Cisco’s Chief Technologist, Chintan Patel, has revealed how a seamlessly connected and secure work environment will enable our hybrid working lives.
The office only ever existed because it contained the materials and equipment workers needed but did not have at home; typewriters, computers, photocopiers, and “filing cabinets to store countless kilometres of paper”, as Mark Dixon, founder, and CEO of International Workplace Group (IWG) points out.
Today, the office is no longer a defined physical space. Rather, it has become digital, and digital infrastructure will continue to be the foundation for hybrid working going forward.
According to research by Cisco, approximately 98% of meetings will have at least one remote participant in the hybrid world, meaning that technology will play a crucial role in ensuring there is a level play field in terms of people feeling engaged and being part of the discussion, even if there are many more people present in person.
There is an onus on organisations to put in the digital infrastructure to assist employees securely communicate and collaborate from home – and that’s going to have to be a little more though out than just a webcam or laptop:
- Immersive video
Cisco, for example, is focused on giving dedicated video endpoints that provide a much more immersive involvement for their employees, irrespective of where they are. If appropriate video devices are available, that provide amazing experiences when in the office, this should be made available at home as well.
2. End-to-end wireless
The physical layout of offices will have to change in terms of how many desks we need compared with more open, collaborative spaces or meeting rooms. And that means ensuring the kind of digital fabric that allow people to be more mobile. Wireless technology can help facilities teams to understand where people are in an age of trying to manage density in space – you can get real-time insights into numbers and movement patterns.
3. Voice-activated conferencing
We are also moving into an era where quite a lot of things are touchless. Our homes have already become voice-activated through devices such as Alexa and Google Home, but now we can make our offices voice-activated in many ways too. Cisco’s video-conferencing solution, WebEx, has an assistant that allows you to do that. You can walk into one of their meeting rooms and tell WebEx to start the meeting. It will already know who you are, through their proximity technology, and will get all the other colleagues online. When the meeting is finished, the camera has already checked how many people were in the room and whether it needs to be cleaned or sanitised, so it can then automatically get the real estate team to come in and do a clean sweep. Putting in more automation like this simplifies the work experience for the teams that must operate in these environments.
4. Secure systems
Trust is vital, and employees need to be reassured that the technology they’re being given is security driven. In amongst all the goodwill shown during the pandemic, the bad actors continued to flourish. In the future, work is going to be distributed between the office, home and elsewhere, so we must make sure that security is absolutely embedded in everything that we do, whether that’s at the endpoints, in the physical infrastructure, in the cloud, in your private data centre or anywhere in between.
“Ultimately, the right technology in a hybrid world means delivering employees with as rich a set of collaboration tools as possible, ones that don’t exclude people on the basis of their physical location, and ones that can be trusted 100%”, says Joanne Bushell MD of IWG, South Africa.