Work Life

Is there still space for office space? Let's Zoom in

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Posted
September 9, 2020
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3 minutes

When we go back to work, what kind of environment awaits us?

From bedroom, to boardroom; now we have more flexibility to work from anywhere, but what will our future working environments look like? How will they function? We spoke to Jeff Smith, Head of Zoom Rooms to hear about the future of collaboration and hybrid working to figure out how we can all get back to work safely.

Two questions I get asked all the time are, “How do I enable my remote workers?” and, “How do I return to work safely?” People are understandably finding it hard to imagine a six-foot, socially distanced office. So much of the focus in my particular space in the industry has been on huddle rooms, based on a 10-by-10 space model and fitting three or four people in there for a rich collaboration experience – given the context of Covid-19, this simply isn’t possible right now.

Go bigger or go home

In the short term, we look for larger spaces, for example, a ten-seat conference room becomes a three-seat conference room. When you have fewer people in each space, the impetus to increase the amount of video conferencing equipment becomes even more acute – people need more spaces to collaborate in, and the technology to do so effectively.

See outside the box

Smart cameras are important. Features where the camera can frame participants in a larger space, especially so. Many of the features we’ve developed have been designed to create a richer experience in the room. We also wanted to provide metrics and data for the IT management group so it’s easy to see how many people are using a particular space and how many meetings are being held there. This helps everyone find ways of using their spaces more efficiently.

People need more spaces to collaborate in, and the technology to do so effectively

Which changes will last?

The prevalence and acceptance of remote distributed workforces is something there’s no coming back from. This will change our world in very substantial ways. These are just some of the important questions we’ll ask ourselves:

  • “What do I need to use the physical space for?”
  • “Why would I co-locate workers?”
  • “Where do I want these facilities to be?”
  • “What do I need to equip them with in order to make those workers effective?”

I think there are a lot of companies that are thinking very deeply about these questions, some of them have already told us they’re going completely remote, with no physical office at all.

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What does the future hold?

Fully remote working sits at one end of the spectrum, but there is still substantial value in face-to-face interaction. With this in mind, we need to re-imagine the tools that are needed – what kind of equipment needs to go into these physical spaces in order to enable effective remote working? I view more of a compromise or ‘middle space’ of hybrid working becoming the norm, not fully remote working or fully in-person working, but hybrid working, where nearly all of the time someone is not physically there. It’s time to think more about how we effectively connect people who are physically together with people who are working remotely.

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