The pandemic has undoubtedly shaken up the workforce. We’re continuing to live through the Great Resignation, which reached a high point in November 2021 as the US Labor Department reported that 4.53 million workers left their jobs. This has created a tight labor market, where employees have new expectations of how they work and what they need from an employer.
It’s not a secret that many employees who started working remotely during the pandemic want to continue working outside the office with increased flexibility. As Harvard Business School Professor Tsedal Neely told The Boston Globe, “Employees are not only requesting that there is an adjustment to the return-to-the-office policy, but they’re also resigning.” And employers are listening, with Gartner reporting that 82% of company leaders plan to allow employees to work remotely some of the time.
This pressure complicates planning for the IT professionals supporting a company’s return to work.
EXISTING COMMUNICATION TOOLS MAY NOT WORK IN THE LONG RUN
It’s tempting to think that your remote workers can continue to use the communication tools that got them through the pandemic but that may be a bad idea, especially if it means remote employees are joining meetings using the video camera built into their laptops and the same headphones they use to listen to music.
While these devices are fine for entertainment or connecting with family and friends, standard-issue webcams and consumer headsets keep remote employees from projecting a strong virtual presence at work, which can reflect poorly on them and your business.
In a work environment, people joining meetings remotely with these devices are hard to see and hard to hear and because it doesn’t feel like they are in the room, people on-site repeatedly talk over them. On their end, remote participants feel less important than in-room participants when they can’t hear well enough to follow the conversation or they get lost if someone’s writing on a whiteboard because they can’t see what everyone else is talking about. People in the office feel left behind if they aren’t clearly seen on screen or heard by all participants.
Ensuring that every employee can maintain a professional presence in virtual meetings requires professional equipment.
HOW CAN YOU ACHIEVE EQUAL FOOTING?
Select audio and video solutions that make everyone feel like they’re together in the room, no matter where they are. Remote workers need to be able to eliminate background noises and distractions and focus on the meeting, so they can see and hear clearly, and be seen and heard at their professional best, from any location.
There are three major considerations for making sure your remote employees have what they need to fully participate.
Understand the roles and workstyles of remote employees. Your remote workers aren’t a single homogenous group. Everyone has a different role and their own way of working, so one style of workspace or technology setup isn’t going to work for all employees. Using workstyle persona research can help you avoid problematic “one size fits all” strategies.
Understand the dynamics of the workspaces used by remote employees at home and on the go. Your employees may be working from a bustling home kitchen, a quiet spare bedroom or an echoing basement office, a noisy hotel lobby, an open mobile office, or the back of an airport shuttle bus. The technical requirements to make each space one where an employee can successfully be seen and heard in meetings are very different.
Understand the technology that enables effective and professional collaboration.
Just having a camera and microphone built into a laptop or smartphone doesn’t mean that’s all you need to provide to employees. Understanding key features of professional-grade audio and video technology for individuals will help you create solutions that match workstyles and workspaces.
Successful remote and hybrid work means enabling employees to do their best work, no matter where they are doing it. Download our eBook for a deeper dive into these considerations and other details to help you attract and retain the best talent for your company.