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C-suite pushing for back-to-office as people struggle with overload of virtual meetings

By Shannon Williams
Mon 5 Jul 2021
FYI, this story is more than a year old

New research has found C-level management is pushing for a return to in-person work places, as more people begin to struggle with an overload of virtual collaboration.

The Outlook For The Post-COVID-19 Workplace research, from Barco Clickshare, surveyed the engagement and needs of employees in meetings and identified five key trends that it says business decision makers simply cannot afford to ignore when preparing for a flexible, future-fit hybrid workplace.

The research found that office optimism is returning. 

According to Barco, back-to-office scenarios are not only pushed by C-level management, they are completely in line with what employees want. More than half of the workforce is ready to return and 92% is expected to be back in the office one or more days by the end of June 2021. They want to work less from home than six months ago (2 days in 2020, 1.5 days in 2021).

The Barco Meeting Barometer has also taken a plunge as people struggle with an overload of virtual meetings. An index of -25, compared to +17 in 2020 and +63 in 2019, shows that meetings deteriorate. Fifty four per cent feel remote collaboration does not come naturally.  

According to the research, the search for more engagement drives people away from virtual, with respondents looking for more in-person meetings and less virtual interactions. One in two employees goes back to the office to host a meeting. The preference for hybrid, in-person or virtual, meetings depends on the purpose and type of a meeting, as well as on the number of meeting participants. High engagement activities like decision-making, solution-solving or relationship-building require office-based meetings.

The research also revealed the laptop is the interface to the world. As the preference for people-centric tech becomes clearer, the laptop remains the number one tool for 69% of employees to host videocalls from. Traditional in-room systems are no longer preferred, in favour of BYOD and BYOM.  

An employee-centric workplace has arisen, the research found. Hybrid meeting investments should be in sync with employee expectations on how and where they want to work and collaborate. Thirty-nine per cent believe that the company has not prioritised the investments they needed for better hybrid collaboration while 88% think that all meeting rooms need to be equipped with videoconferencing technology. 

"Meetings will continue to play a crucial role in tomorrow's workplace, as they will be a key driver for business continuity, teamwork and innovation during the transition into a new hybrid reality," says Claudio Cardile, ANZ managing director, Barco.

"Connecting workers wherever they are and making hybrid collaboration truly flow will be the road to future success, higher engagement and productivity," he says.

"At the same time, hybrid meetings will create opportunities for business leaders to change work culture, redesign the workplace and invest in usability and technology fully in sync with employee needs," Cardile says.

"Business leaders will need to focus on making a real impact on business outcomes starting from an employee-centric mindset."

The Barco report on Outlook For The Post-COVID-19 Workplace includes three main take-aways that will enable decision-makers to anticipate and keep ahead of competition, as they shape the hybrid workplace moving forward.  These include:

  • Re-connecting with the organisation and with colleagues is crucial for employee engagement and retention. 60 per cent of employees think their employer should start preparing for hybrid work now.
  • One size does not fit all. Not all meetings are equal, not all employees have the same needs or requirements for collaboration. There are many differences across generations, gender, department and seniority level. Companies need to develop workplace strategies that allow for this kind of flexibility and empower employees to work the way they want.
  • Bring Your Own Meeting (BYOM) is the employees preferred choice for connecting to the world and to co-workers. The laptop is the heart of the meeting room eco-system and employees want to work with wireless & touchless meeting room tech that allows BYOM. 81 per cent believe that easy-to-use technology can make for a better meeting. 

"The emerging hybrid workplace isn't just about simply going back to our old-ways or about drastically changing present-day, virtual habits," Cardile adds.

"It will be a careful balance between employee needs and business goals. For businesses to daily bridge the gap between in-office and remote workers and allow them to be truly productive in meetings, both a change in work culture and technology investments like usability, BYOM and video solutions, will be crucial."

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