The future workplace is a hybrid experience; here’s what that means for you.

Exploring the new reality of a hybrid workplace. One which allows the flexibility of employees working between home, office, and remote locations.

By T. Smitten

When asked how he would describe 2020, David Kerr, ET Group’s Unified Communications and Collaboration Specialist replies “exceptional and unprecedented.”

On any given workday in 2019, David would be designing and implementing Unified Communications solutions for a variety of large Canadian organizations. Fast forward to present day and his workday remains fairly unchanged. While most organizations found the requirements of social distancing a major challenge to their continued daily operations, ET Group did not. In his five years with the company, David has been a part of the ET Group team that works on designing, integrating, and optimizing clients unified communications and collaboration environments. The kind of hybrid environments that allow working from anywhere, whether at home, in the office, or completely remote.

Work is no longer about where you do it, it’s about what you do and how it gets done.

Hybrid is the Future Workspace

Organizations have mobilized work from home infrastructure and policies that have forever shaped the way we approach work. Now that the dust has begun to settle, they are collectively looking to the future once again. As companies explore shifting their workers back to the office. They are also envisioning what a flexible workplace might mean to their long-term workplace strategies.

  • How will our workplace strategies and technology strategies need to change?
  • How will our office evolve to integrate and include the remote workers?
  • What technologies will support flexible working between the office, home, and remote locations?
  • How will we enable our people to convene for group work?

David is part of the HybridX innovation team at ET Group. He has witnessed and assisted in the architecture of workplace communications firsthand. He is proud to share that, “We’re not afraid of doing remote work and using remote technologies. We’ve been demonstrating it for years. It works, I mean, we’re thriving.”

Workplace and Tech Strategies are Changing

Having worked with many clients to implement their technology strategies to transition to an integrated modern-day workspace. David reflects on the success in leading others to their ideal connected and collaborative work environment, both physically and virtually. “We’re (ET Group) currently experiencing what we’ve been already living for the past few years. Covid has forced us (society) to put it into place now to some degree. By living it, it gives us great advantages in terms of being able to share the experience with others and see what the potential could be.”

“73% of employees want their company to embrace flexibility (working both remotely and in office) post COVID-19.”

Mckinsey Report – June 2020

David has noted the required changes that companies have begun making to their workplace strategies:

  • Increased prioritization of workplace technology within business. Organizations need to have a technology strategy that can evolve for the future.
  • Intuitive tools; Organizations should be able to define their desired user experience with the technology they are choosing.
  • Reliable and user-friendly video communications. Organizations are now in a video first culture that requires high quality audio and visual performance along with an easy to use platform.
Stay Home Stay Safe – Remote Working in 2020

Prioritizing Flexible, Collaborative Technology

David has also witnessed some setbacks for companies who did not prioritize flexible and collaborative technology tools within their operations. He remarks at the number of companies who were unprepared to work remotely this year. “It was really quite surprising to me but it’s not all that uncommon. It seems that some companies are still kind of slow to change and Covid has really exposed that.”

David listed some fundamentals items every organization will need for a hybrid workspace:

  • Laptops – Companies should ensure their teams have laptops for mobility vs. desktops. HD built in cameras are critical.
  • Webcams – Companies should ensure team members have working high resolution video tools for home offies.
  • Secure Communications – Companies should invest in secure software and platforms to maintain privacy.
  • Remote work connections like a VPN – Companies should invest in a virtual private network.
  • Headsets or Audio Boxes – Quality sound and audio for meetings. Forget the basic headphones.
  • Data Sovereignty   -Companies should be familiar with the location of their servers and data and be aware of any privacy laws relating to the storage of their information.

Challenges of a Going to a Hybrid Workplace

As part of ET Group’s HybridX innovation team, David works on identifying and resolving the human challenges of collaboration, communication, and connection using technology.  “There were a lot of users that weren’t ready for this. From the standpoint of some users – technology kind of makes them afraid.” Increasing team adoption, training, and comfort levels with technology is critical to overall success when transitioning to working flexible between the office and at home.

When implementing new technology into a hybrid environment, David notes some things to consider are:

  • Get feedback from your team on their desired user experience and ease of use. What do they need from the technology to get their work done?
  • Ensure you fully understand what the technology will allow you to do and not do. Research your options and assess reliability.
  • Find a good consultant to work with your leadership team and determine the technology roadmap that works for your business. ET Group offers a human-centric approach to visioning, strategizing, designing, implementing, and evolving your technology roadmap as part of our HybridX offering.

