Global workplace, virtual meeting space?

Epson's display solutions

Global workplace, virtual meeting space?

Over the years the traditional office has undergone several transformations, from trading spaces of the 15 and 1600s to more formulaic open offices of the Victorian era, through to cubicles in the 1970s and back to open plan. Every generation has an idea about how to improve efficiency and productivity.

Today, as demand for improved work-life balance, remote working and access to talent regardless of geography increases, many organisations are turning to technology for the answer.

As a leader in display solutions for over 15 years, Epson has lived through, and influenced, the changing role of the projector and lead the field in bringing new, enabling solutions to an established technology field.

The rise in increasingly flexible workspaces, such as WeWork, along with connective technologies, make it possible for people to work from just about anywhere. The idea of one central office that all employees travel to each day is fading, replaced with smaller satellite offices, shared and co-working spaces and home working.

Three years ago, we ran some research to further understand the expectations of the future office. 71% of respondents told us then that they believed that future meeting rooms would be entirely virtual with employees based in workspaces around the globe using technologies such as AR and holographic projection to join real-time workgroups[1]. But they also warned of the impact this could have on employee engagement with 68% concerned that people could feel less engaged with their company as the workplace becomes more remote, less team oriented and more impersonal.

While remote working has many advantages and remains increasingly popular among employees, as those we spoke to above predicted, there are potential pitfalls such as isolation and loss of connection to an organisation. Already we have seen some companies, such as IBM, who once championed home working, reverse previous decisions and end the practice citing ‘better collaboration and faster pace of work’ as the motivators of their move back to the office[2].

A careful balance must therefore be made; to ensure positive work-life balance, while still ensuring that teams remain motivated, included and connected. And regardless of the home working ‘pros and cons’ issue, remote teams and access to talent unrestricted by geography remain trends that many organisations are benefitting from.

To maintain connection to remote teams and ensure motivation, strong positive cultures of shared values must be forged, and practices must be developed the ensure teams feel connected regardless of location. Virtual team meetings are essential if we are to maximise global opportunity, but these meetings must not just be mass, faceless conference calls; we must be able to see and interact with each other and share information visually, collaboratively and in real-time. After all, social connectivity is imperative if teams are to flourish.  

Today, display solutions such as those provided by Epson, enable teams to connect remotely from anywhere; and not just to speak to each other, but to see each other and collaborate in real time on shared projects and documents.

And while these should never be the only means of contact between teams, virtual meetings bring the added benefit of reducing travel requirements – great for employees and for the environment.  

Within Epson, we ourselves champion this form of meeting. While we have a relatively traditional in-office culture, we also have multiple offices in many counties around the world. The idea of teams exiting in only one location is long gone. Virtual meetings allow us to connect with colleagues all over the world and to work collaboratively together at any time.  And while we value the benefits of face to face meetings, we also recognise the benefits of not traveling for every meeting. In fact, this year, we have committed to reducing business flights by 19% in an effort to support the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals[3].  Virtual, collaborative meetings give us the tools to be able to do this.

There is no doubt that remote collaboration solutions are critical in today’s workplace and will continue to be increasingly so. But while selecting the right technology is vital, so too training. The challenge with all technology is ensuring people know how to use it and get the most from it, rather than it becoming a frustration.

As HR Futurist Clinton Wingrove said when we interviewed him three years ago, “We have the technology, by 2025 we will have learned how to use it.”

Let’s hope it doesn’t take that long, but the sentiment is clear.

As we move into a future of increasingly tech-savvy workforces, we as employers must ensure we are not only equipping them with the right technology but enabling them to use it.

[1] Epson WOT report, 2016
[2] https://www.wsj.com/articles/ibm-a-pioneer-of-remote-work-calls-workers-back-to-the-office-1495108802
[3] Epson Green Choice Report, 2018