Businesses turn to video technologies to make meetings more equitable

Attributed to Wiley Zhang, Head of Video Collaboration, APJ, Logitech

There’s little doubt that hybrid is the new way of work. In Accenture’s 2021 Future of Work Study, 83 percent of workers surveyed said they preferred working in a hybrid model. Closer to home in Singapore, hybrid work is on the rise, with many firms planning to make this model a permanent fixture.

Amid this shift, organisations are wading in unchartered waters when it comes to fostering an efficient, productive, and positive work environment for employees. A large piece of this puzzle is working to prioritise meeting equity.

Meeting equity is about creating equal experiences for participants across all workspaces and locations. While this is not a new concept, with the increased split between on-site and remote workers, ensuring that all employees have an equal meeting experience is now mission critical.

The challenges of the back-to-office shift

Moving to hybrid work creates new challenges where not only are the remote employees unequal participants in meetings, there are now more virtual meetings, making it a business imperative to solve the problem of meeting inequality. For example, remote workers may feel excluded vs their in-office counterparts during hybrid meetings as important in-room interactions are easily missed, and they may struggle to keep up with the meeting flow.

Pre-pandemic, the lack of facetime with colleagues and managers meant that remote workers suffered from a pseudo-“out of sight, out of mind” phenomenon, which could stall their careers.  In fact, previous research has suggested that remote workers have a far lower chance of being promoted.

However, as we usher in a new era of hybrid work where more employees work remotely, organisations must ensure equality in group dynamics for better teamwork and productivity.

How video conferencing technologies can help

Fortunately, businesses are now catching on to the problem of inequitable meetings brought on by hybrid working and are leveraging technologies to solve this challenge.  

For instance, smart conference room systems can now use AI and computer vision to autoframe participants, allowing them to get an ideal zoomed-in view of all attendees. In these smart systems, the active speaker is framed using a main camera that pans and zooms smoothly as each speaker changes, while the wide-angle AI Viewfinder frames the room. This ensures remote participants see and hear all meeting exchanges clearly, allowing the hybrid worker to collaborate with their conference room counterparts on equal footing regardless of their location.

The next level of innovation is happening around cameras that can simultaneously present both a close-up view of the individual speakers and a view of the entire meeting room during video calls. These layouts allow remote workers to pick up contextual cues from the rest of the meeting room.

We’ve come a long way from poor audio conference calls to video calls becoming mainstream. Video conferencing systems are evolving to where it is not just one all-seeing camera view but multiple cameras with different perspectives. In addition, with smart AI software managing where each camera goes, participants consistently are able to get the best view of the action. So much so, that participants’ views at home may be even better than their view sitting in a large conference room in the office.

The pandemic has changed the ways of working forever, and proved that adapting to new frontiers of work is not only possible – but preferred.

The hybrid work environment will no doubt create some new and unique challenges. However, through the use of emerging technologies and creative thinking, not only can we minimise these issues, but potentially make the world of work even more equitable and productive than before.