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The expanding workplace

For smart meetings to be a reality, better communication tools are essential. The latest workplace technology innovations are already empowering people to be happier and more productive.

Many organisations are moving towards an agile workplace to increase employee wellbeing and cut operational costs by moving their staff to smaller, more cost-effective premises, encouraging hot-desking and remote working.  We are seeing a widening of the definition of a workspace; from huddle and co-working spaces to coffee shops, more places are being deemed acceptable places to work, if the job gets done effectively.

Many of these changes have been facilitated by technology. The popularity of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) has been driven by more powerful laptops, tablets and mobile devices, as well as better and increasingly ubiquitous Wi-Fi connectivity.

“With a fresh perspective driven by workspace environments and technology innovations we can start to see what the workplace of the future looks like, where technology improves collaboration between local and remote teams,” Daniel Creigh, head of UK & I, Zoom Video Communications, says. “More importantly, we can start to paint a picture of what defines a smart meeting.”

Welcome to a smart meeting

Companies are increasingly deploying video communications on a much bigger scale, with many of them introducing it to every single meeting room, desk and employee. “In part, this is in response to millennials coming into the workplace, who are used to consumer video applications and expect video-calling technology to be part of any modern office,” Creigh says. “There is also an obvious shift towards mobile devices. This enables companies to allow every meeting to include remote video participants.

“An upside of this trend towards ubiquitous video communications is the increased flexibility it gives employees to work remotely without them feeling excluded from their office-based team, which is a factor that can boost productivity. In fact, a recent Forbes Insight survey found that 92 per cent of executives believe that the expanded use of video conferencing has a positive impact on their performance.”

More importantly, the technology opens new ways for staff to feel connected and together as a whole company, even if satellite offices are in different cities or countries. This sense of community can be achieved by having screens in common areas at each location with a permanent video-call between them, enabling employees in separate offices to see each other every day, so they feel like they are in the same office. Companies are clearly seeing the value of this approach, as the same Forbes Insight Survey found that 80 per cent of executives now say that relative to audio conferencing, video conferencing is fast becoming the norm for internal teams.

Move to wireless

A second trend is the move towards wireless content sharing in meeting rooms, which is a development that is most welcome by those tired of walking into a room to discover the necessary dongles are missing or broken. It also gives meeting hosts and attendees the flexibility to move freely around the room without having to worry about unsightly cables and their potentially litigious trip risks.

“Audio conference calls are still common tools in the workplace, but they make it hard to stay focused, feel connected with the other participants, and be truly engaged in a call,” Creigh explains. “It’s likely that many people drift off mentally, don’t pay attention, or are tempted to check their emails during the call. It’s also hard to know who is listening or paying attention when you can’t see them. To further complicate matters, sharing a presentation often requires the use of a separate tool. There is now a growing trend to get rid of these different tools and consolidate them using a single tool for all types of meetings, whether it’s for audio conference calls, video calls, webinars, persistent chat, and/or sharing a presentation.”

The many uses for digital signage

TVs in meeting rooms and on office walls could be used in a smarter way when they are not in use.  Workplace designers are increasingly drawn to the concept of ‘biophilic design’, which incorporates elements of nature in office design, such as plants, wood, blue and green colours, and natural light, which create a more harmonious environment that enables employees to feel more in-tune with nature and become more productive. By adding digital signage technology to all displays in the office, you can display biophilic images, such as waterfalls, forests and aquariums, in all meeting rooms and office spaces, to improve staff wellbeing and productivity. These same screens can also display informational content throughout your office, such as canteen menus, welcome messages, metrics, promotional videos, announcements, and more.

“Clearly, the workplace is evolving to a more agile environment, thanks to a new definition of the workspace and better communication tools,” Creigh concludes. “Few would dispute that smart meetings can keep staff happier, more connected, engaged, motivated, and more productive, a sure fire sign that technology is delivering on its promise.”

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