7 min

How Technology Can Enable Hybrid Work in the “New Normal”

It’s not just about having the right collaboration tools in a meeting room; they also need to be equipped to handle different types of users. Learn more from our panel discussion at BTEX 2022.

What's Inside
Screenshot of a video call screen with 4 people discussing the topic of hybrid work.

“We saw about two years ago how people needed to be able to collaborate from wherever they happened to be,” says Evan Zaleschuk, a Cloud Solution Architect at Microsoft, speaking at a panel discussion on the modern workplace at CDW’s 2022 Business Technology Expo. “Now that we’re starting to go back into the office, how are we going to equip them to be able to continue this collaboration, and work from anywhere they are, on any device at any time, and be productive?”

“Three years ago, it was hard to get people to go on video, especially when they’re working from home,” says Kristie Pater, North American Channel Lead Smart Collaboration at Lenovo. “With what we just went through, we see how important video is, to be able to see what people are thinking, not just see a dot on the screen, and I just see that expanding.”

What challenges do organizations face when moving toward hybrid work?

“Getting people out of meeting constantly at home is something that most organizations would need to overcome,” says Tolu Osho, a Senior Solutions Engineer at Logitech. “How do we recreate that experience for people when they get back to the office?”

“One of the things that I think will be seen more in our office spaces is phone booths. I see spaces like this coming up more and more in today’s offices,” including at companies like Microsoft, says Osho. “People want to be able to free their head and do what they used to do in their personal workspaces.”

“When we go back into the office, what do those meeting rooms look like?” asked Microsoft’s Evan Zaleschuk. “Are they just audio and video, or are they going to be a full collaborative experience that we know these users have already had at home for the last two years? If it’s just audio and video, that’s not going to be enough. So we need to consider legacy audio and video versus audio and video with collaboration, and how are we going to address that?”

But it’s not just about having the right collaboration tools in a meeting room; they also need to be equipped to handle different types of users. “Who are the group of people that are going to be in that meeting room from 9 to 10 in the morning, and how do they need to work differently than those people that are going to be in the room from 10 to 11?” asks Zaleschuk. “These meeting rooms need to be equipped properly to handle everybody’s needs, or people aren’t going to have the best experience.”

“When we’re all sitting around a meeting room table, it’s easy to see each other, read body language and interact. But don’t forget about those people on the other side of the camera. We need to make sure that they’re feeling included in the conversation, so our users need to remember that it’s not just the people in the room, it’s those people that can’t be in the room. And a lot of the technology we have is really improving that experience, so we don’t forget about those remote users,” says Zaleschuk.

What is your strategy for the future of work?

“We’re starting to go back to the office, but how are we going back to the office, why are we going back to the office?” asks Kristie Pater from Lenovo. “Are we going back to just sit in a cube by ourselves? No, we’re going back to collaborate. So having many more huddle spaces, smaller-to-medium-sized conference rooms, because we are going to collaborate when we’re there.” And, when it comes to remote workers, “How are they all part of the experience, with the same collaboration, whether you’re at home or in the office?”

Now that the world is opening up again, there is also the matter of equipping road-based employees with the right technology to connect with colleagues working from a central location. Pater mentions that Lenovo is “looking at providing solutions that cover the entire journey in how you work in this new world today.”

“When we think about the hybrid work experience, we pretty much just ignore those people that will be on the road at every point in time,” says Tolu Osho from Logitech. “How do you create an experience for this person such that when they are on the road, they get heard and they can speak as clearly as possible into the meeting? How do you create an equitable experience for everyone?”

“When I go back to the office and I sit in a boardroom, the person sitting at home has a very different experience than myself from their workspace. Designing cameras that can create an experience that makes everybody feel like we’re in the same boat together, even though we’re in different meeting environments, is one of the strategies that we are looking at for the future of work,” Osho says. “We’re creating tools that ensure that, whether you’re using an analogue whiteboard or a digital whiteboard in the same meeting, everyone can get to collaborate as much as possible.”

How to empower different generations in the workforce with technology

“The way that Gen Z would approach a conversation, and the tools they would require to have a consistent collaboration experience, are slightly different from what my mom would require for the same experience,” says Logitech’s Osho. “The way you want to breach the divide is catering to needs of different people. You might have this product in the hands of people that are not able to use it.”

“Helping people, training people and helping them understand how to leverage these tools in their day-to-day experience is very important,” says Osho. “If users within our workforce, especially the older ones, who are not really technology savvy, are able to use a tool, then they feel like they can start understanding all the other tools that are available to them.”

“It really starts from the top down,” says Kristie Pater from Lenovo. “How many times have I gone to a meeting and the executives don’t know what to do, if they have to push this button or that button. BYOD (bring your own device) solves some of those problems,” she adds. “The Microsoft Teams platform has made this easy.”

“One thing we know is going to stay consistent is change. We’re still going to work on how we collaborate, so making solutions that are easy to use while addressing the future needs of collaboration is where Lenovo is going to focus,” says Pater.

Why it’s important to keep the end user in mind when implementing hybrid work solutions

First of all, what’s great for Sales might not be great for Finance or Human Resources. “We need to really be able to have a look at the environment, the people and define what is great,” says Microsoft’s Evan Zaleschuk. “We still need to consider how those people need to work and what is going to give them the best experience. Really digging in, and getting to know your user environment, to define those personas is key.”

“When you put the technology into the individual’s hands, or into those meeting rooms, you’ve defined why that equipment is going into that room, but you need to make sure people know how to use it effectively,” says Zaleschuk. “Does everybody know how to make their work life better with these tools?”

“As new features become available from Microsoft and our vendors, are we making sure end users know about them?” asks Zaleschuk. “If we’ve got this great new functionality, how can I use it to make my work life better? If we can help them accelerate that process, that’s key.”

“Work isn’t where we go, it’s what we do,” adds Lenovo’s Kristie Pater. “Let’s make sure we have solutions to support the what, not the where, so that people are able to communicate, to collaborate and still have that flexibility. We know that is going to continue, and companies including Lenovo are continuing to foster that experience, allowing people flexibility to work where they work the best.”