May 17, 2021

Modern meetings – Hybrid work with the Surface Hub.

Picture this—a world without mobile devices, no chance of working from home. Rigid structures and processes that just don’t flow. Teamwork that only takes place on paper or in crammed office spaces. Distrust towards certain employees and the absence of ceding responsibilities resulting in inflexible working methods. What may sound like a bad joke was brutal reality in many companies until a year ago, but we’ve come a long way since then. Companies are beginning to reimagine themselves. Digitalisation is making huge steps and brings with it a wealth of potential—but also challenges and risks that leaders should consider early on.

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A full transition from the office to the home office. This is what most employees experienced last year. Overnight, the unquestionable became a reality—revealing the blind spots of many SMEs. Technology concepts that didn’t work. Users that were left in the dark. Structures that didn’t gel with a flexible working model and still fail to do so. This may work out as a short term solution, but, in the long run, companies will have to think about which methods they use. Does it really make sense for all employees to return to the office? Or should they rather work remotely on a permanent basis? The solution may be a hybrid working model, where some employees stay at home and the others work in the office.

Staying connected despite hybrid working models.

Although business continues as usual, many companies are having significant trouble keeping their company culture alive and maintaining communication across a distance. Even if meetings take place online, interaction within a team should still remain authentic and contribute to the team spirit. Only then can authentic communication take place in real-time, with the usual facial expressions and gesturing.

This is important, as the workplace of the future will be a mix of remote working and office work, but with more employee choice than before. Especially in hybrid teams, close collaboration and coordination are more important than ever before. 

Location-independent teamwork becomes child’s play with the Surface Hub 50" or 85". Meetings in Microsoft Teams promote collaboration within teams and allow real-time exchange. Work on documents on projects together, structuring teams and tasks and simplified communication are front and centre

Besides using an integrated and flexible device like the Surface Hub, there are also a few simple practices that can simplify hybrid working and improve productivity significantly:

  • Daily/weekly updates. Communication is the lifeblood—especially if you don’t see each other in person every day. This makes regular video calls mandatory. Discuss upcoming tasks over a cup of coffee with the camera on and a bit of small talk. 15 minutes are often enough for a short but decisive discussion—and should take place every day or at least every two days.
  • Camera ON. This does not only apply to team meetings or video calls but also when talking to customers or conversations with colleagues and partners!
  • The right equipment. All the video calls in the world won’t help when the equipment is broken and the quality of meetings is lacking, which makes the right equipment essential! Simple webcams don’t cost a fortune and providing notebooks to employees with semi-decent cameras and microphones simplifies remote working immensely and helps them to remain productive.
  • Establish a platform for collaboration. So now you’ve checked off the right equipment and regular updates—but what platform do you use? The right collaboration platform can elevate communication across locations and teams to the next level, while saving time and money in the long run. M365 enables collaboration on documents and projects from anywhere in the world. No files sitting around on dusty hard drives, no lost changes or varying versions. It’s simple.

Rethink collaboration with the Microsoft Hub 2S.

Microsoft offers a great complete solution for the foolproof integration of new working methods, including hardware and software—from user integration to a brand new corporate environment.

The new Surface Hub 2S is suited for small huddle rooms and larger conference rooms alike. In the future, not everyone will be working on-site and individuals joining via video call will become the norm. A matte 4K display, vivid colours and crisp picture provide a feeling of unity, even across a distance. The right 90° wide angle camera and microphone array consisting of six elements even picks up users abiding by social distancing. If that’s not enough, you can still connect additional Poly or Logitech video bars. The custom-built Roam Mobile Stand by Steelcase (available with a battery) transports the hub from meeting to meeting.

To make it as easy possible for users to participate in Teams meetings, an additional certified Microsoft Teams Room console (MTR) available from Lenovo, Logitech or other manufacturers can be used, which only requires the employees to click on the console or the Surface Hub once they enter the room. The system recognises who is talking automatically and mutes the other device to prevent feedback. Two devices also offer the advantage of seeing all necessary meeting data on the console’s display and extending the hub’s use for taking meeting notes, presentations or collaborative whiteboard work.

Proximity Join can be used to seamlessly transfer a meeting from a mobile device to the hub. Here, the proximity sensor of the mobile device automatically detects a free meeting room and can be added via the pre-join screen on the client. The device will automatically join the meeting in content-only mode, so the room feeds your audio and video into the meeting without generating an echo from the other clients in the room.

More features such as Miracast are unchanged and allow a wireless projection of content on the hub, allowing applications to be executed in their native format. Even Microsoft Whiteboard remains the same. With a few additional or improved features, it is still part of every meeting as standard—without an extra licence. Because one thing’s for sure, hybrid ways of working require a new structure and a different approach to projects. What used to be scribbled on a piece of paper for better understanding can now simply be written on the whiteboard. With the included pen and simultaneous editing in real-time, the digital whiteboard is in no way inferior to a flip chart. On the contrary, by adding participants, they can work together on projects. By synchronising with the M365 environment, whiteboards remain in place and can still be viewed and edited by participants afterwards—even independently of the Surface Hub.

Flexible and agile.

Microsoft’s complete package of hardware and software enables superior compatibility for solutions and ensures smooth team organisation and easy restructuring of hybrid teams.

Where once everyone was in one place, today there are often scenarios in which individual participants in a meeting are on the move. Microsoft Teams works independently on all common operating systems. If there is no mobile internet or WLAN available, you can simply participate via audio conferencing—just like a classic phone call.

Despite other benefits such as recording meetings, silent interactions through “live reactions” and Outlook integration, the user behind all the solutions must never be forgotten. Technology should serve the person and for this they must be sufficiently trained to be able to use all features optimally. It is important to consider the topic of modern meetings and hybrid work structures in their entirety and to take the users along on the journey. At Bechtle, we have created a specially developed concept for this purpose that covers all areas, tailored to the needs and requirements of each individual.

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Published on May 17, 2021.