*Originally published on CommercialIntegrator.com
Recent research shows that employees want to return to the office, and pro AV is now tasked with helping customers bring them back.
The unified communications and collaboration world has been singing a similar refrain now for months: remote work will not completely disappear once the pandemic subsides because many businesses realized that they barely miss a step when their employees work from home.
More than that, employees really like working from home. Who wouldn’t want to erase their commute and enjoy a flexible working environment? Remote work even benefits the employer, who can ostensibly save on real estate and in-office equipment costs with a reduced office footprint.
Recent research suggests that employers are buying into this trend and are investing in tools and technology that will help make this possible, but some employers will want employees back in the office in some capacity, and some employees want to come back to the office.
According to unified communications and collaboration research firm Metrigy, 32% of employers surveyed make the office available for people to come back 12.9% say it depends on the person’s role, and 12.7% want their people back in the office full time.
Going forward, many companies plan to continue offering that flexibility and letting employees choose where they work, as 36.4% of employers said they will leave that decision up to the worker, and 9% said they want at least some in-office work from their employees.
On the extremes, 38.3% of organizations said remote work is required and 12.4% said employees are expected back in the office on a full-time basis.
As vaccines become more readily available and public health concerns are eased, those in-office figures will likely rise.
The emphasis has largely been on how to make remote workers feel like they’re still a part of the team by investing in technology like videoconferencing systems, but AV integrators will also likely be tasked with helping their customers lure their employees back to the office with innovative collaboration solutions.
Employees Want to Collaborate
After more than a year of meeting only on video, your customers’ employees want to come back to the office primarily for collaboration and team building that has largely been lost as a result of remote work.
Brad Sousa, chief technology officer at AVI Systems, said at a recent Enterprise Connect virtual event that working from home has “systematically deconstructed a sense of work community” that is highly valued by younger generations.
“That’s going to drive an interest to come back to the workplace,” Sousa said.
That’s backed up by research, including Microsoft’s recently released Work Trends Index, that found that younger generations were more likely to report struggling at home.
“Business leaders surveyed were also more likely to be Millennials or Gen X, male, information workers, and farther along in their careers,” Microsoft said in the report. “In contrast, Gen Z, women, frontline workers, and those new to their careers reported struggling the most over the past year.”
Although Microsoft’s study noted that Gen Z applicants were just slightly more likely to apply for a remote job versus an on-site job — at clips of 21% and 18%, respectively — younger generations said they were struggling more than older generations.
According to the report, 40% on Gen Z workers said they are struggling or just surviving, and new 64% of new employees said the same. However, just 39% of business leaders felt the same, with 61% of them saying they are thriving.
Helping Visitors Connect
Similarly, organizations want to go back to the office to meet with their vendors or customers and build relationships that way. Meeting rooms that allow for robust in-person presentation and collaboration – not just remote – can help elevate those experiences.
“Those meeting spaces we think are going to be much more experiential-centric,” Sousa said, adding that those meeting spaces serve not only to connect with the customer, but also to connect with the organization’s brand and culture.
Internal spaces used to be more utilitarian, and customer-facing meeting spaces were more elegant. Even though organizations everywhere are embracing this video-first mentality, organizations want to reconnect with their customers and vendors in more personal settings when health regulations allow.
“I think there’s an element of that that’s coming back,” Sousa said. “Because we want people to have an experience when they come to my office.”