After two years of total disruption, life is slowly returning to normal – except it won’t quite ever be back to business-as-usual. The COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally changed us; made us question our values and re-evaluate what’s important to us. And as we return to the office and adjust to post-pandemic life, the way we work, the way we communicate, and the way we prioritise our time will be different. Because of this, businesses will need to adjust to meet the new demands of employees, which will ultimately affect the way they use and implement technology in the office.
These are our trends for the changing workplace in 2022:
A return to simpler times
The pandemic forced us to slow down, which, in the middle of a devastating global health crisis, was one of the more positive outcomes. During lockdown, people grew to appreciate the little things; to enjoy time spent with family, to connect with loved ones, and to appreciate not having to rush everywhere.
As we return to the office, this desire for simplicity will extend into the workplace and as such, we’re going to see significant changes to meeting rooms. Businesses will want to take the complexity out of the meeting room; removing complicated systems that affect productivity and engagement. We’re going to see the end of electric blinds and fancy lighting systems that need to be endlessly tinkered with to get everything right; people want to simply walk into a room, have their meeting, and get on with their day. This will mean having the right technology that simply works every time. Simple, easy to use, high-quality technology which allows them to connect seamlessly with co-workers and clients with zero fuss.
The 15-minute work-life model
During the pandemic, people enjoyed not having to commute long distances and we expect to see this continue into next year and beyond. Commute-avoidance will lead to the rise of the 15-minute work-life model – a new reality where people choose to work, live and play within 15 minutes of their home.
It’s now widely accepted that we can be productive from anywhere, and workers who no longer wish to commute each day will demand that their employers incorporate hybrid working as part of their default working arrangement. But that doesn’t necessarily result in everyone working from home. We’ll also see a rise of satellite offices; smaller offices located in suburban areas that provide an additional workspace to the central CBD location.
CBD offices will predominantly be frequented by those who live in and around the city, with other employees working across a mix of home offices, satellite offices, and co-working spaces, all connected and working as a team through simple and easy to use collaborative technologies.
With no natural end to remote working and the need for a distributed workforce across many industries, this will lead to further decentralisation of industries as they incorporate hybrid working. Gartner believes that by the end of 2023, 40% of companies will use “operations anywhere” to combine virtual and physical interactions with customers and employees.
We have already witnessed the rise in telemedicine, the boom of e-commerce, the rise of digital banking, and even contact centres adopting decentralised work practices and processes as a result of the pandemic. The growing adoption of cloud technologies and services, combined with the uptake of 5G and faster internet speeds, will continue to drive the decentralised workforce, enabling productivity and business continuity even with a larger proportion of the workforce working away from the central office.
Equality of experience
In the early days of the pandemic, people were scrambling to simply get the equipment they needed to work from home – laptops, headsets, and even desks and chairs. But we’ve evolved significantly since then, and it’s become apparent that pro-quality sound, crystal clear video, and an unwavering internet connection are imperative in order to be productive while working remotely.
2022 will be about ensuring technology plays a more effective role in helping employees, with more of an emphasis on achieving work equality – ensuring that those who wish to work away from the central office are not penalised with an inferior experience. Collaborative technology will be the focus so that employees can feel they are sitting beside their colleagues, clients, and business partners, no matter where they’re working.
VR is still a long way off
Video has become a primary method of communication and we expect this to continue to dominate as we move into 2022. However, despite an increased focus on collaborative technologies and a desire for employees to feel a sense of connectivity and camaraderie while working remotely, we don’t expect to see an adoption of virtual workspaces any time soon.
We know that comfort is a key consideration for remote workers, and those who are on conference calls all day are looking for softly padded headphones that are so lightweight you forget you’re wearing them. While virtual collaboration might be a fun experience while the novelty lasts, the reality is we won’t see VR meetings widely adopted until the hardware can be designed in a way that’s comfortable, lightweight, and easy to wear for hours on end.
With office spaces only accommodating a fraction of employees at any given time, businesses will be turning to flexible and cost-effective systems to help them effectively scale as needed. Companies will reconfigure physical offices to create hybrid spaces to support a more collaborative and less structured working environment, while dedicated hot desks or coworking spaces will also be employed. The demand for equipment such as teleconferencing and collaboration tools may vary across locations, and employers will need to adapt and tailor each workspace with the right devices and solutions to ensure consistency in experience.
The complexity that comes with managing such asynchronous and dynamic work environments will see an increase in demand for software that can help streamline people and processes. We’ll see new software being developed that provides clever metrics on how employees engage at work; from how many meeting rooms are being used and when, which technology is being used, how engaged people are in meetings, and whether they’re opting to have their cameras on or off. These insights will be crucial for businesses to get a better understanding of how collaborative technology is being used and what they can do to improve productivity.
The channel’s two-speed economy
In the channel, we’re predicting the rise of the two-speed economy in 2022. Typically, channel partners are systems integrators, focused on providing a holistic, whole-of-organisation experience. However, as smaller businesses also look to implement pro-grade collaborative technologies, we expect to see a rise of SMBs and even micro businesses, looking for smaller orders of five to ten headsets at a time, or setting up just one small huddle room for conferencing purposes. But although they may be smaller orders, we know that small businesses make up the bulk of Australia’s workforce, and this secondary market segment represents an enormous opportunity for the channel.
Channel partners will have to evaluate how they meet these demands from these two, very different market segments. As we move into 2022, it may be the time for channel partners to start planning if, and how, they would like to address the two-speed economy in order to remain competitive.
This article was first published by Business IT