Many organizations like yours have started to gradually re-open their offices. But the tapered return has proven to be more challenging than expected. With capacity limits set to keep employees safe, many businesses are finding that their existing technology infrastructure does not support their new hybrid work environment. Does yours enable a gradual return?
Successfully switching from a 100% remote work setting to a 50-50% ratio requires conferencing technology that engages both in-office and remote staff equally. When the entire staff was videoconferencing from home, they were all dealing with the same challenges. But when part of your staff participates in a meeting face-to-face while their colleagues join remotely, moments of disconnect become more frequent. Remote team members may have difficulties hearing their in-person colleagues and be left out of important conversations. Without seeing the presentation, they may find it difficult to follow the discussion or contribute meaningfully. And sometimes their presence can be forgotten entirely simply due to their lack of visibility.
A hybrid work environment has been a staple at S-NET ever since we can remember, and we have had our fair share of challenges throughout the years. We made changes to our technical infrastructure so that all of our participants felt included and were equally engaged during meetings. Here are the 6 solutions that we found to be the best in bridging the gap between our in-office workforce and remote staff.
1. Upgrade your conference phones to ensure that all participants can hear each other.
One of the most common challenges of a hybrid meeting is to ensure that everyone can hear the conversation fully. When part of the in-person team sits farther from the microphone or are wearing masks, remote employees may find it difficult to follow the conversation. They often miss out on important information, and even on the occasional joke that helps build cohesion among team members. Under such circumstances, connecting with colleagues and contributing to the conversation meaningfully becomes challenging.
Investing in a high-quality conference phone or audio equipment helps ensure that participants on both ends of the technology are equally engaged in the conversation. Conference phones designed to cover your specific meeting room size and models with expansion microphones capture sound from all corners of your space, even as in-person participants spread out in the room due to social distancing measures. Features such as HD sound clarity, 365-degree dead-zone free voice pickup, and background noise reduction can go a long way in ensuring that all your meetings run smoothly and all team members can participate fully.
2. Invest in powerful screen sharing and collaboration software.
Teams often use slide decks to guide their discussions and review files and documents together. But when part of the group is joining the conversation from home, projecting the presentation in the conference room or sharing printed documents will not cut it. It is critical to ensure that all participants have access to shared content and can follow the conversation easily.
Screen and file sharing can go a long way in bridging the gap between local and remote participants. Give your team the online collaboration tools they need to share meeting presentations and files. It will allow them to easily follow the discussion, no matter where they are located. Online collaboration tools also provide additional benefits, such as call and screen recording, as well as file sharing. Saving files and recordings associated with important meetings makes it easy to share the content with additional participants. They also serve as great reminders in case team members need to refresh their memories on the details.
3. Augment your video conferencing with high quality screens and projectors.
Remote employees may also be left out of conversations simply because they are not seen – out of sight, out of mind. They are often omitted during question rounds. And by the time the local team notices that they dropped off the call due to technical issues, they may have already missed an important chunk of the conversation. While remote participants can most certainly make an effort to be heard and included, experience shows that being visually present – whether in-person or through video – has an impact on their overall engagement.
Projecting your team’s video on a large screen eases communication between your groups, makes it possible to see who is talking at any given time, and ensures that remote employees are not forgotten. With the right video technology in place, your team’s technical difficulties can be noticed right away, before participants miss important parts of the discussion.
4. Improve remote and in-office conferencing with better video equipment.
Engaging your remote team via video conference is a great way to keep them involved in the conversation. But if they are unable to see your local team, they may find it challenging to follow along or see who is speaking. Additionally, if video quality is poor, important details may be missed during demonstrations and trainings.
Video can go a long way in making remote team members feel fully present and connected to their in-office peers. Upgrading your cameras will ensure that video communications are crystal clear and that everyone is on the same page.
5. Boost your bandwidth to better handle increased multimedia communication.
Voice and video applications require a significant amount of bandwidth to function at peak performance. When your Internet connection is unstable or fails to support your videoconferencing solution, remote employees may drop in and out of calls, and conversations require double the effort.
Engage your videoconferencing vendor to determine the type of connectivity your team needs. Invest in solid primary and backup connections for your conference rooms to avoid any downtime during important calls.
But while purchasing a solid circuit for your office is relatively easy, ensuring that your home-based team has the right Internet connectivity as well is much more challenging. If at least part of your team works remotely, even on occasion, consider subsidizing their connectivity expenses. With high-quality resources in place both in your office and in your team’s homes, your employees will be able to easily connect whenever needed.
6. Reserve time for technical setup and testing.
Not reserving a little extra time to test equipment regularly or set up before a meeting is a mistake that many companies have made and regretted. Troubleshooting internet connectivity, devices or software eats away at important meeting time. So it is critical to have everything in working condition when the meeting begins.
Testing your conference room infrastructure on a regular basis can go a long way in reducing wasted time. Keep your team well-trained on any new conferencing solutions and be sure to reserve extra time before meetings. Use this time to test your internet connection and your software, and ensure that all your participants have connected to the conference successfully.