Technology

Sound check: the role of AV in the post Covid-19 office

The audio-visual landscape of the workplace has a significant role to play in the post-pandemic era, according to Cordless Consultants’ Nigel Miller. How can organisations alter the AV experience in the workplace to tempt employees back?

Change takes time. Apparently, it takes six weeks for an altered state to feel normal and when we all went home to work, we thought we would never get to the point where it felt normal. Yet some nine months later, it feels normal. Even the luddites amongst us are now used to operating a range of Video Conference and Unified Communications systems and spending every day looking at a sea of faces on our screens, like a never-ending episode of University Challenge.

With the rollout of the Covid-19 jab now underway, the office will soon be trying to make a comeback in some shape or form, to provide us with human contact time, creativity, collaboration, the chance to have a chat and do stuff between endless VC calls or actions.

But the prospect of sitting in a 70 per cent empty space surrounded by a sea of empty desks, continuing our ‘University Challenge’ conversations isn’t that appealing. Bad acoustics, no privacy (the few in the office can clearly hear at least your end of the call across the floor plate), married with a poor backdrop makes it a bad experience for everyone. So, moving into the meeting suite you find every room capable of holding 2-40 people has a single person occupying it, chatting into their laptop, but curiously not using the beautifully engineered, acoustically perfect 4K room-based VC System.

Clearly something is wrong and clearly things have got to change if the ‘office’ is going to tempt workers to make the journey back to spend productive and creative time with others. We have all moved on, the office needs to do the same.

‘We need new environments, not a sea of empty desks…’

So, what needs to change? Obviously, we will have to feel comfortable and safe on the journey and also with the environment within the building. Without that, nobody is going to risk the time and disruption of ‘travelling in’. But there is more: we need new environments not a sea of empty desks. We need a choice of places to work, to meet, to VC, and when we do need a private meeting room, technology that connects seamlessly, without multiple cables. The laptop-based VC system I have grown to love (if that is not overstating it), should provide an experience for both ends that is ideal – utilising the quality screen and sound system in the room whilst giving an inclusive experience for those remote.

Making workplaces safer

Audio Visual systems have a lot to bring to the party and there will be a lot of work to do in order to get our workplaces into shape. New, potentially wireless connectivity for laptop-based VC systems are emerging along with the ability to transfer VC calls seamlessly to room-based systems. Nobody will want to go back to the old ‘corporate’ imposed video conference system.

AV systems can also help make our workplaces safer – communications generally and particularly related to the building will need to improve. Digital signage and check-in screens should enable this, connecting us to a wide range of information covering occupation levels, energy use, available services and resources.

Our wellbeing can be supported with sound-masking, maybe supported by a visual element to uplift the soul and enhance our environment.

In essence, the new post Covid-19 workplace will need to be a destination, somewhere we want to sometimes go to get a better service, better experience and to be with others, provided in a frictionless way. Transport excepted, it should be a joy to ‘go in’ and well worth the effort. AV has a massive role to play in getting us back, and to a better place than before all this strange new world started.

Nigel Miller is the managing director of Cordless Consultants
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