By Rick Mullins, Vice President, Workplace Technology Strategies at CBRE | SiteREADY
Working remotely during the coronavirus pandemic has shown many of us how connected we can be when we use the right virtual collaboration tools and technologies—namely, video conferencing.
As workplaces reopen and employees return to the office, business leaders are tasked with matching the ease and simplicity of video conferencing we all experienced from our homes. Previous investments in incremental upgrades to workplace conference rooms, huddle spaces and workstations will fall short of the virtual connectivity experience most of the workforce now expects. This means that technology in the workplace will have to make a quantum leap toward integrated audio visual solutions that work seamlessly. It is a potentially large undertaking, but one that boils down to three key components:
The pandemic sparked immediate, widespread adoption of video conferencing as flights, meetings and conferences on our calendars turned virtual almost overnight. The week of March 14–21 saw a 45% increase in enterprise video app downloads from the week prior and a 90% increase from the pre-pandemic weekly average, according to Computerworld. The downloads were undoubtedly driven by brand name and user familiarity, rather than true technology strategy—passable because the workplace was reduced to each person’s laptop and desk at home.
Video conferencing in an office, ironically, is more demanding in terms of implementation. The first step to choosing a software solution is usually more involved than most anticipate. Which software can your current infrastructure support and how does a potential upgrade impact that infrastructure? For example, a business running on Cat 5e cable with 50 people using the same network can’t expect the same video quality and software performance as that of a private residential wireless connection with a single user. Cybersecurity and cost factors also come into play.
Lingering technology shortcomings in the workplace will become more glaring as teams adjust to collaborating through a fluid combination of in-person and virtual meetings. Leaders might look at the 90-inch, $6,500 LCD TV on the wall and question the expense. Employees in the office would be right to wonder why, on that high-tech TV, the faces of their colleagues working remotely are pixelated, when they were previously crystal clear while working from home.
Remember, the goal is no longer for audio visual solutions to work adequately; they must work ubiquitously…safely…seamlessly…beautifully—not just in the workplace, but across your real estate portfolio and remotely. The good news is that we have seen simplicity rise to the forefront, which suggests the workplace of the future can conceivably operate on “consumer-grade” technology in place of high-maintenance hardware. Regardless, all software requires some form of hardware. Leaders need to decide now whether they are going to move toward a truly digital workplace or continue with traditional enterprise equipment strategies.
In the 2020 State of the IT survey, 88% of businesses expected IT budgets to either grow or remain steady over the 12 months to follow.
“Overall, the need to upgrade outdated IT infrastructure continues to be the biggest driver, followed by escalating security concerns, and employee growth,” the report stated. “Additionally, with more data, departments, and employee devices to connect, manage, and secure, 25% of enterprises are also increasing IT spend due to a recent security incident, compared to only 4% of small businesses.”
That was before the pandemic exposed the remote technology gap in many organizations. The quest for workplace mobility will only accelerate, with connectivity being both the key and the crown jewel. How do we allow employees to connect to the network—quickly, securely and reliably, just like they do at home?
The return to the workplace is a window of opportunity to pursue digital transformation. With strategic planning and integrated solutions, enterprises will step forward in the space of workplace technology and all that it enables—productivity, collaboration, morale and growth—like never before. See how CBRE | SiteREADY can lead every step of the way, from strategy and systems design through implementation and ongoing improvements. Learn more.