It's becoming clear that, when employees are ready to go back into the office, conditions will be quite different from where they were before the pandemic. These days, it is hard to predict a week into the future, so forecasting exactly how we will be using business video a year from now is impossible. But it is safe to say the use of business video will continue to be an order of magnitude higher than it was pre-pandemic.
Let's examine a few possible scenarios that will factor into a video conferencing strategy.
Possible future 1: Continuing pandemic risk. In this scenario, neither treatment nor a vaccine is quickly developed. COVID-19 continues to be an ongoing risk. In this situation, we will still likely, albeit partially, return to the office, but social distancing will be in effect. Cubicle areas that formerly sat 20 people will now seat four, with the open cubicles serving as social distance barriers. Ten-person conference rooms are now limited to three people. The sales team may come in and use a working area on Monday and Thursday and work remotely the rest of the week, while product development may get use of that space on Tuesday and Wednesday. Most work will continue to be performed at home whenever possible.
Possible future 2: Lower risk with continuing heightened concerns. The risk associated with COVID-19 is dramatically reduced. Thanks to some medical advancement, most of the population is immune or treatable, but some are still at risk. Many pandemic social behaviors are still recommended or required, but conditions are generally safer. Still, many people are concerned about sickness and exposure in general and are uncomfortable if they have to work closely with other people in small spaces for long periods of time. The office situation would be a slightly relaxed version of possible future 1.
Possible future 3: Zero risk. In this unlikely scenario, we find a way to immunize everyone on the planet from COVID-19 and any other human-to-human communicable disease or virus. Returning to the office would pose no difficulties. Yet, many believe use of business video would remain at levels far higher than pre-pandemic.
More video under any scenario
Why will video use remain at high levels? Because this time is different. During previous emergencies, business video was good enough to use as a backup to in-person meetings, but there were still limitations. The technology simply wasn't ready to be the primary means of working with colleagues. Today, that is no longer the case. Business video is more than good enough today. It provides an impressive experience. Business video -- used properly -- is appealing to people. In many circumstances, employees find they can be just as -- or even more -- productive working from home as they were in the office.
Before COVID-19, companies used video when they had to. It was the disfavored alternative to meeting in person. In the last few months, the world has learned that this thinking was wrong. We can save the gas money, save the commuting time, save a massive amount of facilities upkeep and management, and enable our employees to have a better work-life balance without sacrificing productivity. People want to work from home, at least a few days a week, and many CEOs and bosses to whom I have spoken said they have no intention of forcing their employees to commute five days a week once this pandemic ebbs.
As a result, companies should have a post-pandemic video conferencing strategy that enables and empowers their new work-from-home -- or partial work-from-home -- teams. We need to flip the way we think about meetings. Pre-pandemic, meetings were scheduled within physical rooms, and remote participants were invited to attend over video. Now, we should think of the meeting as taking place in the cloud. The physical meeting room is just one of the attendees, on an equal footing with people connecting from their home offices.
Retooling the workspace for modern demands
It is almost a higher-level reinvention of the workspace. The physical office building is no longer the only place where work takes place. The cloud is now the workspace, and the physical office is merely a convenient place to connect to the cloud to do that work.
Part of this new dynamic is that everyone at your office will need a license or an account for the video service, but not everyone will need a physical cubicle. This again is a complete flip from the way it was before, where everyone had a cubicle and only a few remote workers required video accounts to call into the meeting room. The cubicle was where real work took place, and video was a convenience when you wanted it. Now, the opposite is true.
By using this cloud-based approach as part of a video conferencing strategy, companies will not only be ready for post-pandemic, but they will be ready for the next one. If workflows are redesigned to take advantage of cloud-based meetings -- as opposed to being defined by meetings in a room -- companies won't lose a minute of productivity the next time the office has to shut down and everyone is stuck at home.
In the pre-pandemic world, organizations would welcome new people by walking them around the office, having them shake hands with everyone before settling them into their cubicles. They might get a video account if they really needed one. Today, for the foreseeable future, those new hires will be introduced to their colleagues over video and walked through team chat rooms rather than physical meeting spaces. They might get a cubicle if they really need one.
Providing employees with the tools they need
This transition also means companies have to train new employees, as well as current ones, on video the way they used to do with their office setup. Provide workers with a professional-grade webcam, a proper headset and the other peripherals they may need to enable a quality business call experience. Teach them the basics of front lighting, how to avoid echo and the other ABCs of business video. Set them up for success.
Finally, companies need to plan their post-pandemic video conferencing strategy for the worst-case scenario. A video infrastructure that can support 100% remote work is ready for anything. Every worker will have the freedom to work from home whenever it makes sense, and you will be ready for the next crisis. Plan for the worst; hope for the best.