The future of workplace collaboration

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As new technologies change the way we work, businesses have begun to forego the traditional office in favor of multi-purpose co-working spaces designed to help foster productivity, creativity and collaboration. Rows of desks just won’t cut it anymore as employees have become accustomed to using their own devices, as seen with the BYOD movement, and being able to work from anywhere as a result of faster networks.

TechRadar Pro spoke with Logitech’s Head of Video Collaboration EMEA Anne Marie Ginn to learn more about how organizations are changing their office spaces and what the future holds for workplace collaboration.

Why are organisations moving away from traditional office layouts?

Traditional office spaces were designed around traditional working practices, but with the rise of flexible working and the gig economy endless rows of desks in an office have proven themselves inefficient and a hindrance to productivity. 

Teams now need to collaborate with fellow employees who may be in any number of places, and it’s therefore important that there are adequate meeting spaces at their disposal. 

As these are often smaller teams, they will need smaller, video enabled “huddle rooms”, alongside more flexible and informal breakout areas for ad-hoc meetings, and wider flexible spaces that can be used for hotdesking.

Image Credit: Pexels

Image Credit: Pexels

How do multi-purpose co-working spaces help foster greater productivity and collaboration?

These spaces often feature hotdesking policies and breakout areas, all of which are designed to promote discussion, idea-sharing and collaboration between workers. They’ll usually also provide secluded spaces for quiet time and concentration, which is essential for encouraging individual productivity.

However, to be able to make the most of their office environment and a dispersed workforce, organisations need to provide the right work collaboration tools for each type of meeting space. For instance, busy breakout areas will need portable video conferencing solutions that can cancel out distracting noises. Similarly video enabled smaller huddle spaces will need more specialized cameras that offer a wide field of view and integrated audio, allowing everyone to be seen and heard.

What role do emerging technologies such as AI and ML play in improving both audio and visual collaboration?

AI and machine learning will most notably improve the end user experience. With Logitech RightSight, Logitech’s solutions are already using AI and auto-framing technologies to improve the quality of a video call. By recognising when a participant is moving around the room, RightSight is able to automatically adjust the camera and zoom and focus on the person, helping to make the call more focussed.

In the future we also predict that artificial intelligence will help with tasks such as the logistics of a video call, acting as a scheduling assistant and helping to circulate meeting transcripts and actions once a call is finished.

Image Credit: Pexels

Image Credit: Pexels (Image credit: Image Credit: Bruce Mars / Pexels)

Has the rise of the remote working movement affected how businesses operate?

Remote working’s biggest consequence has been to reduce the number of people permanently working in the office - research from Gensler showed that in the average workplace individual workstations are only occupied 55% of the time. 

As a result, businesses are needing to invest in solutions in order to foster collaboration amongst this dispersed workforce, ranging from larger fixed units in meeting rooms to portable webcams.

How are organisations using video conferencing today and will we see more diverse uses for this technology in the future?

Historically video conferencing was used by organisations to facilitate large, formal meetings typically taking place in boardrooms, with fixed video conferencing systems and screens.

Recently, in line with the rise of flexible working, video has become the new voice. Organisations are using video collaboration for spontaneous, one-to-one video calls, helping them with quick discussions or informal chats that require screen-sharing. The explosion of huddle rooms designed for smaller meetings has also changed the way that video collaboration is used, with many organisations opting for specific wide-angle video conferencing solutions to cater to these smaller spaces.

Skype on a laptop

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What does the future hold for video conferencing and will technologies such as 3D tele-presence and holograms ever become a reality?

As working patterns change and flexible working becomes the norm, collaboration solutions will need to evolve with the needs of the user. Conferencing devices that deliver outstanding video and audio quality and are intuitive and easy-to-use will become increasingly important. This means that plug-and-play devices that require minimal set up, and those with easy-to-use remotes and accessories will be the preferred choice.

Once a fixture of sci-fi films (think Princess Leia’s ‘you’re my only hope’ recording form Star Wars), Mimesys' demonstration of volumetric video capture technology at CES shows that 3D tele-presence and hologram technology are starting to become a reality – but there’s still some work to go. The user was restricted in having to wear a large headset, which would make the technology more of a hindrance to collaboration if there were others in the room. Whilst an interesting space to watch, we aren’t quite there yet.