The corporate landscape’s evolving. Originally a knee-jerk reaction to the pandemic, a new, fluid way of working has embedded itself in workplace culture. And bringing higher levels of wellbeing, engagement, productivity, and retention along with it.
Workplace design and technology are at the heart of this transformation. Not only supporting new ways of working but creating them too.
At Tech Xpo, there’s the chance to learn more about the corporate world’s vision of the future, and experience, first-hand, the emerging solutions set to make that vision a reality.
When Microsoft Front Row released its 21:9 aspect ratio earlier this year, it caused a stir. And for good reason. 16:9’s always been the default for AV displays in offices, with most AV hardware designed to match. So why the change?
Well, there's science. Humans have a horizontal field of view, with around 210 degrees of peripheral vision. So, a wider screen feels more natural.
Then there’s the shift toward a hybrid workforce. To fulfil Front Row’s aim of engaging and representing all participants equally, display technology needed to move from a stacked-tile, multi-screen approach, which meant creating more real estate.
There’s beauty in this. But also, something of the beast.
The beauty is, with a wider surface area, participants are presented equally, at eye-level, and shoulder-to-shoulder. The experience is more intimate and it’s easier to read reactions. Touch-controls are also easier to use, and facilitators can stand apart for social distancing.
The new ratio also provides space outside the content display for discussions, whiteboards and task tools which are all crucial for collaboration, the cornerstone hybrid working.
The beast? Most enterprises are still working to a 16:9 ratio. So additional width means black bars and dead space. Hardware’s also an issue. There are few solutions (in either projection, LCD or LED) that affordably support that size and resolution now.
Due to image size, Microsoft’s recommended tool for delivering its 21:9 vision is projection. But is projection (pardon the pun) a step backwards?
An accessible (cheaper) option, projection also offers flexibility. Not limited to a screen, projectors can make use of fixed screens and other spaces to create a non-linear digital canvas. With projection, it’s also easier to support 21:9 using existing products. Epson, for example, has already updated the firmware on some projection platforms to include 21:9 in the operating system.
But LEDs provide a better visual experience. Brightness and contrast, colour imagery and depth, outperform the physics of projection. With LED, light reflection and flickering aren’t an issue. And production quality doesn’t suffer as screen size increases. Economies of scale have also made LED alternatives more affordable. True, there are currently few dedicated LED solutions designed for 21:9 environments, but display tech specialists like PSCo are already preparing for it to be a growth area.
Front Row’s wider, more immersive display is a progressive move. The tech may not be in place yet to fully optimise it, but it soon will be. Will it be LED or projection-led? The jury’s out. Time (and personal preference) will tell. So, watch this space.
Marketing materials promoting Microsoft’s vision of the workplace, put hybrid working centre stage. Curved desks, wrapped around AV equipment stacks, and reoriented to face wall displays with wide ratio screens, make a clear statement. Hybrid working’s here to stay.
The stats agree. According to Gallup, 53% of employees in remote-capable jobs anticipate their hybrid arrangements to continue. With 24% expecting to work exclusively remotely.
So, what does that mean for day-to-day workflow? We’ve touched on the move to a wider screen ratio to deliver a more natural, productive and inclusive experience. But what else needs doing to make a hybrid workforce effective, wherever participants are?
Physically adjusting meeting spaces so they’re optimised for hybrid working is an important step. Simply reorganising the room layout can make a big difference. (It’s the premise behind Front Row.)
Shifting focus to the display and the camera, rather than a table in the middle of a room, means all attendees (especially remote participants) can see each other. And it gives everyone an equal presence.
Hybrid working’s a multisensory experience. So lighting and sound matter too. In rooms with large windows, ultra-wide LED screens keep viewing quality consistent, despite unpredictable levels of peripheral brightness. High-quality audio that highlights when people are talking, maintains a natural flow and keeps productivity and creativity high.
New equipment, furniture, software and standards are all part of the vision. And they all come at a price. But for enterprises with an eye to the future, it’s a price worth paying.
Until recently, flexible working was a loose term used, often dismissively, for employees who occasionally needed to: “stay at home to wait for a delivery”. Not so now. Accelerated by Covid, flexible working took on a new, more urgent meaning: Adapt or fall behind.
Linked to higher levels of productivity, profitability, engagement, wellbeing and retention, those who adapted to a flexible working approach then, are reaping the benefits now. And it’s prompted more businesses to follow.
But what do we mean by “adapted”? Flexible working isn’t, by nature, prescriptive. That said, organisations have formally adapted to its approach by exploring two distinct New Ways of Working (NWoW): Agile working and Activity Based Working (ABW).
Agile working prioritises outcomes and performance over rigid time and location structures. It considers four factors: when people do the work, where they are, what their role is, and who does it.
Tasks are tailored to meet the needs and working styles of each individual. But to succeed, it demands flexibility from employer and employee.
Activity Based Working has one focus - the space in which work is done. The core principle is that employees are offered bespoke work settings for different tasks or personality types. Design plays a big part in this. Each zone should be created around its purpose, so it generates the required atmosphere and prompts the right emotions.
Agile working and Activity Based Working have lots in common. Both are flexible and employee-centric. Both need the right tools, technology, equipment and mindset. And both are transforming the way the corporate world operates.
With these trends in mind, where should you focus your attention at Tech Xpo?
To experience the immersive visual experience so integral to hybrid working, Samsung and LG’s stands are must-see. Samsung’s Wall All-in-One and LG’s All-in-One Smart series demonstrate how size, spec and simplicity can transform hybrid meetings and collaborative working. Through high-quality visuals, contrast and resolution, both LED devices give participants all-encompassing “in-the-room” experiences. LG’s Stretch signage also pays homage to the wide display ratio pioneered by Microsoft Front Row. As does Samsung’s 146-inch screen - two can be installed side-by-side to create one 32:9 ratio display.
For all-in-one conferencing solutions that make hybrid working seamless, head to Biamp. They’re showcasing their Parlé ABC 2500 Conference Bar, which tracks and mixes conversations with high-quality speech reproduction. Their Parlé VBC 250, with its wide-angle 4K camera, and their range of Vidi conferencing cameras, are also being demoed.
Additionally, Mersive will be showcasing Solstice, the ultimate collaboration platform for meeting spaces. Solstice makes it easy for local and remote participants to wirelessly share and collaborate around content for more efficient, engaging, and productive meetings. Its software-based approach offers integrated capabilities that would have traditionally required additional hardware. With Mersive, everything from digital signage to room analytics can be managed from Solstice Cloud.
For flexible, agile and collaborative working solutions head over to SMART’s stand, featuring their interactive displays and one-touch conferencing tools.