tvONE Releases AV/IT Manager Guide to Creating Hybrid Working Environments
The recent global pandemic has shown the importance of collaborative ecosystems, with many of us having to truly immerse ourselves in a virtual work environment from our home offices. As we slowly begin to return to our offices to work, face-to-face with our colleagues, hybrid multi-window capability is predicted to become the new norm in our huddle spaces, boardrooms, hybrid learning facilities and events.
In this blog, we explain how to create outstanding hybrid collaboration spaces that your teams will scramble to visit the office to use!
Are you ready for “hybrid” working?
Experts say that the recent global pandemic has advanced with the use of technology at such a pace that we have effectively enhanced our day-to-day workflows by over 5 years! What is clear is that, for many, the workplace will never be the same again. Experts say around half of employees expect to be in the office a maximum of two or three days a week, and that almost all future meetings will include remote participants. This presents a real challenge to entice teams back into the office to enjoy collaborating face-to-face again.
Therefore, today’s huddle rooms, meeting rooms, and collaborative spaces need to go beyond what was normal a year or so ago. Teams will want to continue with interactive types of working that they are now used to, and there has been a notable change in direction towards multi-window solutions.
Overcoming ‘return-to-office’ concerns
In this new way of working, a multi-window performance offers users the ability to share effectively, but it is essential to understand that they do not want to concern or worry themselves with the technical set-up and will insist on faultless performance every time, ideally without any common touch points such as control panels.
Put simply, end users will want to be as collaborative as possible in their on-site working environment as they experienced during lockdown using Zoom and MS Teams. Anything less will mean it is better to stay at home, losing out on the benefits of physical interaction, which is undoubtedly beneficial, as face-to-face interactions boost productivity and creativity.
Creating seemless systems your employees want to use
As the old mantra says, “Time spent on preparation is rarely wasted,” meaning the early efforts spent in the design phase will pay real dividends later, by helping to create seamless workflows, while also saving you time and money.
In a hybrid working environment, carefully consider all aspects of your system design to avoid workflow bottlenecks. This preparation is essential as many people now have first-hand experience with working on their personal devices using MS Teams, Zoom, FaceTime, and other applications. They will expect the same seamless, pain-free solutions in their face-to-face and hybrid collaboration systems.
If the budget allows, engage with a trusted consultant who can guide you through the process. Whether you use the services of a consultant, or not, always demand a real-world demonstration of the solution together with operational training for your IT and AV support teams. If traveling to a demonstration site is not possible, ask for virtual sessions.
Watch your team and their ideas grow
Once you have decided to choose a hybrid system, you are ready to enjoy the benefits of a collaborative, multi-window environment beyond the abilities of Zoom and MS Teams. The best solutions can display from 1 or 2 sources, up to 64 windows on a single display, LED, or multi-screen video wall.
Other beneficial features include high-quality scaling together with ultra-low video latency, even if you are adding video labels and borders. You can also enjoy eye-catching video transitions, video animations, and in addition to “clean” cuts or fade to black, even when the resolution/frame rate varies between sources.
Touch-free is king
Traditional meeting room control systems use a touch screen or button panel control. This is a real concern for staff teams returning to the office who are now used to working in their personal home office workspaces. Regular cleaning is one solution, but the preference by end users is touch-free control or the ability to make changes from their smart phone or another personal device. For example, one moment an employee will want to display a spreadsheet full-screen, and the next, compare content from two contributors’ side-by-side without the desire to touch a traditional meeting room control panel.
Two multi-window device options include the ability to adapt the view shown on-screen depending on who is connected, or alternatively, for app level control from a smart device.
What is the viewer experience?
The “Zoom Generation” increasingly demands collaborative, multi-window environments as standard. As individuals venture to their workplace, every minute they spend together needs to focus on seamless information sharing. Before choosing a solution, check the actual number of windows that are available, including the scaling quality and the video latency. Also, make sure you see a “clean” cut or fade to black when you switch between your window sources, even when the resolution/frame rate varies between those sources.
Beyond that, end users are increasingly demanding eye-catching animations and source transitions to mimic what they are experiencing on TV. When working in multi-window environments, it is best to start planning this early in the project, even when creating storyboards. Designing each of the window presets in advance will lead to superior results and save time on-site.
Investigate smart phone and tablet apps. If they are available, ask if they can be freely downloaded and how many simultaneous connections are possible. Experience shows that at least two or three secure connections will be required. Also, check whether Apps can be downloaded for IOS and Android devices.
The App should be simple to use while having enough control for your application. Ideally, you will be able to select which hardware device to log into, be able to select different video window arrangements, and select which sources go into those areas. An additional feature that can remove the need to touch display remote controls or audio kit is the ability to change the volume.
For completely touch free applications, some devices have completely automated control in the multi-window environment. With nobody connected, you will get a message on screen to connect a device. Connecting your first participant’s device will then automatically display it on-screen with a label for the first few seconds. However, it is clear that one connection is not enough anymore for high levels of team working and collaboration.
As you connect more participants, the number of windows will increase, and if they disconnect, automatically reduce without ever touching a control panel or pushing buttons. Another visually appealing feature is the ability to apply dynamic transitions, or alternatively, a fade through black, as new participants connect. This is another differentiator from the multi-window environments we have been using from home.
Consider going beyond 16:9
A common limiting factor for the creation of larger, collaborative displays is the height of the room. In this case, creating a stunning extra-wide display, with LED or edge blended projection can create extra visual space to collaborate and will undoubtedly be a real draw to bring people into the office for their important meetings.
Therefore, you need to choose a solution that goes beyond standard widescreen aspect ratios. The result will be distracting if the video is not displayed in the correct ratio, so check whether you have full control over the aspect ratios. Also, ask how a 16:9 image will appear when stretched across the full wall, and whether extreme upscaling will result in visual artifacts.
If the width of the wall is so extreme that scaling up a standard aspect ratio image is unacceptable, ask if the video processor has the option of playing back a series of synchronized 16:9 clips to include a super-wide animated or still corporate background. If it can, a graphic designer can easily cut up an extremely wide clip or still into 16:9 segments which can be joined later by the processor. This function is useful for corporate backgrounds, broadcast sets or point of sale solutions.
Demand the personal touch
Once you understand what you want to achieve, find a solution. This sounds like an easy prospect, but the fact is that most of us have not been able to attend a trade show, and if you can, not all exhibitors will have their full offering on display. In addition, deciphering the capability and detailed specification of equipment from a brochure and spec sheet does not always give the full picture.
Therefore, it is essential to make sure you ask your shortlisted equipment suppliers to provide you with an end-to-end demonstration, even if it is online. This is where a close working relationship with partner companies pays dividends. Also, while you are asking for a demo, also request in-depth training for your technical team. This allows you to speed up installations and fault-finding if you decide to go with that solution.