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How to change the office environment to bridge the gap between employee needs and business goals

By Lieven Bertier, Segment Marketing Director at Barco

As businesses began contemplating return to office plans earlier this summer, the global financial and banking sector initially looked to be reverting to old ways of working. Barclay’s chief executive Jes Staley stated that the bank was looking to ramp up a return to the office both in London and New York in early April. Despite Staley’s rallying call to return to the workplace, organisations such as HSBC formally certified hybrid working with the ambition of reducing its office space by 40%. Deutsche Bank soon followed suit, announcing their hybrid working plans with the inclusion of a 3-2 model (3 days working from home and 2 days in the office).

It’s evident that the financial sector is starting to realise the risks of a ‘one size fits all’ work approach, as many employees want to retain the flexibility they have enjoyed during the pandemic. However, while the workforce may have changed, the office is still equipped for their old way of working. Recent changes are shaping a new paradigm, and businesses across the financial sector need to keep up to meet employee expectation.

An office rejuvenation

Anyone who has entered an office since the start of the pandemic likely will have experienced the eerie silence of the rows of desks and cubicles still lying empty. Many will have memories evoked of battling colleagues for coveted meeting space and groups huddling around a single laptop.

From the advent of working from home, many of us found that some of our work was more efficient. However, the quality of our interactions dramatically fell and as a result, many of us experienced meetings that were below expectations. Our recent study at Barco showed a 25-point decline between 2020 and 2021 on our meeting barometer. With the added desire to improve meeting quality, it’s no surprise that recent Barco research also found that 57 percent of white-collar workers agreed that the meeting room would become the most used space in a post-pandemic world. As a result, workers no longer view the office as a place simply to work at, but rather a space for more collaboration and cooperation.

The opportunity to realign the office space may come as a system shock to an industry long accustomed to the more conservative and traditional “cubicle rows” layout. However, as employees now covet more spaces to meet, collaborate and work together in the future, meeting space will be a functional must-have. Currently, half of employees travel to the office to host calls in a more professional setting, indicating that the desire for efficient meetings will be the real drive to an office return. Accommodating these new behaviours should be a priority and can be achieved by readying meeting rooms in advance for a smooth office return.

Hybrid technology

It isn’t just the layout of the office that will have to transform for a hybrid environment. The shift also creates an opportunity for businesses to evaluate whether to replace or upgrade outdated or inefficient collaboration technologies.

As in many other industries, employees in the financial sector have embraced the laptop as the main device to work, collaborate and host meetings, fuelling the surge in preference for Bring Your Own Meeting solutions (BYOM). Our research has shown that 77 percent of respondents cannot imagine working without their laptop and have enjoyed sharing their screen and content with just a simple click. With meetings now being controlled via the user’s laptop, businesses will need to invest in solutions that continue this seamless connectivity into the office environment. Agnostic solutions like our own ClickShare will allow workers to connect and collaborate no matter what meeting platform (for instance Webex by Cisco, Zoom or Microsoft Teams) they use, driving a replicable laptop-centric experience of homeworking in the office.

Additionally, the move back into offices is unlikely to be instant or unanimous. Despite calls from the finance and banking sector for a swift return, many employees will continue to work from home periodically or permanently, therefore companies must ensure the meeting room is well equipped for hybrid meetings. ClickShare and similar agnostic solutions will need to be implemented alongside updated Audio-Visual equipment to make collaboration easier and seamless for more engaging equitable meetings.

Security from anywhere

While security is a crucial aspect to any sector, the confidential and highly sensitive, data-driven nature of financial work makes it critical for success. Early in the pandemic, we saw multiple examples of conferencing platforms being hijacked by pranksters or compromised by hackers, and with meetings likely to continue in a hybrid fashion, it is important that any future tech invested in is secure. Particularly when looking at agnostic solutions which help connect the user’s laptop to meeting room equipment, there will need to be strong security considerations. Primarily, the sector should always prioritise investing in solutions which incorporate security directly into the product’s design. Additionally, professionals can team up with vendors of these solutions to ensure best practice when it comes to using these agnostic solutions.

Another key responsibility comes from within the company itself via the education of employees. Ensuring that workers are expertly informed on the dangers and precautions they should be taking when learning to use a new device or platform in their working lives is paramount. In a sector such as finance and banking, particular scrutiny will need to be attributed to the security of any new tech solution brought into the workplace.

Like so many others, the financial sector is still learning how to shape a future of work that accommodates its employees’ various needs and preferences. As the industry begins to embrace hybrid work, it creates plenty of opportunity to eliminate the inefficiencies of the pre-pandemic world and reimagine everything from work technology to office space.

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