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By Irwin Lazar and Beth Schultz

As our Metrigy colleague Robin Gareiss discussed in her recent guest blog, “Return to Work Planning: Why Persona Development Is a Priority,” crafting a technology plan for employees today requires careful consideration of workstyles that have emerged out of the pandemic. Supporting varying ways that people work is especially critical as organizations define policies governing work location. The needs of those in the office may vary from those working remote, and everyone’s work style is likely to vary based on their role.

Our analyst firm recently published a global research study, Unified Communications Management and Endpoints 2021-22 based on surveying nearly 400 organizations. The study shows no clear consensus on where work gets done now or in the future: 21% of participants reported that their employees must work full time within company offices, 15% said employees must work from home, and 24% said their employees have the option of working either from the office or at home. For the rest, work location is largely dependent on role, with those in frontline functions in education, manufacturing, retail, and healthcare, or field-service related roles, not having the ability to work from home.

Throughout the pandemic, employee expectations have changed to the point that many now feel that they are equally capable of performing their jobs at home as they are at the office. As such, employees will not tolerate home office environments that place them at a disadvantage versus their coworkers who are in the company office. Gone are the days when those working remotely accepted that they couldn’t fully participate in meetings because their only meeting option was a dial-in audio bridge. Today, employees in-office and remote expect easy to use, high-quality, voice and video experiences that allow all participants to easily see and hear each other, and to collaborate during the meeting. To meet these expectations, organizations need to procure the right endpoints, and IT teams need insight into endpoint usage and performance to ensure high-quality voice and video experiences across all work locations and styles.

Within our study we identified a success group of 68 companies who had achieved above-average measured return on investment, in terms of reducing costs, increasing revenue, and/or improving productivity, associated with their collaboration spending. Based on our learnings from this success group, we recommend the following approaches to support hybrid workstyles:

Extend video conferencing into more meeting spaces – 72% of successful companies, defined as those with the highest ROI and/or productivity gain for their collaboration investments, are increasing their deployment of video conferencing systems to all or most meeting rooms. An expansion of the video conference estate is especially important in meeting the needs of a collaborative workstyle. Ensuring widespread availability of video conferencing within meeting rooms provides employees with the flexibility of either taking a meeting from their desk, or going to a meeting room, either by themselves or with their colleagues for a high-quality video experience. And, ubiquitous availability of high-quality in-room video conferencing experiences means that those participating in meetings remotely will be able to enjoy the ability to see their colleagues, without being relegated to audio-only participation.

Provision high-quality endpoints to employees – 72% of successful companies, vs. 62% of organizations overall, see value in equipping employees with high-quality UC endpoints, including cameras, headsets, and speakerphones. To support video calls for a highly collaborative workstyle, for example, 43% of the success group have deployed or have plans to deploy personal webcams to employees, compared to 29% of all organizations. This includes business-grade desktop devices, like the Poly Studio P Series, that provide high-definition video, enhanced audio, and AI-powered features to improve video and voice quality and to reduce background noise. Enterprise-grade UC devices fit the need of a collaborative workstyle, allowing employees better control over their meeting experiences with availability of noise cancellation and other AI features often missing from consumer-grade earbuds.

Centralize IT management of endpoints – Provisioning enterprise-grade endpoints means employees get the benefit of IT oversight on firmware updates and performance. In our success group, 58% of organizations have or are planning to use endpoint management apps such as Poly Lens. This removes an employee pain point by enabling IT to perform end-to-end performance management regardless of location, and to address configuration issues that may negatively impact collaboration experiences. IT management of endpoints may also provide visibility into adoption and utilization. For example, it allows for the gathering of engagement data (such as camera activation), as well as network performance management. The ability of IT to remotely manage UC performance is an especially important benefit for those working from home who are often using consumer-grade Internet services or who have spotty in-home Wi-Fi.

Align procurement with employee need – Companies that provision the same device to everyone, regardless of role, will likely find that they are unable to meet the needs of individual workstyles. These companies, might also find that employees refuse to use the provisioned devices and instead procure their own headsets, cameras, etc., or rely on consumer devices that operate outside of IT control. The end result is that organizations are unable to ensure optimal voice and video experiences as they lack insight into endpoint performance. They may also run the risk of security vulnerabilities that potentially occur when connecting to meeting applications through devices designed for consumer use. Aligning endpoint provisioning with identified role-based needs ensures that the organization is equipping individuals with the kinds of devices that lead to measurable improvements in their collaborative experiences, which translates into higher revenue, reduced cost, and/or quantifiable gains in productivity.

The baseline goal of such actions is threefold:

  1. Deliver the same experience for an individual, based on workstyle and responsibilities, no matter their location on any given day.
  2. Level the playing field between those working in an office and those working remotely.
  3. Ensure the ability to manage remote devices to optimize adoption and performance.

As Robin mentioned in her blog post Poly has developed a pretty slick and unique tool to help organizations identify personas and associated technologies to complement them. You can learn more about the six personas Poly identified through analysis of 5,000 enterprise users, as well as access the profiling tool for your organization, here.