11 technologies to support the hybrid office

One of the biggest challenges IT leaders face today is supporting changing strategies around where the enterprise operates. Prior to the pandemic, remote working was a facet of most organizations’ workforce mix, but hardly the universal business necessity it immediately became when COVID-19 hit. Now, at least to some extent, workers are returning to offices, with widespread remote work likely to remain here.

The discussions of in-person versus remote work rage on within the C-suites of organizations of all levels, with some believing in the power of face-to-face kissing and others extolling the creativity that comes from working anywhere, anytime. IT leaders are an important part of this discussion, but will also be primarily responsible for supporting any hybrid workforce strategy that emerges from this debate.

The good news is, it’s easier than ever to adapt to shifting priorities, public health mandates, and mercurial bosses. It’s now common for software offerings to support the ability to work anywhere from a safari in Africa to the same cubicle you’ve had for 10 years. The challenge is knowing and deploying what works best, and facilitating change across the enterprise to ensure workforces remain productive.

Here are N technologies that IT leaders should consider when supporting hybrid office strategies and the workplace agility that these strategies bring.

Hotel software

It can be confusing to call these tools “office hoteling” because they don’t involve hotels or sleeping. The idea is to make it easier for employees and teams to reserve desks, workstations, meeting rooms and more, all with a click. Sure, some organizations can survive on a first-come, first-served basis, but good hotel software can discourage conflicts resulting from bad behavior, such as desk hogging.

Hotel software is becoming more and more sophisticated. Some solutions provide point-and-click maps of the workspace. Others show the current “owners” of each desk on a large screen, so it’s easy to see where someone is sitting. Some generate reports that map demand for desks so your company can avoid paying too much for space when it’s time to renegotiate rent. The feature set is growing rapidly as companies are still coming up with new requirements.

Some leading suppliers are Condeco, DeskFlex, iOffice and EMS.

Trace contact

Knowing where everyone is makes it easier to handle outbreaks. Good contract tracking software can identify anyone who happened to be working near an infected person.

Some products track employees when they check in by asking them to confirm that they have not experienced any symptoms. Others use infrared cameras to record temperatures. Some tools can protect against infection by sounding the alarm if people get too close. There are several contract tracing options for enforcing strategies to limit the transfer.

Some options include SaferMe and Mobile Programming.

Better cloud productivity tools

Cloud-based office software isn’t new, but the solutions have suddenly become essential, making them even better. All of these tools are designed to make it easier for an employee to log in and get started from any browser. Once that leap is made, the transition from office to home to coffee shop is easy. While companies can still provide laptops and other hardware to people working remotely, provisioning these machines and maintaining security has never been easier with browser-based tools.

New functions redefine the space. Microsoft’s venerable Office suite is now a collection of web applications that are part of OneDrive. Google’s collection of editors and email programs has outgrown the old name “G Suite” and is now called “Workspace.” Zoho offers all the usual productivity apps for editing documents and presentations, but also adds tools for customer relationship management, human resources and accounting under the “Zoho One” umbrella.

Better planning software

Software optimized for job sorting and tracking is quickly becoming essential for getting work done. Tools for agile programming teams have grown to help project managers track the various parts of a given project with tickets flowing across a Kanban board. Business software managers have their own tools that track every piece of software running on every machine. Sales teams have been using Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems for years.

None of these packages are new and none are designed to fight a pandemic infection, but they are all available wherever employees are and help streamline workflows, reducing the need for face-to-face meetings. Even if people come into the office every now and then, there will never be a time when they’re all there at once. If your office has resisted the move to a better workflow management system, now is the time to upgrade.

Major suppliers here include Asana, Jira, Monday.com, and more.

Better Messages

Messaging and conferencing systems have been around long before the pandemic, but they are worth revisiting if you haven’t already adopted them, as they are ideal for maintaining team cohesion when the team is rarely in the office at the same time. . In addition, these tools have been enhanced by increasing their integration with other workflow management tools. Upgrading this tier and editing the channel list can boost usage.

Slack is the dominant vendor, but all office productivity software suites have their own messaging options. Other messaging providers include Discord, RocketChat, and Flowdock. There are also a number of open source solutions such as Mattermost and Zulip.

New telephony solutions

Office telephone networks with wired telephones on fixed desks are quickly disappearing. Some organizations standardize on personal cell phones and reimburse employees for their costs. Others buy office subscriptions, which could mean forcing people to carry two devices with them.

Still, office phone networks are evolving and now offer the flexibility to adapt to rapidly changing teams that are in different places every day and sometimes every hour. The networks can forward calls if needed. And if you prefer the size and weight of an old office phone, there are new models that encase modern cell phones with larger handsets and easy-to-read screens, and the vendors tout their ability to switch from desk to home without any hassle. new wiring.

For example, Microsoft Teams and Google Voice have a bridge to the public telephone network (PSTN). Some phone system vendors include RingCentral, Ooma, Line2, and DialPad.

More feature-rich video conferencing

The world of video conferencing is becoming more sophisticated with vendors rolling out features that do more than just let people watch each other. Ring Central, for example, has added live transcripts and seemingly endless whiteboard space to its virtual meeting rooms. Google Meet just rolled out automatically translated captions for discussions between people who speak different languages.

Zoom has increased users’ power to manage breakout rooms to add more personal interaction to large meetings. At the same time, the Pandemic darling has added richer formatting options for the chat rooms. Perhaps the most exciting area is where third parties offer different opportunities in a few dozen categories, such as education or healthcare.

Meeting rooms

Some of the biggest innovations in response to the pandemic are those that have replaced the world of conferences, conventions and meetings. There are now virtual spaces designed to mimic the large convention centers where you can wander from presentation room to sales hall, working through the space and meeting old acquaintances.

These spaces are not just for large public events as some companies use them for internal meetings. Departments can cross-fertilize and teams can generate reports for each other. Some of the new vendors defining this space include Aventri, Accelevents, Eventzilla, Demio, and Hopin.

Training platforms

Onboarding tools and continuing education have also moved beyond the meeting room. Modern education software includes new features that enhance the training experience, such as variable speed videos and interactive quizzes to help get the message across. Knowledge is more structured than ever. Employees don’t have to wait for a new training session or even come to the office.

Major vendors such as Coursera and Udemy offer options to support company-specific training.

Workstation Pools

Many jobs don’t require much more than an average laptop. Some tasks, such as video editing or 3D rendering, require stronger processors and more RAM. A pool of powerful hardware booked through hotel software is often a good solution, especially when some employees won’t be using all the power every day.

New Collaboration Spaces

Not every collaborative interaction has to happen through video technology. Game companies repurpose their virtual worlds to create rich, virtual workspaces designed to capture the best parts of real workrooms. For example, sound can obey the laws of physics, allowing people to speak freely with those next to them in the virtual environment, even if they are thousands of miles apart in real life.

There are also some nice touches like a virtual fire pit that slowly burns down unless you add another virtual log. Work will never be as much fun as a pure game, but there’s no reason why we can’t try to make this new hybrid world better than the old pre-pandemic office life.

Some companies that are building out these options are Ronday, Gather and MeetinVR.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

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