At its conference this week in Las Vegas, the company introduced new products and innovations. The intent was to provide flexibility and simplicity to customers. From a collaboration perspective, the focus was very much on hybrid work and enabling customers to be flexible on where and how work takes place. Knowledge workers will spend part of their time in the office, part of their time at home and part of their time anywhere in between, and this is a reality most businesses will face.
The office is about delivering a great experience. It isn’t about making the office attractive, but rather about making it fit the needs of employees and businesses. Employees are still nervous about a return to the office so health and well-being is a top priority. Keeping employees safe can help create a trusted workplace by monitoring density and access location data. All businesses want to achieve and enable carbon-neutral facilities operations with eco-friendly lighting and sensors that drive heating and cooling efficiency. Technology and automation can be used to reduce physical staffing and utility costs. The return to the office can have a negative impact on productivity, even though some leaders are still worried about it.
The home is where it’s all about managing your screen time. Video will continue to play a significant role in our day-to-day lives, even though many remote workers complain about video fatigue. The real issue is that when a meeting of any kind is necessary over email or chat, it’s not always possible to do it over email. We have gone from email to chat and messaging with written communication. We seem to be able to distinguish between what requires an immediate response and what doesn’t.
We are learning that some exchanges could be asynchronous. A video message recorded for later consumption can be very effective. The Webex Suite allows users to record, edit and share both within and outside of an organization. At the conference, a really impressive feature that enables users to create more polished videos was shown. The feature allows users to use the transcript to clip/edit the video, removefiller words, and leverage custom text-to-speech models. A speaker forgot the name of a product in a demo. They inserted it in the script, used a computer-generated voice that matched theirs, adjusted the ambient sound, and swapped out the segment in a few clicks.
The commute is part of it. Most knowledge workers have freed themselves of commute time over the past two years. It might have been a buffer to catch up on emails in the morning and end up leaving the office in the evening, but nobody wants to waste time in traffic. The ability for WebEx to integrate with Apple CarPlay might have come as no surprise. You can use the new feature to start a WebEx meeting on your Mac or iPad, and then transfer it to your phone by scanning a QR code. You can make a call from your car’s console if you connect to CarPlay. Once your call is over, you can view your upcoming meetings from your phone and join them directly. There is a deal with Ford for in-car integration of Webex meetings.
The core of hybrid work is how we work and not where we work, as I have pointed out. Whether working from home, from a different office, or just three desks down the corridor, workflows incorporate chats, video calls, shared documents, digital whiteboards, and so much more. Knowledge workers live daily, and workflows are diverse. How we work has changed forever.
Organizations are rethinking their office spaces to make sure their employees are happy. The impact of hybrid work and the redistribution of talent will affect the entire cities and regions.
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A research project involving 16 employees from Italy, Spain, France and Greece who relocated to Venice for three months was launched by the company last April. The Venywhere project focuses on how people’s expectations of work have changed and how teams and organizations can work better together, attract new talent and connect with the communities. In addition to their regular jobs in virtual sales, the group is also conducting in-depth surveys and interviews about their experiences and helping co-design new practices and solutions for hybrid workers.
The importance of belonging and connection for remote workers is a key part of the research. The participants volunteer their time with local organizations and projects focused on climate change, economic growth and recycling. A new model for digital citizenship will be helped by their experiences. At the end of the three months, the People & Communities organization will give its findings.
People from a variety of religions and cultures have come to Venice. It’s an inclusive culture that makes it the perfect place to experiment with new ways of working, living and collaborating. Technology has made it possible for us to take a call or attend a meeting anywhere. This ability has the potential to change the look and feel of the city. If my desk is in a park in the middle of the city, what would it be like? While we usually talk about smart cities in terms of connected infrastructure, the real potential that connected and intelligent cities have is to redesign themselves to better fit the needs of those who live and work in them, says Barozzi.
5 million Americans have moved since 2020 because of remote work opportunities. A think tank in Washington, D.C. is likely to follow as large companies struggle to force people back into the office. We should not miss the chance to redefine our cities, not to lure people to move back but so that the people who are still there and those who visit have better quality of life.
The Heart of Tech is a firm that engages or has engaged in research, analysis, and advisory services with many technology companies. The author has no equity positions with any company mentioned in the column.