We have been spending more and more time in remote meetings this year. Whether desktop-to-desktop, or desktop to office, they’ve kept the wheels of commerce turning.
However, there are good meetings and bad meetings. Indeed, in ‘7 Steps to Improve Virtual Meetings in the New Era of Work’, leading consulting and research firm Frost & Sullivan states that 70% of senior managers feel meetings are unproductive and inefficient.
With many workers (71%) wanting to continue working from home in the future, this is clearly a challenge that needs to be met head on. Flawless end-to-end (from home to office) audio is essential.
Rob Smith, Senior Director, Integrated Systems Sales at Shure, explains: “Without good audio, people joining office meetings on their laptops from home are at a disadvantage. This can exclude them from day-to-day workplace discussions. It isn’t a new problem but has been brought into sharp relief throughout 2020.”
With the average length of a meeting increasing 10% in the last 15 years to between 31 to 60 minutes, good audio is essential.
Rob continues: “A mic picking up people at the front of an office meeting room, may not catch every word of someone sitting further away. This is especially the case in today’s socially distanced office spaces, meaning people joining on their laptops at home often miss the context of a conversation. And we’ve all experienced those hybrid (working from home/in the office) meetings where someone close to the in-room mic is tapping away at their laptop, adding a layer of irritating noise.”
Perhaps it is no surprise that virtual meeting participants say an average of 33% of meeting time is unproductive. So, what is the answer? How can we make connections effortless, from everywhere?
Rob says: “Companies have tested remote working to destruction in 2020 and know they need to find a way to make it work better. We don’t have a clear picture of what the workplace of the future will look like, but we’re pretty sure there will be more hybrid meetings – even before . As such, in-room meeting audio solutions for office spaces must have more focus on home workers.”
For instance, microphone features such Steerable Coverage™ and Autofocus™ technology can make all the difference. Shure’s ceiling array microphone can fine-tune the audio pickup in real time, for consistent sound even if participants lean back or stand up.
How your people work from home is another consideration. Some organizations already have policies for equipping home workers, for example with monitors, devices, and computer mice. This now needs to extend to audio equipment.
Rob continues: “Virtual meetings can be tiring, especially for those of us moving from one meeting to another with barely a break in between. The need for a good home-office chair in this instance is well known. Audio equipment, however, isn’t seen in the same light. But it should be. It’s how you empower your workers to be productive.”
So, what do employees working from home need for effortless collaboration via audio? Good headphones that cut out the sound of barking dogs, noisy kids, and ringing doorbells are essential.
According to the Frost and Sullivan report, headphones and earphones with built-in microphones should be considered in a company’s overall virtual conferencing plan. After all, as the report points out, remote participants should not be at a disadvantage – they need to hear and be heard within the conversation. Another ideal solution is a home office desktop microphone. This ensures the pickup from the remote worker is the best possible audio for the meeting.
There’s another consideration that Rob says IT directors and heads of AV need to bear in mind over the coming months. Employees returning to the office – either full or part time – will have got used to how easy it’s been to join a virtual meeting. They’ve simply sat down and clicked on the meeting invite.
Rob continues: “This is going to have an impact on the audio set-up in office-based meetings. I expect to see a blending of the easy home user experience (UX) and office UX. Professional AV user interfaces will be needed to make the process of getting meetings up and running simple and hassle free.”
We are witnessing the transformation of collaboration and communication models in corporate life. For Rob, the critical factor in this evolving landscape remains audio. “It is so important. If you lose video during a meeting, you can carry on using audio. But if you lose sound, the meeting is over.”