The chain of reactions set in motion in 2021 will spill over into 2022. We’ve learned to expect and adapt to changes as they occur, and now, professionals across every industry are hungry for better tools and spaces that support agility, empower the individual and provide an equitable experience. These trends will shape the world of work in the coming year and will be natural extensions of the pandemic-induced changes already in motion.

To prepare for the demands of the coming year, we called upon the insights of four Poly experts from across the world: Carl Wiese, Executive Vice President and Chief Revenue Officer for Poly worldwide; David Danto, Director of UC Strategy and Research for North America; Pierre-Jean Châlon, Senior Vice President for Asia Pacific; and Paul Clark, Senior Vice President for EMEA.

Trend 1: Hybrid Work Lives On

The pandemic may have expedited the shift to hybrid and remote work, but success within this work model heralded a new expectation. Clark explains: “Workers who relish the perks of hybrid and flexible working have no desire to return to corporate life full time. Poly research found 80% of Europe and the Middle East employees prefer to spend some days working from home. With the economy picking up, professionals want more power to choose how they work and where.” Work is now what you do, not where you do it.

“One key aspect of hybrid working is allowing the employee to be the judge of where they need to be at any given time,” said Danto. To reinforce this point, Clark asserts, “Choice is a leveler and a catalyst for easy, meaningful and productive collaboration. It presents a great opportunity for HR, IT, facilities management and the wider business to be more attuned to what employees want from their experience of work.” He continues, “Rather than being an asset that requires managing, employees have adopted a customer persona; they know what they want, why, when and how—and they’ll tell you. Ignore them and they’ll go elsewhere!”

As we look toward 2022, a trend called the “the great resignation” is sweeping the workforce. Swaths of professionals are walking out the door in favor of better opportunities. “Research shows that over 40% of workers would actively look elsewhere if their employers fail to offer hybrid working,” said Clark. The demand for flexible work is clear and businesses need to shift quickly to accommodate these new expectations if they hope to attract and retain talent. This not only entails adapting traditional work models but getting ahead of the work-from-home challenges we have all become familiar with, including video fatigue, isolation and the struggle with work/life balance. Wiese predicts, “Companies that go the extra mile to offer workspaces and technology that foster a sense of wellness and belonging – both in the office and at home – will have an advantage when attracting and retaining top performers.”

Châlon explains how this shift is already impacting the job market: “It’s led to an increasing number of job openings listing remote work as a key requirement. In 2020, about a third of job vacancies involved work that could be done remotely, largely for PMET roles. Plus, more job seekers in Asia Pacific are searching remote-first roles due to health fear associated with working in-office.” While the early days of the pandemic are behind us, health and safety continue to be a top concern as the landscape changes—especially for job seekers. We can anticipate this will remain true in the new year.

Trend 2: The Office as Collaboration Hub

As professionals take control of when they are in the office and why, fewer people will be in the office regularly and will use the space differently, encouraging businesses to restructure their offices. “Offices will no longer be physical spaces with defined, individual spots,” said Clark. “Future workplaces will be ecosystems of spaces and rooms that match the working habits or needs of different personas.” In agreement, Châlon explains, “The office becomes a collaboration hub, serving as a place for teams to brainstorm in small groups, host client meetings, celebrate milestones and work on joint projects. Professionals will need spaces dedicated to specific purposes, including hot-desking, conference rooms with easy-to-use video conferencing systems, and better cameras and monitors for desktop video meetings.”

According to Clark, this trend “will lead to significant changes in architecture, real estate, room design and investment in collaboration devices and technologies in future office buildings, as all these disciplines collide to provide the very best work experience possible.” For many companies, this means reducing office space via subleasing by leveraging a ‘core and flex’ model or reducing their carbon footprint altogether by going almost fully remote. “In Singapore, central business district office occupiers could aim to reduce their footprint by 10% to 20% over the next three years,” said Châlon. Seeing this as a potential cost-saving opportunity that also meets the demands of the modern workforce, it’s likely this trend will continue in 2022.

