There’s no doubt that Covid-19 has made us re-evaluate our lives, change our priorities and transform the way we live, work and play. “The pandemic has been a sharp reminder of the fragility of life and the importance of human connections, and we can expect to see a rebalance in work-life commitments and personal-professional priorities going forward,” says Ankur Goel, managing director for Poly India & SAARC. Poly (formerly Plantronics and Polycom) is an American communications equipment company. In a recent interaction, he lists the top five things to think about as we shape our workspaces over the next few years.
Hybrid working model: 2020 saw more individuals and organisations come to the realisation that work can be done from anywhere, to a reasonable degree of efficiency. For 2021 and beyond, we expect to see organisations becoming more open to redefining what ‘work’ means. Work isn’t a place, it’s what you do, and many companies will shift to a hybrid working model. It’s important to note that hybrid working is different to ‘remote working’ or ‘work from anywhere’—a true hybrid work model means that for an employee, the work experience is the same no matter where they are, whether in the office, at home, or anywhere in between.
As we move to the hybrid working model, work is no longer defined by how many hours you’ve spent at the work desk, but instead focuses on the outcomes of your work. In order to take care of employees’ mental health and wellbeing, organisations will need to find the right balance between time away from the office vs time connecting face to face.
Home offices and the rise of the prosumer: With more employees accustomed to working from home, home offices will be upgraded and renovated. This will make way for the rise of the prosumer—the professional consumer— who isn’t shopping for the cheapest technology to get by during a temporary lockdown situation. Prosumers will transform their homes for the long haul, and spend on lightning speed internet, comfortable, noise blocking headsets, and crystal-clear audio and video conferencing solutions which allow them to join online meetings with the click of a button.
Video—a must have and the way forward: The rapid adoption of remote working meant that almost every organisation had to invest in video conferencing gear and solutions in one way or another. Video is now a common standard for meetings. When people were unable to leave their homes while shelter-in-place directives were in force, telemedicine providers found themselves ideally placed to meet the medical consultation needs of the many working from home.
The education industry has also been hugely impacted by the Covid-19 outbreak. Educators took to home-based learning initiatives, taking their classes to online learning platforms and through video conferencing solutions. Whether remote consultations with a doctor, video banking, or even online learning, it is clear that video has become mainstream, and in some cases, a critical part of business.
Complete transformation of commercial office space: With hybrid working splitting up office and home workers, we are going to see an interesting change with commercial office spaces. At the very least, lights will continue to remain on in the office. Offices will become a central gathering point for employees to meet, while majority of the work will continue to be done remotely. Employers will need to look beyond the traditional concept of the central office, and create work spaces that are collaborative and technology-enabled across multiple locations.
Better connectivity, better collaboration: 2021 will be the year that 5G finally comes into the mainstream, with Covid-19 making it clear that faster connectivity is imperative for work to continue, whether in the office, at home, or in between. The most important advantages of 5G are low latency, and much higher throughput. Latency is particularly important to video and voice applications; tethering your laptop to your mobile’s 5G connection lets you connect from virtually anywhere a signal is available, and to more effectively collaborate with your team, remotely, as if you were there in person.