David offers his take on additional challenges he has seen this year, “What I think is happening is a couple of things, one, sometimes whoever is making the decision makes it a challenge. It could be making the decision on the technology platform that we should move forward with, but there was really no consultation with the users in terms of what we really need. Which can definitely be a challenge and wreck user adoption or hinder user adoption. The other element is personal bias at times that gets in the way. So, it’s like, ‘Hey, I’m a Microsoft guy’ and that’s all I want to deal with’. I don’t really care about whatever else is out there, even if there are better tools. Other challenges are a lack of information around what technology you need to work better, which is what we’ve been trying to do at ET Group, share that info. “

Preparing your Company for the Transition

David shares valuable words of wisdom when it comes to integrating new technology into your business. “Organizations must lose the fear of failure”. This can cripple the ability to discover new things. He recommends keeping an open mind when it comes to trying new technology and stresses the need to consider your users when implementing new technology.

“I had the opportunity to work with my church, for example. There’s a lot of users there that just aren’t into this remote working space at all,” says David. “A proper understanding of the users (i.e. accessibility requirements, sights impaired vs hearing impaired, etc.) is crucial to seamless user adoption within an organization.”

Many businesses are still unprepared to implement work from home programs although we are at a time in history when technology makes it more possible than ever. With companies starting to reintroduce their teams back into the physical workspace amidst and post-pandemic, they are experiencing unique operational challenges within their industries. “ET Group is really taking the time to hone in on what we have not only experienced but kind of referring back to what we’ve heard from our customers.”

Work isn’t About Where, it’s About What

HybridX (Hybrid Workplace Experience) makes it possible and beneficial to every team, organization or business that thrives on communicating, collaborating, and connecting anywhere in the world.

Work is no longer about where you do it, it’s about what you do and how it gets done.

ET Group has invested years into studying and fine tuning the design for the workplace of the future. ET Group’s strategies for collaborative work environments have kept people together even when apart. “What HybridX is really saying is there’s a new work experience, we want to hone in on what that experience is for you and what makes the best sense,” says David.

ET Group takes a strategic approach to designing innovative hybrid workspaces solutions. By applying human-centric design processes, we create seamless and powerful connections between the office, the home, and the remote worker.

Transitioning your organization to a hybrid work environment can seem overwhelming and costly. With the right tools and design process, your organization can experience a new level of communication, collaboration and connection while increasing your ROI (Return on investment) in the long term.

BLOG: How to Maximize Your Virtual Collaboration Experience

If your team is looking for new ways to supercharge your virtual collaboration experience, here are some key insights to maximize their potential.

By T. Smitten

Article based on the Supercharging Your Virtual Collaboration Experience webinar. Download the webinar.

In these unprecedented time, organizations are working to identify and resolve challenges in remote working environments. We spoke to our partners and found they are facing challenges beyond selecting technology tools.  Organizations are now faced with improving communication and productivity in the virtual workspace for team members and clients alike. The question is, how do we work together remotely in a way that is enhances our experience?

4 years working as a distributed team

At ET Group we have spent the last four years working as a distributed team. We have faced various challenges and uncovered some creative solutions. We have built successful remote workspaces for our team and clients all over the world.

We’ve identified and experienced so many different work styles and tools that contribute to productivity. We have found success by focusing on a more collaborative workspace. Maintaining connection, enhancing teamwork and preserving organisational culture in our hybrid workspace environments.

Now more then ever organizations are realizing this present-day global issue is an invitation to try new things and innovate as they go. We have found that yes, technology can be uncomfortable. Yes, teams are finding themselves in a new territory but fear not. Success can be achieved! Organizations need to properly assess their remote working challenges and hold open discussions within their organizations to find ideal solutions.

Here are some quick tips for supercharging your virtual team collaboration:

1. Be Kind and be Bold!

Start your virtual collaboration sessions with an attitude of “learning as you go”. Try new things and find what works for you. Don’t be afraid to try multiple collaboration tools and technologies to find the right mix.

2. Re-Discover Your People

Encourage open communication and idea sharing between your team members. Find the hidden talents within your team. This will help maintain connection and jump start innovations for your organization.

3. Leverage Hidden Strengths

Leverage the strengths of your team and show appreciation for individual talents. In this new era, you will find “hidden” strengths and technical “know how” within your team that will help enhance your virtual collaboration. You never know who will have experienced working with Zoom, WebEx or Nureva tools that you had not called on before.  

4.  Be Agile

Take incremental steps, take quick wins, repeat the good and do not hold onto “norms”. Create new ones!

Supercharging your virtual collaboration will not only present key challenges but it will give your organization opportunities. Need help with assessing and implementing your collaboration tools? Our team is always here to help! Contact us for more details on how to better your remote work environment.

ARTICLE: 5 Tips for Hosting Effective Large Video Conferences

If your team has been hosting large group video conference meetings because of COVID-19, here are some key insights to maximize your meeting potential.

