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Many businesses are not rushing to return to the pre-pandemic days of employees working full time in the office. Some organizations will never fully return to the office. Instead, they'll favor a more flexible hybrid scenario that enables a mix of in-office and remote work.
As organizations plan their workplace strategy, they need to go beyond simply giving employees the tools they need to work remotely or in the office. Organizations must now prioritize investing in tools that ensure employees are working effectively regardless of their location.
Organizations that are successful in their remote work collaboration investments are increasing their IT budgets to spend more on security, video and productivity apps, according to a Metrigy workplace collaboration study of 476 organizations across 11 countries.
Supporting all aspects of video
Successful organizations provision more audio and video devices to optimize the work-from-home experience, according to the study. Devices can range from basic headsets and laptops with built-in webcams to more sophisticated speakerphones and lighting setups.
Providing devices to end users also enables IT departments to centrally manage devices and integrate performance management to measure audio or video quality, monitor device health and maintain firmware updates, said Metrigy analyst Irwin Lazar in a recent webinar. Performance management integrations can also give IT visibility into the home worker environment to provide better support.
Organizations looking to improve employee efficiency should also deploy video in meeting rooms and desktops. Even as offices reopen, employees may not feel comfortable going into a conference room for a meeting. Instead, some employees will choose to attend meetings from their desks while others will attend a meeting in a small group in a larger conference room.
Proactively addressing security
Traditional unified communications (UC) security tends to focus on voice with tools like session border controllers and session initiation protocol firewalls. But now security is evolving to take a more holistic approach to include collaboration and meeting tools, Lazar said. Collaboration capabilities like document sharing, editing and co-browsing need to be secure to meet compliance and governance needs, he added.
"We're starting to see more growth in tools that allow you to implement security end to end across different apps," Lazar said. Some communications vendors are building security capabilities into their platforms, and performance management vendors are beginning to enter the security market. Some emerging vendors in this space, such as Theta Lake and SafeGuard Cyber, are also focusing on security, compliance and governance across collaboration apps.
Expanding virtual worker tools
Some employees may need more tools than just a meeting or team collaboration platform. Organizations should also help remote workers replicate the in-office meeting experience with tools like virtual whiteboard apps.
"Think about what draws people back to the office and conference rooms -- it's that whiteboard," Lazar said. "Most tools are good at screen sharing, seeing participants, capturing some notes, but they're not good as ideation tools."
Virtual whiteboard apps can replicate the in-person ideation experience of sketching ideas or drawing up plans. About 44% of companies are using or planning to use virtual whiteboard apps, such as Miro, Mural and Bluescape, according to the study.
Organizations must also view the remote work collaboration environment as more than voice and meetings. Companies that are most successful in their collaboration investments are rolling out project management and workflow tools, such as Monday.com and Asana, and integrating them with their UC environment, Lazar said.