The popularity of desktop collaboration has been in steady decline thanks in part to the rise of smart devices, mobile working and BYOD (Bring-your-own-device). Video meetings in the office have steadily moved to the room as busy, open plan offices become the norm and enterprises moved to utilising increasingly innovative meeting space solutions such as huddle rooms or break out areas for their staff to meet and run video conferences.
Video conferencing platform and hardware providers have moved to support this with a range of hardware solutions to allow users to plug or stream content from mobile devices and laptops and allow external attendees to connect to meetings from anywhere.
The days of the humble desktop seemed numbered, despite it’s advantages in power, productivity and reliability as laptops, tablets and mobile phones become the new defacto tools of the professional.
But then, COVID..
This trend of shifting from desktop collaboration to the room has had a bit of a torpedo fired amid-ships in the form of the COVID-19 pandemic. Suddenly a lot of staff worldwide are working from home and collaboration and videoconferencing have shot to the top of the list of critical tools we use.
Video conferences have become one of the few ways we can communicate with colleagues, suppliers, and customers face-to-face.
As we always do, we are adapting to the new norm and learning to adjust our home setups. I am sure that some people pictured themselves home working, typing up their creative project ideas on a laptop, in a hammock in a sunny garden. With a video chat window in the corner, chatting flawlessly to a colleague.
But very quickly we’ve seen that working from a 14” laptop screen is difficult. We miss our big office multi-monitor setups that let us work on several documents at once. We have realised that most colleagues won’t appreciate talking to an awkward, wobbly close up of our nostrils for the weekly management meeting, as we try to balance a laptop on our knees. We are discovering that patchy WiFi signals or keeping the laptop charged for a full day of work present their own challenges.
As creatures of habit, most of us have quickly moved to create a productive home desktop environment as similar to our office setup as we can get it. For the first time, factors like what’s in the background, how good the lighting is and how private or quiet a room is have become factors in choosing our working location.
Even for those still in the office, cramming into small meeting rooms is no longer viable as we try to maintain social distancing. The trend of moving from desktop to room has well and truly been reversed.
What does the future hold? That’s a question everyone, worldwide is asking at the moment and there no clear answers. There are two things that seem likely though:
Firstly, even after the lockdown lifts and we return to the office, social distancing and safety precautions will be in place for some time to come. Meeting rooms will see less use, open plan offices will be forced to spread out so I think we will see more video calls conducted from the desktop going forward.
Secondly, we won’t ever quite return to normal. I think that’s safe to say as we have learned new habits, new ways of working & communicating and we have familiarised ourselves with new tools and techniques.
As we always have, we will take those adaptations and develop new ones to adjust to the new normal post-lockdown. Its clear that homeworking is here to stay for many as enterprises have had to, or are planning to change infrastructure to support their remote workers. Unified collaboration strategy now very much factors remote work and remote collaboration as part of it’s strategy.
Rooms will certainly have a resurgence as things get back to normal and it is once again safe to meet in groups, but it is interesting to track how COVID has reversed the decline of desktop collaboration.
How is your collaboration solution setup to meet the challenges of the new working reality?
Now is the time to start planning for post-lockdown.