The onset of the global pandemic in 2020 forced us to discover new ways of living and working, find enjoyment in the smaller moments, and take stock of our place in and our influence on the world – yet, none of this would have been possible without the gift of modern communications and collaboration tools technology.
Jeppe Dalberg-Larsen is President of EPOS.
Employees have been home for over a full year and workers have had to adapt to new ways of working and operating. Maintaining all of this is an incomparable dependence on technology. For many established and slow-to-change industries, this presented a culture shock.
As the benefits of virtual collaboration and hybrid working have become more visible, it is clear they are here to stay. Employees are reporting increased productivity working from home – with fewer distractions and less time spent commuting. While business leaders are responding positively to the new working dynamic and now favor virtual collaboration over face-to-face interactions, having realized the vast potential for both time (45%) and cost savings (41%).
Shifting business and investment priorities
As employees continue to adapt to the hybrid model, business leaders are being forced to re-examine business plans and investment priorities for equipment.
When we think about collaboration tools, the likes of Microsoft Teams or Zoom spring to mind. However, what do these tools rely on? The answer, of course, is audio. The past year has demonstrated that audio quality is now a non-negotiable enabler of business continuity, client and partnership management and internal communications. Of the global decision-makers we surveyed, over half said that high-quality audio equipment is an essential component to their business, while a further 34% think it is desirable.
However, it is important to note that as some continue to work remotely it is easy to fall into the trap of using consumer-grade communications tools, which aren’t designed with professional use in mind – often resulting in frustrating and counterproductive experiences. If hybrid working is going to be successful in the long-term business leaders must optimize the virtual working experience by addressing pain points like background noise, interference, and poor audio quality. For organizations that address and solve these issues, they will not only help to maximize their employee’s productivity but unlock the full potential of their workforce.
From Financial Services to Utilities, leading sectors are doubling down on audio spend
According to our research, 83% of global decision-makers believe that audio equipment has become more important over the last two years, and a further 56% say it has become much more important to maintain and establish connectivity with clients and teams. Alongside this, 64% place a premium on having quality audio technology today over a quality laptop or PC equipment to facilitate client and partner communication.
Certain sectors are leading the charge in recognizing the importance of audio. For example, EPOS found that 66% of respondents working in Healthcare and 64% in IT and Digital industries say that high-quality audio equipment is indispensable to their performance. Meanwhile, 42% of decision-makers globally (notably over half in APAC and Germany) have observed an increase in the importance of audio technology in helping to maintain client relationships within their business.
Businesses leaders are reacting to this newfound recognition with urgency - 78% are now willing to pay more to equip their employees with the right audio solutions. This is especially true for those working in Telecoms and Utilities (73%), Hospitality (68%), Financial Services (68%) and IT and Digital (67%). While the average investment increase has been 26% across sectors, notably this rises to 31% in the finance sector.
Yet for the small proportion (20%) of businesses that have actually decreased spending on audio, this has been rationalized by an expectation that staff would either bring their own equipment or use devices with in-built audio. While this may appear functional and cost-effective at first glance, it leaves employees exposed to the very negative experiences we discussed earlier – notably disruptive background noise, interference and poor quality.
Bad audio is bad for business
Even before the pandemic, our research found that employees lost an average of 29 minutes per week due to poor sound quality, interruptive background noise, and signal issues on voice and video conferencing calls . In today’s hybrid world bad audio isn’t simply a minor frustration but a heightened obstruction to business and individual productivity – all of which will ultimately impact a business’ bottom line. This presents a risk for businesses that is far too high to gamble with a simple plug and play experience; no two individuals and no two job roles have the same needs and demands, so why should their audio solution be?
It is well-established that good audio quality can lead to better customer service, greater employee motivation and confidence, and enhanced customer retention. But in the era of hybrid working, employees need a superior remote working experience to unleash their full potential and maintain productivity. Fortunately, our research found that 85% of businesses say they plan to put policies and technologies in place to support a remote, flexible workforce for the long-term while 65% believe remote work helps them to reduce capital and operational expenses and manage risks.
Start future-proofing today
Technology is increasingly becoming a key differentiator for businesses to succeed in today’s competitive climate. However, business leaders must also start to look beyond the pandemic and plan for the growing presence of Gen Z in the workforce. Understanding their needs and what they expect from a workplace will be key to attracting and retaining future talent. A crucial part of this in a hybrid working world will be delivering a seamless employee experience.
We’re already seeing organizations across sectors rise to these challenges – recognizing that technology and audio solutions are essential for their business operations and investing in them accordingly. Yet for those lagging, there is a real and present danger of being left behind. It is these businesses that must take action and implement measures to secure their future. The need for business preparedness in the hybrid age is clear; it’s now time to make it a reality.
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Jeppe Dalberg-Larsen is President of EPOS – a global player in audio solutions and part of the Demant Group. Jeppe has more than 20 years’ experience in technology and business development.