Remember what office meetings were like pre-pandemic? You and your colleagues could pack into a meeting room without stressing about social distancing. If you had remote coworkers at home or in other offices, they’d dial in via audio or video conference. Nearly everyone taking part would be together in the same room, whether physically or virtually. There was an almost tangible sense of connectedness between colleagues
That’s all changed. Many organizations abandoned their offices in March and sent employees to work from home. Suddenly, everyone relied exclusively on virtual communications—such as team messaging and video conferencing—to collaborate with colleagues as they worked in their kitchens, living rooms, or new home offices.
As we mentioned before, remote work is here to stay—even after the pandemic ends. Workers and employers alike have realized positive benefits from this impromptu forced experiment, with most seeing increased productivity, higher employee engagement, and lower turnover.
Does that mean offices and meeting rooms are dead?
Offices and meeting rooms here to stay
Sure, COVID-19 sent millions of employees home. But studies show that only 37% of employees in the US workforce can perform their jobs full-time at home, according to two economists from the University of Chicago. The remaining 63% require a significant on-site presence.
Not everyone who can telecommute wants to do so full-time, either. Most employees working from home say they want to telecommute part-time and go into the office part-time when the pandemic is over.
In fact, 72% of employees want to work from home at least twice a week, but only 32% want to permanently telecommute, according to the PwC US Remote Work Survey, which surveyed 1,200 office workers in June.
When the pandemic is over, 68% of workers still want some access to the office. Of those, 8% want to work full-time in the office, while the remaining 60% want to be in the office one to four times a week.
The takeaway? Offices and meeting rooms are still important and won’t be going away anytime soon.
Employees collaborate better in the office
There are some things you can simply do better in the office than at home, such as building relationships and collaborating cross-functionally. The main reason people want to work in the office (50% of respondents) is to collaborate with coworkers. Difficulty collaborating is also a top reason workers give for being unproductive while telecommuting (39%), according to the PwC survey.
They miss face-to-face interactions and casual or random discussions that can fuel creativity and spark innovation. Managers and employees also feel they can better coach, mentor, or manage people in the office.
In a different survey in May, 81% of 2,865 managers and employees reported being satisfied with coaching, mentoring, and managing in the office versus 51% who feel the same way while telecommuting, according to the Global Work-From-Home Experience Survey by Iometrics and Global Workplace Analytics.
Most telecommuters are able to focus while working from home, but others feel the opposite and are more productive in the office because it provides an escape from distractions at home. According to the PwC survey, 38% said balancing work with home duties, such as childcare, made them unproductive while working from home.
Returning to the office
Remote work has proven its value during COVID-19. Employees can save money and have better work-life balance while companies can save money on real estate. Some companies, such as Twitter, have found that remote work is going so well that they are allowing employees to telecommute permanently.
But most employees will return to the office eventually, even if it’s part time. Some businesses have already re-opened their offices and are keeping employees safe by staggering work schedules. They are also ensuring social distancing by moving desks further apart and placing one-way arrows on the floor to tell employees which way to walk.
Redesigning office spaces with more meeting rooms
Many companies are rethinking their long-term office strategies, from where they are located to how they are designed and used. There is no one-size-fits-all solution, but because many employees will work from home at least part-time, organizations can redesign their office spaces to support interactions that can’t occur remotely, suggests McKinsey & Company.
For instance, if the main reason to have an office in the future is to foster collaboration, then maybe they should consider devoting most of the office space for collaboration rooms, the article illustrates.
An interior designer from global design firm Perkins and Will agrees. Instead of individual desks and private offices, corporate offices after the pandemic should be designed with spaces for meetings and large gatherings, she told Deezen, an architecture and design magazine. People who have to do focused work can do it remotely at home, she said.
Future meeting rooms need video conferencing
As companies continue to adopt flexible and permanent remote work, allowing employees to attend meetings from anywhere will be a tremendous challenge. On any given day, a mix of employees will be both home and at the office, so when meetings are held in office meeting rooms, on-premises employees will have to include remote workers via video conferencing.
Companies will have to equip their meeting rooms with video conferencing gear, such as video cameras, speakers, and large flat-screen TVs, and implement cloud-based video conferencing software.
RingCentral Rooms™ is a cloud-based video conferencing solution that provides businesses with a high-end video conferencing experience for meeting rooms of any size. It seamlessly integrates with off-the-shelf video conferencing equipment and is easy to deploy and use.
An intuitive iPad console empowers employees in the meeting room to easily start a video conference with one touch. RingCentral Rooms also integrates with both the Microsoft and Google calendaring systems, enabling remote participants to quickly join a scheduled in-room meeting via video conference with merely one click.
With hybrid physical and virtual conference rooms, businesses have the right technology to ensure collaboration in the post-COVID future of work.
Originally published Aug 25, 2020, updated Nov 19, 2020