New Year, new start? Not for most companies. In fact, most organisations are not expecting a return to the office for months. Much depends on the success of the vaccine programmes that are now being rolled out internationally, but for now remote working is the order of the day.
Senior managers, however, have their sights set firmly on the second half of 2021. While they don’t expect to return to the office as it was pre-COVID, the term ‘hybrid workplace’ is being more and more widely used to describe a transitionary phase which supports both remote and in-office work.
Anyone working in the digital signage and IPTV market is highly attuned to the mood of the moment when it comes to plans for office spaces and the return of the workforce. We relished the dusting off of projects in the Autumn as some teams tentatively returned to their offices, only to return home again when cases started to rise and projects were put back on hold.
So, it was interesting to read the results of a PwC survey on remote work carried out at the end of 2020 amongst corporate executives. Less than one in five executives want to return to the office as it was pre-pandemic, but only 13% would be prepared to let go of the office for good. It’s no surprise to find that the huge majority (87%) say the office is important for collaborating with colleagues and building relationships.
If we assume that many people will go back to the office, there is concern about how to do that safely, and how to keep employees informed and up to date. Certainly, they will not want to work in crowded spaces and will want assurance that sanitisation is a priority.
PwC’s survey indicates that 87% of executives are planning changes to their real estate strategy over the next 12 months, including consolidating office space in premier locations and/or opening more satellite offices. In addition, to further support virtual collaboration and creativity and enhance scheduling and safety, over 60% of executives said that they expect to raise spending on virtual collaboration tools and manager training while 48% will invest in communal space in the office.
The aim it would appear is to ensure that employees who return to the office, whether its for just one day a week, or four out of every five days, benefit from an experience that boosts relationships and productivity and enhances the company culture.
An important part of this is the sharing of health and safety messages and providing guidance for those that do return to the office. Digital signage has a key role to play in distributing this information, particularly while shifts in rules are likely to change frequently, and the technology can also steer content to the right people, at the right time, in the right place.
Companies planning to implement a hybrid workplace model will be looking for the best way to design and schedule content so messaging is always current and can be updated in real-time. If, as the survey suggests, they are prepared to make structural changes to their offices and introduce more quiet spaces and even private offices instead of open floor plans, easily visible messaging will be essential.
To this end digital signage tools must be straightforward to use, but also provide a wide range of functionality from intuitive drag and drop and easily adaptable templates through to the ability to manage content across multiple screen zones. Above all, it should be fully manageable from a distance, to ensure administrators can be safe.
For those organisations that are managing teams across multiple locations or even multiple geographies, access to digital signage systems that can support multi-language will be indispensable. One set of clear safety guidelines can then be translated into many different languages, and even local dialects to keep everyone informed.
While the remote working model has proven to be a success for many organisations, the option to return to the office or adopt a more hybrid approach will be welcomed by many. Making it work successfully, given the experiences of the past year, will be essential and while digital signage will play a relatively small role in that, it will, nevertheless be a very important one.