How can organizations switch to telecommuting?
Business owners are accustomed to solving challenges as they arise, and many will turn to telecommuting to solve new challenges emerging from COVID-19. Telecommuting protects employees and companies during periods of uncertainty, ensuring your business can keep operating even during a crisis.
Telecommuting is driven by video conferencing, as it allows employees and their managers to have a face-to-face conversation when needed. In the past, video conferencing was limited by quality, connectivity and usability issues, but these have been resolved.
Getting started with video conferencing
Video conferencing scales well, so it can be used to connect two people sitting at their laptops, or two teams sitting in auditoriums. In short, no matter what your organization is trying to accomplish, there is a video conferencing solution that will fit the need.
The size of your meeting space dictates what kind of system you’ll need, so here are your options:
Mobile and office workspaces
If your teams collaborate from the field or from their computers, then a browser-based or application-based video conferencing solution makes sense. There are many options here, including solutions that offer industry-leading features, like enhanced interoperability, enterprise security and background noise suppression.
Huddle rooms and small meeting spaces
Smaller meeting rooms, like huddle rooms, are designed for smaller teams, so hardware needs are modest. A digital display with integrated audio and camera, or a video bar that can provide the same, are popular options. If your organization runs a lot of meetings, room scheduling technology can help people find meeting rooms and reserve them faster.
Boardrooms and executive meeting rooms
Room-based systems are what most professionals think of when they think of video conferencing, and they’re designed for larger meeting spaces, like boardrooms. A room system typically has one or two digital displays, though video walls may be installed if a larger display is required. They also come with sophisticated, face-tracking cameras and high-quality speakers that are either integrated in the displays or around the room. Most room systems are controlled from a touch screen, which may be built into a tabletop unit, mounted to the wall or integrated into the furniture.
Interactive displays are also popular in room-based systems, especially when they are paired with another display that outputs video. With an interactive display, teams can whiteboard and visualize projects faster.
A room system can accommodate more people without compromising the audio and video experience for anyone in the space.
Your AV integrator can help you determine how large your video conferencing system should be and what hardware will be required to run it. The larger the system, the longer it will take to install, but because video conferencing is easy to scale up, your organization can start with application or browser-based conferencing before a permanent solution is in place. Before the system is part of your company’s workflow, the integrator will test the system to ensure your network can handle peak usage times.
Integrators can also train your employees on how to access and utilize the technology, though modern conferencing systems are designed with usability in mind.
What do modern video conferencing solutions look like?
Video conferencing has developed rapidly in recent years, spurred by increased demand across many industries. According to computer hardware manufacturer Plantronics, about 85 percent of U.S. businesses are using more than one cloud-based video conferencing solution.
The interest is clearly there, and with several feature-rich solutions to choose from, there’s a video conferencing system for every business. Some prominent conferencing products include:
Poly Studio X
The Poly Studio X is available with or without ZoomRooms, though many companies are opting for ZoomRooms for their superb reliability and customer service.
Whether packaged with Zoom or not, the Poly Studio X is designed for ease of installation and use. It’s an all-in-one piece of hardware that integrates the codec, camera and audio into a single package. The only extra hardware needed is a digital display.
The Poly Studio X is recommended for larger rooms, which makes it an effective choice for businesses of all sizes. It also comes with several valuable features, including background noise suppression, intuitive content sharing and whiteboarding capabilities.
The Crestron Flex is similar to the Poly Studio X in that it’s built for rapid deployment and ease of use. It can also be paired with ZoomRooms for efficient, reliable collaboration. The Flex comes with a tabletop unit and a video bar that’s installed at the front of the room. It includes the camera and audio, and can be controlled from the tabletop unit.
Crestron makes deployment easy through its XiO Cloud, and thousands of Flexes can be configured and provisioned at once before they even arrive at the office. Adding to the Flex’s versatility is its potential as a room scheduling device. If room scheduling is an issue, the Flex allows managers to reserve conference spaces in advance, reducing the time required to find and secure a meeting room.
The Avocor ALZ solution is another major ZoomRooms offering and combines one of Avocor’s respected interactive displays and the Logitech Meetup. Avocor’s ALZ displays are available in 65-inch, 75-inch and 86-inch sizes, and all are capable of outputting at 4K resolution. The Avocor ALZ also comes with InGlass technology, which improves handwriting accuracy and legibility.
