The impact of COVID on video conferencing, Microsoft Teams and workplace planning

How has COVID-19 impacted your business in terms of remote collaboration technology?

Over the past 18 months a seismic shift has taken place in the world of remote working. What was once seen as a rare luxury is now a vital necessity. As the evidence mounts for how effective and productive remote workers can be, there has been an uplift in the adoption of remote working and collaboration tools, beyond the requirements of COVID lockdowns.

Microsoft Teams for example is rapidly rolling out new features that make video calls a more immersive and collaborative experience. Sophisticated personal videoconference (VC) systems or all-in-one integrated screen/camera/audio units are becoming more affordable and make for a more natural remote meeting experience. Vendors are also rolling out a wide range of companion devices to make remote working and meetings more user friendly. Artificial Intelligence (AI) enabled cameras can track the number of meeting attendees and provide detailed reporting.

The impact of remote working on office planning, particularly for meeting rooms, is not being addressed or discussed. Studies suggest that more than 20 percent of the workforce could work remotely three to five days a week as effectively as they could if working from an office.1 Staff now often “drop-in” to the office for a few hours to attend a meeting or function. Some companies are fully embracing the change to enable staff to work from home full time with only occasional visits for basically social purposes.

Twitter was the first major company to announce a permanent work-from-home policy for employees. Other big companies have followed suit to some degree: Square now has a permanent work from home policy, while Optus says its call centre staff will work from home permanently. Atlassian has said their teams can ‘work from anywhere’ although the company is still going ahead with the construction of a new office-based hub above Central Station in Sydney, confident that teams will use it.

For those employees that can work remotely, 63% highlighted their ideal working model would be a hybrid of remote and office-based work (between one and four days a week).2

In a Leadership IQ study, The State Of Working From Home In 2020, it was discovered that when asked about their ideal working situation, only 9% of employees said they want to work in an office all the time. The other 91% would like at least some time working from home, with 39% saying they’d like to work from home 3-4 days per week. A Publicis Sapient study3 made similar discoveries, finding that 85% of people would prefer to continue working from home at least a few days of the week in the future.

This change in office attendance is affecting how meeting rooms are utilised:

  • Large meeting rooms (10 or more people) are underutilised but heavily booked. These rooms were historically the domain for office to office calls involving a large number of people. Meetings now consist of smaller groups of people on a Zoom or Microsoft Teams call in several locations – for example several people in each city in a meeting room with the remainder dialling in from home. COVID restrictions often mean you cannot fill a large room with people in any case. The demand for VC capable rooms however means that these rooms are reserved back to back.
  • Higher demand for small and medium sized meeting rooms. Given that people come to the office to meet or collaborate with others, they will do this in a collaboration space that needs to be equipped with a whiteboard and VC facilities that can run Microsoft Teams or other collaboration platforms.
  • Large event spaces (30 people and upwards) need better integration with Microsoft Teams and other collaboration systems, to support a mix of on-premises and remote attendees. These rooms often have complex requirements including wireless microphones, video-streaming facilities, room control functions, catering and concierge services.

 

Previous Use Case

Large meeting rooms hosting office to office calls involving a large number of people.

Current Mode

Smaller groups of people in several locations including people dialling in from home.

It is early days in terms of how this will play out for workplace planning. Earlier in COVID it was believed that office space needs would be reduced as staff worked from home, which would lead to floor closures and reduced demand for real estate. In practice, the density limits in offices and meeting rooms mean that although in-person attendance is lower, the space requirement has not actually dropped significantly.

Indications are that office planning will shift towards office spaces where there will be less space devoted to rows and rows of workstations. Instead there will be greater demand for collaboration spaces and meeting rooms of small to medium sizes that are fully Teams or video conferencing enabled.

A further implication is that meeting room management becomes more important. To plan effectively, decision makers need to know statistics on meeting room usage. For example, room utilisation, the split between in-person and remote attendees, peak days/times of usage. Support of VC technology also becomes more vital – conferencing systems are a key component of everyday working life so they cannot afford to be offline.

ThingsAt is a device-as-a-service (DaaS) specialist that can help your business understand and answer these challenges. We have experience in meeting room management and equipment rollouts. Our Managed Meeting Rooms Service encompasses all aspects including monthly funding models for new Teams enabled videoconferencing systems, remote meeting room management and support, as well as vendor and solution selection.

Contact our specialist team now to find out more.

Find out more

 

1McKinsey & Company, “What’s next for remote work: An analysis of 2,000 tasks, 800 jobs, and nine countries”, November 2020
2Boston Consulting Group, Employer Sentiment Survey, October 2020
3The Digital Life Index November 2020

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