The keys to creating next generation workspaces

Executives from EPOS, IBRS, and New Zealand’s Plant & Food Research discuss the steps technology teams need to do now to create a good hybrid work environment.

Remote worker  >  A woman works from home
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When COVID-19 hit last March, workers everywhere were sent home to help stop the spread of the worst pandemic in 100 years. IT groups were forced to mobilise technologies that would support staff logging into core systems and using popular collaboration tools from just about anywhere.

Since then, everyone has been talking about creating “hybrid workspaces” and “the new normal.” What is true is that our workplaces will never be the same again and a CIO’s ability to create a good work-from-anywhere environment for your staff will have a huge impact on the future of his or her organisation.

Senior technology industry leaders gathered for a webcast recently to discuss the steps organisations need to take now to create a work environment that will ensure staff remain engaged and productive. The webcast was presented by Computerworld and sponsored by EPOS.

Dr Joseph Sweeney, advisor at research firm, IBRS, told viewers that the number one step senior technology executives need to take now is to listen to staff and get an honest update on how well they have been managed since the pandemic.

“You’ve got to be looking at their mental health, how they felt about working from home and what challenges they had working remotely,” he says.

“Look at what the data is telling them about productivity. That’s the first thing; understand what’s actually going on and find those pain points.”

The second step is to ensure sound quality is good, says Dr Sweeney. According to EPOS’ research, the average user loses 29 minutes per week due to sound issues when conducting meetings using popular collaboration tools. 

“It takes 34 minutes to get back on task if there has been an interruption and that happens in meetings,” he says.

Dr Sweeney added that IBRS’ own research on workplace stress midway through the pandemic found that workers were worried about not being able to use collaboration technologies correctly in front of their peers.

“You need to be able to look at those things and get them right,” he says.

The final step is esoteric. Companies need to look at the ways people are using systems now compared to how they were using them prior to the pandemic, he says.

“A lot of the issues we are talking about existed way before COVID-19 so behavioural issues around collaboration need to be addressed.”

Dr Sweeney points out that it took companies a decade-and-a-half to get email etiquette right and a new generation of people are now coming into the workforce who have an ‘asynchronous’ way of working.

“So we need to understand what the new etiquette is and how it ties into our business environment,” Dr Sweeney says.

Hong Kiat Seah, vice president, enterprise solutions, APAC at EPOS, adds that companies that are asking workers to come back to the office need to make sure that safety measures, particularly around hygiene, are in place.

“When it comes to hybrid work arrangements, there has to be clear guidelines as to how people go about it,” he says.

Clear guidelines and schedules around the amount of time people can spend working from home and in the office are also vital as well as a review of equipment that will help facilitate hybrid workspaces, he says.

“Using the example of headphones, if you had to facilitate somebody moving in and out of their home and office, you have to look at wearing style – whether or not the [audio device] is easy to carry around; you don’t want to be breaking it as you move,” he says.

Long battery performance is also crucial when people are taking calls on the move, he adds.

Finally, Wayne Sebalja, service desk team leader at New Zealand’s Plant & Food Research, says when the pandemic hit in early 202o, the organisation’s 1000 staff were experiencing audio issues during Skype calls.

“There’s nothing worse than in a meeting having a voice go really loud and screeching or you’ve got the issue of that low, slow and drawn-out voice that happens for a little while before it catches back up,” he says.

“We also had issues where peoples’ audio was so bad that they couldn’t attend or offer anything to the meeting.”

Since then, Sebalja and is team have deployed new audio technology to these staff, which has formed a key part of the organisation’s new hybrid work environments.

Sebalja encourages organisations to invest in new systems- including audio products – to make the transition better.

“If you can improve voice quality, then not only do you look good but your company looks good as well,” he says.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.