Workers Aren’t Ready to Return to the Office

Man in boardroom
(Image credit: EPOS)

After 15 months of working from home as a result of the pandemic, companies in the United States are hoping to establish an equilibrium this fall that hinges on bringing workers back to offices. But recent research  from EPOS finds that there is a notable divergence in the expectations of decision-makers and employees regarding the return to work: 56 percent of global business decision-makers expect an increase in employee time spent at the office, while only 26 percent of employees expect the same.

As hybrid working patterns begin to take shape globally, with employees scattered across cities and countries, audio and videoconferencing tools proved essential for keeping in touch. The new research, commissioned by EPOS and conducted by Ipsos, finds that professionals today spend an average of seven hours a week in virtual meetings—an increase of two hours a week in just the last year.

[The Technology Manager's Guide to Collaboration in the Post-COVID World]

In a world rebounding from a pandemic, progressive businesses need to embrace the best of both worlds. The benefits of virtual working are now well known, and employees are keen to preserve some of the convenience, flexibility, and adaptability that remote work promises. Though they may hope to bring employees back to the office, 99 percent of workplace decision-makers still see the advantage of virtual meetings, which deliver time and cost savings, and enable meetings to take place seamlessly across time zones.

Bridging the Gap Between Decision-Makers and Employees

As lockdowns begin to ease and signs of normal life return, many decision-makers are anticipating the advantages of a genuinely hybrid model for the workplace. However, there are notable differences of opinion between decision-makers and employees regarding the return to work.

This disparity is present globally, with the widest gulf in the United States, where 74 percent of employers expect workforces to return to the workplace, compared to just 29 percent of employees surveyed. These results suggest that on a global level, decision-makers need to engage and align with their employees to better understand their expectations. By understanding and meeting employee needs, business leaders create a strong hybrid working model that will in turn help secure future talent.

Forward-thinking sectors are already recognizing an opportunity to fully support remote work programs to tap into a vast and global talent pool, thereby creating greater business agility while gaining significant cost savings.

Alleviating the Pain Points of Bad Audio

For employees across all markets, critical challenges in the hybrid working setup stem from bad audio or video experiences, with close to all (89 percent) end users currently experiencing difficulties in virtual meetings. The most common experience issues include misunderstanding what’s being said in a meeting (26 percent) and missing out on critical information (21 percent), while a further 17 percent say that they appear unprofessional because of poor sound experiences. The experience issue extends to collaboration tools used, with 16 percent reporting that the equipment they use is “not fit for purpose,” while 13 percent report having difficulties seeing details shared on screen.

Over time these negative experiences can affect employees’ ability to focus, engage, and actively contribute. Fortunately, decision-makers are recognizing the impact that bad audio can have on their business and employee wellbeing: 88 percent accept that technology shortcomings have caused problems over the past year. A further 77 percent believe that the right technology can overcome collaboration experience issues and are prepared to make necessary investments in equipment and infrastructure. Solving technology problems could also go far in persuading employees that virtual meetings can be just as good as in-person ones going forward.

Successful businesses in the hybrid workplace will be defined by their ability to support employees with the right technology solutions, tailored to needs and expectations. Technology offers a clear way to bridge the gap between differing expectations and priorities: high-quality, integrated audiovisual solutions have the potential to bring the best of both worlds to post-pandemic work. Moreover, in helping to eliminate distractions, collaboration technology both enhances human interaction and increases professionalism, helping businesses to reach a gold standard for the hybrid workplace.

Get the full Virtual Collaboration report here

The AVNetwork staff are storytellers focused on the professional audiovisual and technology industry. Their mission is to keep readers up-to-date on the latest AV/IT industry and product news, emerging trends, and inspiring installations.