Bridging the WFH and office experience

This article is sponsored by Logitech.

Image courtesy of Logitech.

Remote work protocols had been a “nice to have” rather than a “must-have” for a lot of financial services institutions (FSIs) in the past. However, when COVID-19 swept through the world in 2020, and lockdowns hit, many banks and FSIs had to adopt collaboration platforms rapidly as workforces started working from home predominantly. It was an all-encompassing change for IT departments to get entire arms of the business up and running working remotely.

We’ve seen a scramble for work-from-home (WFH) adjustments and helped several FSIs across the globe transition smoothly to an entirely new way of collaborating. Today, we share our experiences over the past year, and some of the best practices for enterprise communication and collaboration – especially for FSIs.

Due to the new ways of communicating, some changes have taken place within enterprises. Traditionally, the IT and audiovisual (AV) departments would be separate. AV might be closely related to the facilities department and the two would not meet. But now, we are seeing more and more departments merge together. IT and AV are becoming one department; previously, it was rare to have a PC in the meeting room. The rooms would have their own infrastructure – often hardware that was very expensive and managed by AV. Now, the room might have a Windows 10 PC that will be managed by IT – there is a real crossover.

The importance of certification

When it comes to the certification process, products have to be Microsoft Teams-, Zoom-, and Google Meet-certified. With these certifications, you are assured of the quality.

For instance, for Bluetooth headsets to be certified, it needs to have wideband technology so that you can tell the difference between an ‘S’ and an ‘F’. Otherwise, those two consonants would sound the same when pronounced over an audio or video call. That improves the user experience.

You need to have in-line controls with the ability to mute, change volume, and answer calls, so you don’t have to use your mouse. If your screen is on screensaver mode, and a call’s ringing and you can’t answer it, that would be frustrating – so you need to be able to answer and end a call easily. 

And it needs to be Plug and Play. As soon as you connect your USB, your PC or Teams software recognises it as a Logitech headset and not just as a generic USB device. These are some of the main parts of being a Teams-, Zoom-, and Google Meet-certified device.

What end-users prioritise

When hunting for a good collaboration and communication system, end-users – specifically from banks – look for ease of use and simplicity because they consider users who are not that proficient in IT or AV to be able to easily start a video meeting.

They’d be looking for a certified product for whatever platform they choose. They’ll be looking at the right price point of course. But they’ll be looking at the right audio and video capabilities to make sure that they can cope with the environment that they are being considered for.

In summary: collaboration and communication products should be simple, intuitive, at the right price point, and of course, have first-class video and audio.

Enterprise communications is changing

As work becomes hybrid, people are still trying to work out the long-term evolution of the communication method and workflow within enterprises. They’ve had to respond quickly to the new environment; most enterprises are still feeling their way through this.

But there is a general consensus that offices will become more like communication hubs, in a way. It’s where people will go just to have meetings and collaborate. They might work from home half the week, for instance, but they’ll go to the office to have meetings.

This means there’s going to be a greater need for video in every space, because there’ll be a greater need for collaboration spaces. And so having a similar, easy-to-use experience as you would do at home, using videoconferencing is going to be key.

People from FSIs have been working from home for over a year now. If they were to suddenly go back to the office, and they have to sit in a huge boardroom with a conferencing system that’s not the same as what they’ve gotten used to, it’s going to be unfamiliar to them. That’s a big driver to replicate the experience of having a Teams, Zoom, or Google Meet call from home, in the office.

Familiarity is essential. You’ve probably sat in a meeting room, with a remote control that’s got 50 buttons on it, that nobody knows how to use. And guess what? Nobody wants to be the one to say “I don’t know how to use this.” The control just gets moved aside and that very expensive Video Conferencing Kit doesn’t get used! 

Familiarity is much more important and intuitive. Meeting spaces – whether in FSIs or any other sectors – are going to become very important, as are things like whiteboarding. When somebody is using a whiteboard in a meeting room, the person at home can get involved – it can be interactive.

Viewing the face of the person we’re talking to in video meetings is, we think, a big change driver as well. Our traditional view of a meeting using a camera lens would be seeing everybody in the room. But customers are now asking for different forms of facial tracking or speaker tracking, so that you can get a similar experience as a videoconferencing call, where one face fills up the screen. It feels more personal, rather than speaking to a whole table of faces.

AI in online meetings

When it comes to the online world and online meetings vs the offline and physical world, we think everybody prefers face-to-face meetings if possible. This new way of collaborating has to work because people are going to be working from home more. This is why all the artificial intelligence (AI) features are going to be really important – to try and make the experience better than being there.

Imagine the experience of watching a basketball game. Watching it on a television, with close ups and multiple camera angles, allows the viewer to take in details that could be easily missed  in a live situation. There is also the ability to record and pause the game when needed, or even watch in slow motion. There is no need to sit through traffic, and on TV, the viewer can watch it comfortably in their own home, with expert commentary to enhance the enjoyment of the game. 

Now imagine replicating this in the corporate world. This will involve AI – you could have multiple camera angles, and a form of facial recognition. For example, if you are at a remote meeting and you see somebody at the other end, you could hover your mouse over their face and it would bring up their profile. That kind of technology might make it even better than an in-person meeting. The online experience is the future – nothing is going to change that. It is just up to the vendors and the online platforms to make the experience possible.

Making remote participants feel connected to each other within the meeting room is essential. Sitting at home, with six colleagues in a meeting room, it is easy to feel disconnected. Advanced videoconferencing solutions with AI are going to help bring everyone together in such settings. 

The future of work

There are several opinions that cities will change as people are working from home. We don’t think it will change as much as some people are saying. We still think people like to go into work for social reasons as well, so you can see your colleagues, you can go for lunch, etc. A lot of people would find it a negative just to be stuck at home all day. But we think cities will change. Will they go away? No. But they’ll certainly change.

Within the FSI world, digital banking is the future.

We think most prefer not to have to go to the bank for various reasons (e.g. time-consuming queues, traffic, and exposure to more people during a pandemic). Even when you go into the bank now, you don’t necessarily have to have human contact. You can bank cheques, for instance, without ever speaking to a banking teller.

We prefer to do it at home, and we think a lot of people prefer online banking; phoning up a contact centre is never that much of a positive experience. But it’s only going in one direction – and that is more digital, less high-street.