes and concepts on the physical boards themselves to the on-the-fly spitballing and building upon one another’s ideas that happen around them. In the past, remote workers often couldn’t see the boards—either there was no video or the presenter was standing in the way. Now, both on-site and remote workers can draw on the same shared digital canvas; with Intelligent Capture, remote attendees can see the images and text through the person writing on the board. And unlike physical whiteboards that can be erased, these digital boards can be saved as a virtual artifact. In the future, we’ll be able to take that artifact and continue sharing and collaborating on it after the hybrid meeting is done.
In the office of the future, many of the most needlessly burdensome tasks will be simplified. Tools like #MicrosoftViva use machine learning and artificial intelligence to offer each employee a curated collection of onboarding resources, contextual explainers, tutorials, and continuous learning options from third-party companies. It can even leverage AI to create a vast Wikipedia-like resource pulled from relevant information from across the organisation. Intelligent companies will create a digital concierge that increases efficiency in ways both large and small.
Microsoft’s #MyHub app allows its employees to nab a parking spot closest to the building where their first meeting of the day takes place, book seats on Wi-Fi–enabled connector buses, reserve desks and conference rooms, adjust the temperature of their workspace. Employees can also navigate their way through the building—and even check the queue lengths at on-campus cafés and cafeterias.
One of the biggest complaints of the pandemic era has been the loss of a sense of camaraderie among coworkers—as well as the random sparks of creativity that used to happen during casual chats around the water cooler or lunchroom.
How do we capture the freewheeling nature of these informal gatherings in the new hybrid future? If we go back to the building and only focus on the people we’re seeing in person and forget the ones who are working remotely, that’s a loss. That loss can be huge, both in terms of the mental health of employees and a company’s lack of innovation. Virtual chat rooms and Teams channels allow for more of these informal gatherings for both in-house and remote workers.
In addition, companies can foster a sense of belonging with engagement tools like #VivaConnections, which presents each employee with a personalised assortment of resource groups, communities, and conversations that they may wish to take part in.
Rather than returning to one mega-office when the lockdown ends, workers may be spending more time in coworking spots closer to home or in satellite facilities built along with a hub-and-spoke model. These options will attract people in talent-rich places away from the company’s headquarters and allow for more scheduling flexibility and shorter commutes for hybrid workers. Opportunities for in-person collaborative work for those employees who might be working from home nearly all of the time.
Another positive impact of a hub-and-spoke approach: the ability to “hire from everywhere,” expanding the potential talent pool for companies that in the past would have required new hires to relocate.
To find out how we can help you and your employees maximise the range of applications and features available with Microsoft 365, call us today on 01509 410 410!
#RemoteWorking #HybridWork #VirtualMeetings #Microsoft365 #Dalycom