Talk the talk: conferencing technology and the workplace of tomorrow

Hybrid, remote, flexible working – whatever your organisation calls it, it’s part of the “new normal” that was so regularly discussed during the height of the COVID pandemic.

While many aspects of our lives have now returned to the way they were pre-pandemic, being able to work away from the office environment is no longer simply considered a luxury to many workers. Instead, it’s an expectation – and even, a demand.

Statista reported in May 2023 that 39% of Great Britain’s workforce had worked remotely in the seven days prior to the report. And according to the Office for National Statistics, less than 10% of workers who went remote during the pandemic planned a full-time return to the office.

While the flexibility of employers and the demands of employees has driven this shift to a more adaptable way of working, it’s only possible thanks to the rapid production of collaboration software and hardware that can facilitate remote work.

But, despite their long-term use, many of these products still fail to consistently meet all of the needs of hybrid workers, whether they’re in the office or elsewhere.

At XMOS, we’ve dug deeper into those shortcomings, deciphering the priorities, frustrations, and hopes of over 2,000 UK and US-based workers when it comes to the tools at their disposal.

Introducing: Remote Possibilities: The Collaboration report!

A good talking to

Conference calls are the most common hurdle that workers need to jump. Our research shows that almost a third (32%) spend 1-2 hours a week on calls. A further 20% spend 3-4 hours, while just over a fifth (21%) are in virtual meetings for over five hours a week!

Consistent, high-quality audio and visual is therefore paramount. But more than three in four (78%) regularly face issues with their setup and barely two in five (41%) are happy with the software and hardware at their disposal.

And it’s audio quality that is the most common bugbear. More than half (51%) of workers surveyed have faced poor quality sound in the past twelve months. This is despite the fact that nearly two thirds (63%) state that being able to hear clearly is their biggest priority.

Beyond that, video-based challenges are prevalent too – whether that’s the technology itself or user behaviour. One in four (25%) aren’t always sure if colleagues are paying attention, more than a fifth (21%) have experienced their camera being out of sync with other technologies – while 14% haven’t been able to remove filters from their face.

Louder than words

With the appetite and requirement for collaboration technologies seemingly here for the foreseeable, these findings help to draw something of a roadmap for designers. In accommodating user feedback and specifically targeting improvements to the audio-visual experience, engineers and manufacturers can bring the full potential of a hybrid workforce to bear.

Audio is the first port of call here. The processors that drive conferencing technologies should ideally be capable of noise suppression, highly accurate voice capture, and acoustic echo cancellation – all of which specifically speak to the many significant and justified frustrations highlighted in the report.

With that sound basis, manufacturers will give themselves a platform upon which they can tackle more specific user concerns. If they do so, they prime themselves to rise above the noise in a competitive marketplace and change the ‘work from anywhere’ experience for the better.

To find out more about what workers need from their technologies, and how manufacturers can change the face of the conferencing market, download the Remote Possibilities report here.

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