Trend 3: Work Equity is a Priority

Flexible work offers many opportunities but also presents a new challenge: meeting equity. To truly succeed, business leaders will need to devise workplace strategies and investments that ensure an equitable work experience for all, regardless of work base, for optimal collaboration and productivity. Châlon advises, “Access to reliable communications is key to ensuring people receive the same information, at the same time and to avoid any inadvertent bias for those not physically present in the conference room.”

Châlon adds, “The need to solve imbalanced experiences for those inside and outside the office is real. While we are all aware of the interruptions remote workers contend with, office-based employees face their own challenges, too. They may have limited access to quiet rooms for video meetings, or noise-canceling headphones and microphones for meetings from their desks. Many meeting rooms only have one video camera and microphone that cannot pan wide enough to show everyone sitting around a table, making it hard for remote workers to decipher who is talking or the nuance of what is being discussed.” Danto asserts, “There are room systems on the market today that are smart enough to always show the right shot, and platforms that give each person in the meeting, remote or in-person, the same experience. You can expect even more of these features to hit the market in 2022 and bring us closer to the equity we need.”

Trend 4: Video is the Superhero

Technology investments will go beyond deploying solutions and focus on tools that improve the employee experience. People expect easy-to-use, reliable technology that minimizes disruptions and ensures they will look and sound great. As a result, Châlon predicts, “Many organizations and sectors will adopt a no-compromise attitude to ensure the highest quality video solutions are in place to support high-level productivity, resilience and customer service.”

This means the devices that bridged the communications gap at the beginning of the pandemic are no longer cutting it. Businesses must equip professionals with tools that empower the individual and support sustainable business practices. “This will drive an increased demand in pro-grade technology and collaboration tools that simplify the user experience, and in turn, improve productivity and collaboration,” said Châlon.

Video conferencing technology as a collaboration tool unleashes new opportunities for engagement globally. It has enriched the collaborative experience manyfold over the past two years and will continue to do so in 2022. Clark states, “Collaboration is required for a happy workforce, with the link between employee well-being and business performance well-documented,” and he warns, “Organizations that fail to support a flexible workplace in 2022 will struggle to build a collaborative culture.” Wiese agrees, explaining, “Those who don’t plan for the reality of video collaboration will see a loss in employee productivity and lower overall satisfaction.” Professional-grade video conferencing solutions will be pivotal to the 2022 workforce.

Châlon points out that it’s not just corporate professionals who need tools that improve their day-to-day work and practices. Professionals in government, real estate, education and medicine are especially hungry for solutions that enhance the end-user experience. Châlon states, “The rise in telemedicine, the boom of e-commerce, digital banking, hybrid call centres and more will be fueled by the flexible workforce,” and will require the tools that support productivity and business continuity. We’ve seen many organizations from these sectors revolutionize their way of work, improving their service with Poly solutions, and it will be rewarding to see more follow their footsteps in the coming year.

Trend 5: Home Offices are Leveling Up

The continued trend toward remote and hybrid work means home offices will be leveling up. Danto explains, “Home set-ups will need to improve. A built-in camera and a set of consumer earbuds won’t cut it long term. The way knowledge workers present themselves to clients and colleagues will significantly impact how they are perceived and how successful they can be.” Now that hybrid and remote options are here to stay, the workforce will become more interested in investing in their home office. To ensure their once temporary workspace is optimized for professional, sustainable work, professionals will outfit their spaces with pro-grade technology.

Office collaborators must also be able to move between their home and office bases with ease. Therefore, Châlon asserts, “It is essential that office collaborators are able to use the same infrastructure in the conference room as they do their home offices. The breadth that Poly’s product portfolio brings, for example, already gives enterprises the freedom and flexibility to make it possible.” Businesses that equip their workforce with the required tools and create an equitable experience will win at home and the corporate office.