The Logitech Meetup is another all-in-one conferencing device that includes audio, a microphone array and a 4K camera. Logitech’s camera is also built with Logitech’s proprietary engineering, so it avoids the fish-eye effect that’s a problem with some conferencing cameras.
What these video conferencing solutions have in common is their ease of use and ease of installation, which means they are built for any setting.
What audio equipment can be used with video conferencing?
The above ZoomRoom solutions can be used with integrated audio or speakers, but in both cases, microphones are needed to capture input. You have a few options here as well, including:
Gooseneck microphones are what you see at podiums and lecterns, with a base that’s either mounted to the table or placed on it. The microphone itself is built into a flexible neck that rises several inches off of the base.
Gooseneck microphones usually offer the best audio quality, as they sit close to the face and do not pick up as much background noise. One microphone can be used for two people without affecting audio quality significantly.
The only downside to gooseneck microphones is finding the space for them. They take up more room than other microphones, so you may need a larger table to accommodate them along with any documents needed for the meeting.
Ceiling microphones are the opposite, as they take up no room on the table. They are also out of sight, so people are encouraged to speak naturally and not into a microphone input. However, ceiling microphones can pick up background noise if there are loud sounds in the area (like an air conditioner switching on). For this reason, professional integrators should install ceiling microphones to ensure clear audio.
Boundary microphones are a middle ground between gooseneck and ceiling microphones. They are installed at the end of the table and are built into a compact profile, so they don’t take up much space. They are closer to the speaker, too, so they offer strong audio quality. However, to preserve this quality, noise blocking technology may be required to suppress sounds like paper rustling.
How can video conferencing save companies money?
Video conferencing solutions allow businesses to better control their costs by expanding telecommuting efforts. Telecommuting has several noted cost-saving benefits, including:
According to the Global Business Travel Association, the average domestic business trip costs $949 per employee, and a typical international business trip costs $2,600. With video conferencing technology, many of those business trips can be conducted from an office, or even from home. Face-to-face meetings may still have value to a company, but modern video conferencing simulates in-person conversation extremely well. As such, it makes sense for most companies to reduce their travel where possible. For businesses that spend a lot on trips, video conferencing solutions may pay for themselves rather quickly.
Telecommuting reduces the need for office space, which reduces the need for maintenance personnel and utilities. For large corporations, the savings on overhead can be massive (just ask insurance giant Aetna, which saved close to $80 million after telecommuting allowed it to minimize its office space). However, even for small businesses, telecommuting can save money. According to a Global Workplace Analytics report, the typical small company will save about $11,000 if it allows its employees to telecommute half of the time.
Many employees and employers have noted an improvement in productivity among telecommuters. This is backed by the State of Work Productivity Report, in which 65 percent of managers agree that telecommuting improves productivity. Without the variety of distractions that come with an office workplace, employees are able to focus on work when they are most ready to be productive. Companies that leverage this fact are able to get more done in less time, boosting revenue and reducing costs.
The bottom line benefits of video conferencing and telecommuting are impressive, but organizations may still be concerned with the upfront cost of AV technology. Fortunately, AV-as-a-Service (AVaaS) can mitigate these concerns.
Why does AVaaS make sense for small businesses and schools?
AVaaS allows organizations to invest in AV technology carefully by scaling up as needed. Instead of a traditional CapEx model, which requires companies to pay for everything in one lump sum, AVaaS uses an OpEx model that is much more budget-friendly. This provides several benefits, such as:
Better budget forecasting and planning
Organizations know what they will be paying every month for their AV solutions, well in advance. Contrast this with CapEx, which forces businesses to make sudden budget adjustments as new technology is needed.
Maintains cash flow
AVaaS is easier to account for, so cash flow isn’t interrupted. This isn’t typically the case with a CapEx approach.
Organizations fear that new AV technology won’t be utilized fully by employees, but this is less of a risk with AVaaS. If additional technologies are needed or existing technologies aren’t needed, adjustments can be made without overcommitting to a new solution. Additional hardware is added as needed.
Better access to technology
With an AVaaS agreement in place, businesses can expect their AV partner to provide oversight and insight when additions or support are needed. With an expert on hand, companies can make smarter AV decisions and get more from their solutions.
Whether your company decides to go with a traditional CapEx model or with AVaaS, an AV integrator can add value by providing long term system support.
Telecommuting and video conferencing keep businesses running
Between 2005 and 2017, the number of telecommuting employees rose 115 percent, so it was rising in popularity long before COVID-19. With new challenges to consider, though, new solutions are needed. For many businesses, that means video conferencing.