Video is the new voice in the new norm, and we need to redesign our hybrid workplace to optimize this reality.

Just when people and organizations have become adjusted to working from home by default, the move to dealing with COVID-19 as endemic rather than pandemic has introduced us to yet another iteration of the future workplace – hybrid work.

It’s neither a buzzword nor a trend – it’s just a work arrangement that’s likely to stay as cities in Asia Pacific move towards living with endemic COVID-19, albeit cautiously. Yet, it would somehow redefine how people approach work, as well as work culture and habits.

For business leaders, it is back to the drawing board too as they need to figure out how to plan for this new normal, with a few key considerations in mind – productivity, employee’s safety, and the best infrastructure that would best support or complement this new style of working.

What seems to remain constant, whether it’s remote work or hybrid work, is that video is the new voice. And that means collaboration and communication tools and methods in both the office and home have to evolve around that.

With many employers are still trying to fully grasp the concept and adapt to the corresponding transformations required, DigiconAsia sought out some insights, strategies and tips from Samir Sayed, Managing Director for ASEAN and Korea, Poly.

Samir Sayed, Managing Director, ASEAN and Korea, Poly

What should businesses in Asia Pacific bear in mind as they redesign their workspace and reprioritize technology investments, now that hybrid work arrangements have taken root and office spaces are only expected to accommodate a fraction of their employees at a time?

Samir: Hybrid working is indeed the new normal, and it is a default arrangement that is here to stay. In this new normal, video is the new voice – it is the most popular, preferred, and critical collaboration channel.

In fact, the use of video has skyrocketed in verticals like small and medium businesses (SMBs) and education, that were not very video-savvy prior to the pandemic. Now, their business continuity depends on leveraging collaboration tools and solutions. Similarly, telemedicine has helped expand the reach of consulting, diagnostics, and treatment beyond the physical boundaries of clinics and hospitals.

In today’s hybrid work environments, it is important for businesses to create an experience that is the same for those working remotely, and from the office. Some of the critical considerations include:

  • Ensuring equality of meeting experience between people in office and those working remotely.
  • All meeting rooms are video enabled with the the right devices according to the room size to optimize investment and provide consistency in experience.
  • Ensure the devices are certified for multiple clould platforms like Microsoft Teams, Zoom and more, so that employees do not face compatibility and technical issues while collaborating over audio and video.
  • Provide enterprise grade, noise cancelling, platform agnostic collaboration devices for employees working from home or remotely to reduce distraction to during conference calls, and to help them stay productive.

What approaches or strategies do organizations need to put in place to improve collaboration between employees, for greater efficiency and productivity in the hybrid work model?

Samir: As employees get more comfortable with hybrid working arrangements, in the long run, it is important to remember that what used to work well in an office setting may not be the same when working from home or remotely.

Employees may have varying workstyles and different needs for technology, not just when it comes to where they work but also even for the same role. This impacts the type of technology they need to work and collaborate effectively, whether remotely or from the office. Those working from home and required to lead and attend video conferences may need high-quality and possibly, commercial-grade cameras.

At the same time, those who have tasted the benefits of working from home might not want to make a long-term return to the office. Some might prefer working from the office simply because there isn’t sufficient room to focus and be productive at home. A good understanding of these preferences would inform the technology that needs to be deployed, whether headset, video camera, or both, to help employees stay productive.

How should organizations and business leaders in Asia Pacific leverage technology to build an effective framework for hybrid work?

Samir: Now more than ever, a focus on the employee is essential to business success, both now and for the long term. This is echoed in a recent IDC study, which notes that business leaders should have three key factors in mind when adjusting their operations to adapt to hybrid work: Employee productivity, employee safety, and employee experience.

With employees working from home and from the office, business leaders need to figure out how to best match workstyles and employee behaviours with the right devices and technologies to help improve employee productivity.

As we look to a future where hybrid working arrangements are becoming the norm, business leaders need to be cognizant that there is no one-size-fits all solution. Rather, they should take the time to survey their employees to find out what their workplace personas are and how best the company can support them in doing their best work.

For IT departments, while scaling technology deployments for a hybrid workforce can be challenging, the adoption of XAAS, or the Anything-As-A-Service model helps businesses be able to opt into purchasing both technology and services on demand, introducing new solutions into their workflow more quickly, scale deployments up and down as needed – all while streamlining the time spent on maintenance.

Poly’s partnership with Zoom to provide Hardware-as-a-Service,  for instance, lets organizations deliver seamless room solutions that fit budgets as needed. This ability to deploy services and products on demand, and scale deployments up and down as needed, will be critical to companies being better placed to adapt to the ebb and flow of business as usual in unusual times.

How does a better understanding of workstyle personas help organizations improve technology spending planning across the organization?

Understanding workplace personas is vital because they drive workspace design and technology investment decisions by taking common employees’ needs and bringing them to the forefront of planning.

Personas provide business leaders and workspace designers with a shared understanding of employees in terms of goals, pain points, capabilities, and workstyles. Today, segmenting employees by role simply doesn’t work. There are often workers in the same role, sometimes with the same job title, who have different behavioural workstyles that affect how and when they use technology.

Which is why a “one size fits all” policies around technology deployment no longer works, especially in a hybrid work arrangement, as employees face different challenges when they work remotely and on-site. Understanding the differences between these personas can help personalize applications and match workstyles to specific devices and technologies based on known user behaviour.

Since 2013, Poly has been doing regular research into workstyle research in response to shifts in businesses and work environments as unified communications and collaboration technologies evolved and became more pervasive. We firmly believe that a good understanding of workplace personas will help inform businesses’ investment in tools and solutions that will enhance collaboration and productivity.

To that effect, Poly offers a User Persona Work Style Survey for customers who want to know more specifically about the percentage of different work styles they have in their own environment as it will vary from company to company. We will then work with business leaders to provide actionable recommendations on how to best support the workstyles based on the survey insights.

At the end of the day, if employees are comfortable with their devices, and if their devices fit their workstyles, the workers will be more productive and happier, improving user adoption and better return on investment for the company.