Flexibility and Unification – Key Step Changes to Expect in 2021

Steve Joyner, Managing Director – UK & Ireland, Avaya offers his views on remote working and the way to implement a robust infrastructure.

 Whilst no-one could have predicted a global pandemic that dominated the headlines day after day and month after month, many had planned for a year of digital transformation, albeit not quite at the frantic pace and scale that it rolled out.

But digital transformation brought on by the pandemic has swept the globe and enabled both employees and customers to connect at new levels. It has also given us time to reconsider how we work, caused us to look at what we do in a new light and importantly, shown us the importance of celebrating what can be achieved by bringing resources and talent together to tackle new challenges.

I’ve no doubt that we’ll carry our refreshed outlooks into 2021 and beyond – a year where we’ll see more investment in long-term digital transformation and a heavier reliance on technology to build on the platforms launched during the pandemic. Quite frankly I’m excited about what’s next – especially given so many have now witnessed what can be achieved and how technology can deliver as a force for good. With this in mind, here’s what my crystal ball predicts for the next 12 months:

  1. Organisations will accept the reality of a three-day in-office work week – We’re witnessing a shift towards true employee-centeredness, and it’s going to create unprecedented improvements in satisfaction and efficiency. COVID-19 virtually erased the world we once knew, where remote workdays were stiffly bargained during the hiring process. Executives once hard-pressed to implement any sort of remote work policy have now seen that their workforce can survive and even excel in a world of social distancing and I think we’ll see a steady rhythm of people coming into the office Tuesday through Thursday and working remotely Mondays and Fridays. Our CMO Simon Harrison recently discussed what this new future of work will require; do have a read.
  2. Empathy will become a top workplace priority, and hopefully it will stay that way. In COVID times, it has become commonplace to quiet your barking dog or turn off your camera and mic to help your child who’s distance learning simultaneously. C. (before COVID), there was an immense pressure to be perfectly coifed and have the utmost professional setting when working remotely. Executives have been forced to see that empathy – lightening up a bit and extending courtesies – does not compromise business outcomes. In fact (spoiler alert!) it accelerates them. We’re seeing the rise of human realness in the way works get done, and it’s an exciting breakthrough that I hope stays with us for the long haul.
  3. Every job in the western world will be influenced by Artificial Intelligence (AI) in 2021, particularly with the rise of ‘work from anywhere.’ We’ve all used the noise cancelling and blurring out background features in our video calls and collaboration solutions this year – AI in action! Outside of this area, others will use AI to drive productivity and make better real-time decisions. For example, the UK government plans to use AI to spot dangerous side effects with its planned mass COVID-19 vaccination programme.

2021 will be the year that organisations across the spectrum begin seriously moving on AI to better innovate and compete.

  1. The contact centre will become the ‘context centre’, no longer siloed from the rest of the organisation – and about time, too! The pandemic has made clear what we’ve known for so long: the contact centre is about much more than your agent workforce. It’s about every employee across the organisation working to create an effortless and unified customer journey – not just in the contact centre but across all teams, departments and lines of business. To make this ‘context centre’ happen, it will be essential to enable every employee with contact centre capabilities or technologies they can take advantage of.

COVID-19 took us by surprise in 2020, but together we tackled the challenges. Whether or not my predicted shifts will happen, one thing is for sure: 2021 will see the emergence of disruptive new ways of working and thinking that will profoundly impact customer and employee experience for the better. And I can’t wait to get started.

Avaya is the world’s leading pure-play UC/CC company with the largest install base in the industry. Avaya Spaces is our next generation collaboration service which empowers your employees to meet, make decisions, and solve challenges.

Avaya Spaces leads the market with 61 participant layouts allowing you to see all your team members or students. It works directly inside the browser without the need to deploy applications or for an expensive all-encompassing subscription that duplicates other capabilities your organisation may have. Its simplicity enables workers to progress projects with team members inside and outside their organisation, and through partnering with leading technology vendors such as Nvidia, we bring AI-powered innovations into meetings such as automatic noise removal, background replacement and automatically overlaying the presenter over their content without the need for all the meeting participants to have to buy the latest high spec PC.

Remote working has changed from being reserved for only some groups of users or one day a week, to the new normal for many people. Whilst it is true that some roles will inevitably return to the office once it’s safe to do so and many people will increase their ‘office days’ to increase their contact with the wider team, there are many roles that will now stay primarily, or exclusively, work from home. Organisations need to ensure their home working employees are prepared to be fully productive and engaged with the team. This can be aided by technology such as laptops, cameras, speakerphones and headphones, but it also requires new collaborative capabilities and work practises which encourage individual and team productivity regardless of location or even hours worked.

Most applications should be available securely from the Internet without requiring a VPN because communications apps need to be ‘always on’ and work on any device in any location. Otherwise, the company should ensure the VPN is upgraded so that it’s fast and responsiveness at all times. IT is a critical requirement of virtually every work process and therefore slow connections harm productivity and enthusiasm.

Laptops have given us the freedom to work in any room but for regular remote working it’s more effective to use a larger 24” (or more) display with an external camera and speakerphone so the user is seen and heard clearly and doesn’t feel uncomfortable in fully participating in the discussion over video. Communicating with team should feel natural, easy and beneficial to all in driving any given task or project.

When it comes to ‘office days’, for the time being we will see the use of over-sized meeting rooms to enable the benefits of in-person interaction but with the necessity of social distancing. Hot desking is still possible, but employees will need to stay at one desk for the working day and employers will need to ensure these areas are cleaned each day. Beyond cleaning and transparent partitions, companies can leverage technology such as touch-free light switches, doors, taps, hand driers and contactless payments for vending machines and so on.

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