Spin the stats however you want, the short answer to “what does the return to work look like” is that most people want access to an office at least part of the time.
We’ve seen a lot of articles written about technology as it pertains to the return to the office. Many talk about touchless interfaces, personal devices, improved collaboration hardware, cross-platform soft codec systems, and home office setups.
I think all of those things will definitely be important, and heck, I may have written a couple blogs or given a couple talks (or both) on those subjects myself.
However I think there are three other areas every integrator should be discussing with their customers as companies get back to doing at least part of their business together in physical spaces. I’ve been watching and listening to what customers, designers, and architects have been talking about, and I think talking about these spaces may help set you apart from what is quickly becoming a commodotized Microsoft Teams Rooms (MTR) and Zoom Rooms market.
Outdoor used to be for the cafe or the courtyard but if you’re paying attention, workplace designers and architects have their eyes set on creating more open air spaces for meetings and productivity, especially in more temperate areas of the country. Integrators should be helping connect the dots on outdoor WiFi, Outdoor rated displays and cables, and distributed outdoor audio. Outdoor rated lines from Peerless, Sunbrite, Chief and Sonance all stand out as products to get familiar with in the short term. If outdoor ratings confuse you, you should also take a look at this great IP ratings explanation video from Starin.
Indoor/Outdoor ampithetaers for company meetings that utilize outdoor DVLED and environmental surround sound are a potential opportunity as well.
By this I don’t mean adding video conferencing to a huddle room or conference room. I’m talking about environments really designed for collaboration. There should be a large scale display, the room should be set up for everyone to have equal access to the interactivity and features. Chairs that are standing or perching height work better to increase mobility and encourage participation, as the brain goes into creative mode easier in this position than in a seated or lounge setting.
Software is also key. Soft codec platforms like Zoom are great for a quick meeting to accomplish a task, but they dont provide a continuous workspace for long term projects and asynchronous collaboration over time. Instead look at software like Bluescape or Prysm.
I was at NAB about 5 years ago when a realization hit me. Everyone is in the broadcast business today. Universities record and stream classes, churches stream services, companies run virtual meetings and produce videos for shareholders or shows for product launches. That was 5 years ago, so you can imagine how world events have accelerated the need for studios in almost every vertical.
Whether producing marketing content like podcasts and unboxing videos, teaching hybrid classes, doing worldwide company events, or introducing new products and services to the world, great content is more important than ever.
Besides the obvious camera systems and microphones needed, integrators should be looking at DVLED backdrops for live events and recorded shows or using them to replace green screen studios. They should also be helping their clients explore recording studio level acoustics and lighting. Check out companies like Snowsound and Auralex for acoustics help.
At the end of the day, companies will obviously have a large number of huddle spaces and meeting rooms that they may need help with, but focusing on these other spaces, although there will be less of them, allows us to add more value to the conversations we have with our customers and help assure that their return to physical space is as comfortable and productive as they hope they will be.
For a fun reference, also see these sketches of new offices done by Gensler here.