Once upon a time employees went to a physical office five days a week, all at the same time, worked from identical computers and filed the same paperwork day in and day out — it was homogenous. Today’s landscape and the future of work as we know it is far from that.
Unified communication technologies allowed work to continue in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and left an impact on the future work — even tech giants like Microsoft say the future of work is a combination of both in-person and virtual.
“Hybrid work means that more people will combine working together in person with being distributed across different locations, whether in another office, at home, or fully remote in other cities or countries. Technology is going to be key in enabling meaningful interactions amongst a more distributed workforce,” says Carla D’Alessandro, vice president of product extensions at WeWork.
“I think the pandemic showed the importance of technology investments and digital infrastructure investments,” says Peter Miscovich, managing director, strategy, and innovation at JLL consulting.
Advances in artificial intelligence (AI) are ushering in a new automated age. PWC has projected the economic value of AI activity to reach $13 trillion by 2030.
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The impacts of automation and AI cannot be underestimated. “It’s been slowly building over the last ten years,” says Miscovich. “In the next 10 years, certainly post 2025, we’re going to see considerable scaling, and it will have a very significant impact on how we work, where we work, who we work with, and then the skill sets, and capability sets that we will need as human beings to work in this new human plus machine evolving environment.”
WFH and Remote Work are the Future
“We’re needed probably beyond our capabilities today to help innovate, to help problem solve and to be creative,” Miscovich says. “I think from a talent perspective as machines take over more and more of this routinized and repetitive type of work, the skill sets required for the workforce will change.”
“I think we’re going to see an interesting harmonization between place and the office as a means of a place to work, or a place to collaborate, and socialize, and maybe the place to build culture versus all of these other ecosystem options that are evolving as a result of the pandemic, and as result of the hybridization of work practice,” he says.
“The future of work is hybrid, and the purpose of the office is shifting,” says D’Alessandro. “People have more choice about where and how they work, and now more than ever, offices need to serve a clear purpose and be a place employees want to be. We are prioritizing optionality and flexibility when redesigning and reconfiguring our spaces and how people can access them. Visits to the office have become more intentional, with our members looking to the office to be where they connect and re-engage in-person with their colleagues,” says D’Alessandro.
“Moving forward, we see offices as being designed less for heads down work at a “sea” of individual desks and more designed for people to safely work together, discuss ideas and collaborate. For example, active areas like WeWork’s ‘collaboration hubs’ promote idea sharing and collaboration, whether brainstorming or educating. These areas include formal meeting rooms, sprint and presentation spaces, and semi-private, shared breakout spaces designed to spark conversations and socialization among coworkers.”
“I don’t think place is necessarily going away, but I do think it is getting re-prioritized. If progressive organizations want to be successful, they will need to attract digital talent in the future. Those organizations will need to engage to some degree hybrid work practices to attract that talent and to also retain that talent, as well as to help that talent manage a lot of the complexity that we’re seeing in terms of both cognitive fatigue mental health and mental wellness,” says Miscovich.
The Future of Meetings Involves AI Technology
Meetings have never been more complex, and AI is going to be a key part in enabling the meeting experience moving forward. The pandemic has changed how organizations look at video, how users interact with video solutions that they need to join and the thought of inviting other guests into meetings. According to Forbes, 62% of companies use three or more video calling platforms.
“The meeting of the future is still a meeting, but a video meeting,” says Jordan Owens VP, architect at Pexip at Enterprise Connect. “The meeting is just a meeting. It should be discussing the work we are doing, working on the projects we are leveraging, whatever it is that we need that meeting to be, but it should just be a meeting, not a complex technical environment,” he says.
Complexity needs to be removed from the meeting of the future. The future of the meeting should be the user and how one interacts with the tools for the meeting. Users shouldn’t have to download anything to join a meeting, they should be able to join from any device. Flexibility is going to be key.
AI is important before the meeting, during, and after. Nobody has time to stop and switch to a new application for every meeting.
“The work has become more complex from a device standpoint and the app must adapt to that experience not the other way around,” says Owens. “All of these features can be leveraged by using AI in the pre-meeting experience. The system can understand when it’s recognizing I’m hitting a roadblock and suggest I reach out to someone for some help. The system should understand when I join a meeting what’s the right camera, what’s the right microphone, what’s the right way to join into that meeting,” he says.
“The system should understand if I have the right apps to support the meeting and If I don’t what are the things, I can do without installing them. The system should be able to pull that friction away from that pre-meeting experience,” says Owens.
The ability for users to move from meeting-room to meeting-room within seconds and still have high-quality audio and visuals is important for collaboration to happen.
AV integrators and manufacturers that can meet the new hybrid threshold requirements in the next five years are projected to win big.
The Role of Integrators in a Hybrid/Remote Workplace
The future of work is virtual and it is here to stay. The pandemic has proved that work can still be done in a hybridized manner. “It’s also highlighted the fact that many individuals do want to collaborate and work in person in workplaces and that will probably be moving forward in a world that will be hybrid,” says Miscovich. “I think the diversification of work practice and workplace behaviors will only increase overtime and I think we’ve just begun that journey as a result of the pandemic,” he says.
Integrators will need to help bring people together in person and remotely.
“Where we stand today, won’t work two years from now, won’t work four years from now, and I would argue won’t work six months from now,” says Owens. “As we return to the office from this COVID-19 experience, a meeting will be different, and in the that new normal only with AI can we drive up the utilization of meetings, drive up the productivity of meetings, and shift the burden of the end user onto the technology to drive the meeting experience today,” he says.
According to Miscovich, our next great challenge is the “ability for people to perform at new levels and the ability of organizations to support human performance. How we work, how we live, and how technology and AV technology can support our day-to-day lifestyle and work style engagement will be significant. Workplace experience is going to matter a great deal. The AV sector is going to play a big role in that. When employees go into a corporate conference room, they will need to experience delight versus frustration.”
This article originally appeared on our sister publication Commercial Integrator‘s website.