Hybrid working: the role of tech in the long term

As we move into 2022, perhaps the biggest change we have seen is the beginning of the end for traditional 9-5 working in favour of anytime working

Much has been made of agile and remote working with a great deal of the focus being on physical location, but the knock-on effect this has on working hours and the technologies we utilise is huge.

The act of walking in and out of an office (or perhaps the commute) for most gives a clear beginning and end to the working day. In the hybrid working world these once black and white edges to your day become greyed. Today, with laptops firmly in place and collaboration tools delivering work into your home mean that work is never more than a couple of steps away.

Making hybrid work

We expect to see a continuation and expansion of hybrid working, but with a wider-ranging appreciation for all of the elements which make up a remote worker persona. Where the initial focus was on delivering communications to users now based at home, this is broadening to include aspects such as security and the personal welfare of the user. Organisations will now look to buy tools and technologies based on user personas, and the ‘package’ of applications and services those users need to carry out their day-to-day job. This means unified communications services teamed with secure remote access and omnichannel engagement (providing a seamless customer experience across multiple communication channels). Alongside visibility from reporting and analytics coupled with wellbeing and personal insights’ information – all presented in a simple, secure way to allow users to manage this transition to anytime working. As users start being defined by their persona, so will the hardware package their employer puts together to support them. Telephone handsets and headsets, video endpoints, and home connectivity devices will become more and more commonplace as part of the hiring and onboarding of new staff.

Offices will become flexible shared workspaces, which users consume as and when they need to rather than simply attending 9-5. The amount of office space in England fell two per cent in the 12 months to 31st March last year, according to data from the Valuation Office Agency, part of HM Revenue & Customs. As more people make home their primary place of work, employees will most likely to go to the office for a specific reason such as a meeting. Pre-booking the resources required will be a necessity and so too will using the spaces and technology they need to perform that task. Beyond simply creating more huddle spaces, workplaces now become collaboration hubs, with services allowing staff to easily see what workspaces are available and book them. The employee can then walk into a workspace and enjoy a seamless meeting experience whatever service is used to bring in remote participants. Analytics will also come to the fore by allowing proactive management of the collaboration spaces, showing adherence to maximum capacity for social distancing, measuring the ambience of the environment and supporting organisations in their environmental and sustainability initiatives.

The importance of omnichannel communications

Organisations have talked about this for a while, but we now find ourselves at the point where talk is turning into action. As staff are sent to work from home, so are customers and with that comes a new consumer approach to selecting and choosing the people you do business with. Businesses must reach their customers through the channels they want to use, which is increasingly social and chat. More than simply offering multiple methods of communication, it is important for different interactions to be tied together as part of that customer’s single ‘journey’. The main growth this will cause will be within the automation space, with chatbot and virtual agents identifying those customers waiting in service queues who can self-serve or have trivial queries.

Channel partners need to have the agility to keep pace with change as it happens. Agile and hybrid working is driving continued growth in unified communications as a service (UCaaS) with the need for anywhere, anytime access to telephony, messaging, conferencing and omnichannel collaboration. Partners need to be able to help their customers simultaneously support their staff, customers and systems.

The main technology which we expect to see decline over the coming months and years is email, as users and their customers transition to omnichannel, web and social chat with automation and artificial intelligence underpinning interactions. Customers are more consumerised than ever before and expect instant answers to their queries. Email just isn’t fast enough anymore, with many organisations now advertising their social channels over email in contact spaces.

Meeting regulatory requirements

There are other factors that we expect to become prominent this year, including the bridging of the compliance gaps. As more organisations transition to remote working, we’ll see the emergence of coverage gaps which can leave them open to compliance breaches and financial penalties. Mobile phone usage increases hugely in a remote working model, which often fall outside corporate reporting and recording jurisdiction. Voice and video recording, retention of and securing this data in line with corporate and industry regulations are areas organisations are now having to consider. It’s likely that communications platform as a service (CPaaS) will increase in demand and as will the ability of providers to span multiple application stacks and technologies whilst providing a consistent seamless experience.

This means an increased need for partners to develop their managed service offerings, with a focus on customer and user experience.

Following a tumultuous 18 months, the market has seen a lot of change both in the way organisations work and the tools they have deployed to support customers and staff. Services with customer satisfaction and customer success at their core will be of most importance to ensure customers remain happy with the service they procure and are constantly getting the best return on investment from it.

About the Author

Richard Evans is Chief Technology Officer at Cinos and has over 15 years’ experience working within voice and video communications. He is responsible for Cinos’ portfolio of end-to-end premise and cloud collaboration services.

Featured image: ©Stokete