By Tracy Smitten

Article based on our Webinar: Hosting Large Group Video Conferences Effectively. Download the webinar.

Amid the COVID-19 public health emergency and for the first time in our history, society has committed to maintaining physical distancing with a strong need to work together to find new ways to communicate, collaborate, and connect with each other.

For the last 4 years, ET Group has grown as a productive, self-managed, collaborative unit, while working almost entirely remotely. Our team’s operate regularly in large group video meetings. We host virtual team connects that run up to 5 hours in length, host large group town hall meetings with over 40 people, and collaborate daily in large group virtual settings. We continue to explore new tools and practices that can enrich our team’s virtual experience.

Here are 5 key tips we have learned to make your next meeting more effective.

1. Identify the technology you will need

What are the technology platforms, tools, and equipment will need to use. Make sure to choose a video conferencing platform like Zoom or Webex that can take advantage of large groups using settings like gallery view. Equipping all of your team’s participants with the best audio and video equipment available will maximize everyone’s experience. This will ensure that everyone is on the same playing field, limiting technology issues and creating a more engaging experience for all.

2. Define your meeting roles


It is critical to establish a few base roles to ensure you create clarity and the ability to run a smooth meeting. Who will be the meeting hosting? Who will be facilitator to guide and hold space for the conversation? Who will be scribing and taking notes? Who will be responsible to manage the technology?

It may sound like a lot of roles but they are key to your success!

Host: Establishes the meeting context and the meeting objectives
Facilitator: Guides the conversation, keeps the meeting in check and on-time, while allowing the group to focus on the content.
Scribe: Takes notes and documents the meeting.
Technology Manager (Optional): Ensures the meeting is set-up, handles tech issues, and records the call if necessary.

3. Put together the structure for your meeting


What is the purpose of your meeting? What do you want to get out of it? What do you want people to experience?

Establish a structure for your meeting to make effective use of time and increase the clarity and expectations for participants. Create your meeting objectives, meeting milestones, determining meeting length, and choosing your facilitation style.

4.  Choose your meeting practices and processes


Determine the level of engagement you plan to invite from your participants.

Check-in’s are a fantastic way to establish everyone’s place in the meeting. Asking a question such as, how are you arriving and what do you expect out of today’s meeting. It helps people feel engaged and not lost in such a large virtual group.

However, in a large group setting it can be tough to manage this in a timely manner. Instead, ask your participants to write their check-in via the chat window or using a collaboration platform like Webex Teams or Slack.

Use practices that maintain involvement and engagement from your participants. Send out periodic meeting polls or pose questions that participants can answer in the chat window, rather than out loud. This can also help manage time in a large group while involving everyone.

It is important that you use practices and processes that create an environment that invites everyone to participate. So that it is not the One-to-Many experience that so often plagues large group settings. This is one person speaking to a large group.

5. Understand the mindset of your participants


Understanding the mindset of your participants is key to an effective meeting. What mindset are participants potentially arriving into the meeting with?

Are they arriving with confusion surrounding the meeting? Are they unclear of why they are invited? Are they feeling excited or down?

As a host or facilitator, it is your job to gauge the room and ensure you can manage the group, shift gears if required, and draw the best out of everyone.

We would love to hear about your experience in the comments

We have sought and found virtual meeting techniques that enhance human connection.  We have found video conferencing can be extremely productive! We thrive when we can bring harmony to our work and workplace with technology.

We would love to hear about your experience with remote working and how the 5 core elements of Effective Video Conferencing have worked for you. Let us know how you do!

Register for Our Upcoming Webinar Series

In an effort to help organizations and individuals during the COVID-19 pandemic, we are launching a series of webinars to offer our expertise.

WEBINAR: Supercharging Your Virtual Collaboration Experience

WHEN: Wednesday, April 22, 2020
TIME: 2:00 p.m. (EDT)
LENGTH: 45-Minutes

Rich virtual collaboration presents key challenges and opportunities. This webinar is for you whether you are new to collaborating remotely or you have been doing it for years. We will discuss key tools, processes, and technology that will help supercharge your next virtual collaboration experience.

You’ll get to see, learn, and participate in a virtual collaboration session hosted by seasoned experts from ET Group (Workplace Technology Integrator) and Nureva (Creators of Visual Collaboration Technology)

How I Navigated the Murky Waters of Video Conferencing: Confessions of a Small Business Owner

I am a small business owner, and like all small business owners my most precious commodity is time. I don’t have time to research new innovations in collaboration technologies, and so it was with dread and a heavy heart that I embarked upon my journey to understand video conferencing and how it could benefit me and my business. So if I wanted to introduce video conferencing into my small business collaboration tool kit, here are three important things I had to sort out to make video conferencing a reality …