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After more than a year, my office is about to open again. What do I need to change, now that some of my staff say they prefer to be working at home and some don’t?

Ten changes to consider — and an eleventh thing they all have in common

1. Yes, the office will reopen — but while everyone’s welcome, they’re not all coming back.

ZOOM conducted a Linkedin poll on April 8th, 2021 that revealed that a whopping 71% of respondents said they would like a hybrid work from home situation, sometimes working in the office and sometimes working at home; and another 25% want to stay at home forever. Only 5% want to go back to the office full-time.

2. Your workforce is now used to different IT equipment and working 99% digitally.

If they want to come back to the office part-time, they might carry a light laptop but no papers, files, or heavy desktop PC’s. Those oldies will stay in the office forever, and you may want to arrange for secure remote access to data on these PCs if they are still in use, or move the data to the cloud or a remote-access server.

3. Video conferencing is here to stay.

Even if most of your staff comes back to the office, they may still need to conference someone else in. Take a look at a device called Coolpo Lens. It is a 360-degree camera that you can place in the middle of a conference room table. It sends a panoramic view of meeting participants to your Teams, Zoom, or Google Meet so that everyone’s face is easily visible as if they were separately dialed into the meeting.

The sound and camera quality in these video conference rooms needs to be on par with the laptop experience we are now used to, so consider upgrading the conference room with a decent soundbar with a camera and microphone. There are products that plug into a PC or Mac, or directly into the network using AV-over-IP, like models from Logitech and Yamaha.

4. It is expected that people will spread out throughout the building rather than sit together in large groups.

There will no longer be a need for so many seats; instead, the workspace should be converted to flexible workspaces where different people can sit in different group settings at different times.

5. Due to the digital transformation of much of our work, there is a need to integrate typical analog office tools…

like whiteboards and flip-overs into the digital world. The IT for education sector has already done this, but for many of us in the small business world, this is a new concept. Vendors like Mersive have come up with solutions to transform these key instruments to integrate with your video conferencing.

6. There are roles that may have to get replaced with technology in your organization.

Think about building security staff, receptionists, or staff at information desks — even employees that help others with reserving rooms or equipment. These days, many digital solutions are available to help you with that, like Envoy. Whenever a visitor or someone with a service request walks in, an iPad with an easy-to-use interface invites them to log their information, and the resulting workflow can be handled elsewhere in the building or even remotely. Building access can be remotely managed by installing cameras and badge scanners, preferably with touchless entry technology. Intelligent people counters will let you know if someone stayed behind in the building.

7. A fully-staffed lunchroom with food service may be a thing of the past.

When you don’t know how many people will come in for the day, or how long they plan to stay in the office, the demand for a flexible food service is obvious. There are companies that stock your internet-connected fridge with fresh salads, sandwiches, and ready-to-heat meals; employees can slide their credit card to buy their favorite food item and it will get automatically replenished. It’s an exciting startup scene with a lot of post-pandemic potential; take a look at Byte for example.

8. The digital security challenge has become more complex;…

…the perimeter has changed from just the office to everyone’s home network. If you allow employees to connect to the guest WiFi network in their local coffee shop or on the road, that poses another threat. The easy and affordable fix is to outfit employees with VPN and mobile routers so they can safely access the company network from elsewhere.

9. With all those people running in and out of the office at unpredictable times,…

…you could think of smart technology that switches the lights, heating, A/C, TV screens, and projectors on and off.

10. And finally, you may not find it economically viable anymore to have full-time IT staff in the office.

Employees have learned to solve their IT problems remotely and use applications in the cloud. Office desk phones are unnecessary, unless you run a call center. Voice telephony has become an app icon on your smartphone or PC. Outsourcing IT to a managed service provider is a great way to save on capital expenses and fixed costs, with service level agreements ensuring constant quality.

11. All of the above changes have something in common: they require access to network or internet.

It will probably mean an upgrade to your office network. Fast and reliable WiFi needs to be available in every corner of the office to serve employees and wireless Internet of Things devices. Everything’s connected. Luckily, there is a new WiFi standard called WiFi 6 that allows for higher speeds, 4x more connections and increased security. Much of the equipment mentioned needs to be hooked up to the network or perhaps even powered by the network. The Power over Ethernet standard delivers power to phones, WiFi access points, and cameras and IoT equipment through network cables, removing the need for more power outlets.

NETGEAR is here to help small and mid-size businesses open up again…

…with easy-to-use, reliable, and affordable networking solutions. Contact NETGEAR Sales with your questions — we are happy to answer them!

Office Opening Up Tech

Richard Jonker
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