Expect to see an influx of new office technologies in coming months as hybrid working evolves. From video conferencing to automation, new developments to accommodate a mix of remote and in-office work are being invented and improved at a rate of knots.

The goal of these technologies is to create the same levels of engagement, collaboration, employee satisfaction and ultimately productivity as if an organisation had its employees working together full time. Clunky software is out and modern systems are in: IT analysts Forrester have forecast the while 60% of companies are moving to a hybrid model, about one in three could be tripped up by a lack of suitable technology.

Collaboration and video meetings

Advanced collaborative tools - file sharing systems, online communication platforms, content management systems, project management software are among products most in demand. There is also an enormous need for cross platform capabilities said Marty Clark, director of Merge Technologies, a leading provider of workplace technology and AV equipment. “There is massive demand from organisations wanting such features like conference rooms with the ability to connect to multiple platforms, not only one,” Mr Clark said. “The rise in video conferencing is the biggest change we’ve seen throughout the last two years - video meetings are now accepted as the norm whereas before the pandemic they were used on rare occasions.”

The best video conferencing experiences involved tailor-making a system to suit a company’s needs, rather than a single solution Mr Clark said. “Advancements made in this area are very impressive not only in capability but also pricing and accessibility,” he said. “The main tech available for video conferencing now is the sort that allows the camera to slowly pan out or zoom in on someone speaking instead of being a static image of 10 or so people sitting around a room. This functionality has been available for quite some time, but it hasn’t been accessible in that it’s been unbelievably expensive. Now with demand going up all the time, it has become more achievable to have a system across many different platforms and hardware devices.”

Workspace management

A major key to the success of hybrid working is managing space and time, “giving people who do work flexibly the ability to organise where they will be and when through visibility of which conference room or desk is available and when, or when their manager or colleague they want to see face-to-face will be in the office,” Mr Clark said. Workspace management solutions deliver this style of functionality and should be designed to do so seamlessly. also be used to manage visitors, and cleaning times As well as booking workspaces, video conferencing and collaboration facilities, this technology can be used to manage visitors and book cleaning times.

Zoom Rooms, BYOD and the emergence of BYOM

“Zoom rooms and Microsoft Teams rooms are big,” Mr Clark said. “The requirement is to have a room system in place that has the facility to allow BYOD (bring your own device) connections across all sorts of devices.”

The next step is BYOM or ‘bring your own meeting’. This allows for cohesive video conferencing from different personal devices across a number of solutions such as instance Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Meets and so on. It also eliminates the issue of having to fiddle with existing audio-visual equipment, making it ideal for hybrid working. “There are technologies developed in the last 12 to 18 months that have very much improved the meeting experience,” Mr Clark said. “For instance, in a BYOM meeting you could be running Google Meet while the other participants have Microsoft Teams, yet this technology allows them to recognise the other with one click on a link. Everything has to be easy and seamless - that’s the big thing now.”

Automation and AI

About 65% of managerial tasks could potentially be automated by 2025 according to The Harvard Business Review, while the Australian Computer Society (ACS) 2021 Technology Impacts on the Australian Workforce report forecasts 2.7 million jobs are at risk from automation over the next 15 years. However more than twice this many jobs could be created through reskilling for emerging positions and industries, according to the ACS, with a quarter of all new jobs over the next 15 years in technology. “Automation and AI is a subject that could be talked about for days,” Mr Clark said. “One of the areas where AI is having a big influence is in video technology. But intelligent technologies and prediction engines are emerging across the board, for everything from driving operational efficiencies to improving employee and customer experiences.”

Merge Technologies - Workplace Technology and AV