As the workforce returns to the office, AV/IT managers, technology decision-makers, and consultants are revamping the workplace and higher-ed campus to enhance collaboration, communication, and engagement in the new era of hybrid. Simply adding more of anything is not a solution, but careful planning to understand the need and how people want to work and learn is critical to future success.
With the expectation that there will be a greater percentage of hybrid workers than in 2019 returning to the offices at financial technology company Square, senior AV systems engineer Laura Talon is designing spaces that work for the individual. "Our workforce includes folks who are thrilled to return to the office, others who prefer to continue working from home, and a significant percentage who want to split their time between the office and home," she said. "We're building to accommodate everyone on that spectrum as much as possible."
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A Trend Toward Purpose-built
Laura Talon, senior AV systems engineer at Square
While some AV/IT managers are ordering more displays to enable videoconferencing, others focus on multi-use displays. "We're not seeing more displays, but we definitely see different kinds of displays," Talon said. "We're testing several interactive models that will allow users to work with a number of different collaborative tools in the room while still having the freedom to use the displays for videoconferencing when necessary," added Talon.
Talon and her team have an idea of how workflows will change. "We'll continue to make improvements and enhancements to our AV systems over the next year as we get a chance to see how people are using the office in this new environment." The team is testing interactive displays to discover new ways to improve the conference room and whiteboarding experience. "There is a big focus on interactivity and creating a space where users can be productive and innovative with their teammates locally, and remotely rather than just having meetings."
At Square, high-quality audio that allows users in different locations to communicate clearly is a priority, and so Talon and her team have been testing various audio technologies. "We've tested in-wall speaker and low-profile beamforming speaker/mic solutions that not only perform beautifully but also allow us to design rooms that feel more like a living room than a conference room," she said. "We feel that when a collaboration space is less formal and more comfortable, a lot of users are able to create and focus in this more relaxed environment."
Integrated IoT Delivers Actionable Results
Talon is exploring IoT features that will help automate certain features within the space. "For instance, we tested a Samsung Frame display with an IoT room sensor, so the act of closing the door of the room switched the display from art mode to conference mode," she said. "We're discussing different uses of these sensors, including room usage metrics, temperature control, and lighting and shade control. We're excited about the idea of automating the office experience in thoughtful ways that allow our employees to focus on what they do best rather than details that can be addressed with technology."