Who would have thought that just one year into the 20s a new zeitgeist would be defined? In 2020 we discovered new ways of living and working, found enjoyment in the smaller moments, and took stock of our place in and our influence on the world ‘ none of which would have been possible without technology and the gift of modern communications.
Organizations have now had employees stationed at home for almost a full year and workers have had to adapt and conform to new structures and ways of operating. Enabling all of this is an incomparable reliance on technology. While this represented a culture shock for many established and slow-to-change industries at the onset of the pandemic, virtual collaboration and hybrid working are here to stay.
The benefits of hybrid working are becoming clear for business leaders and employees alike. Many employees report increased productivity working from home ‘ fewer distractions and less time spent commuting mean that more hours are available to complete deliverables. Many business leaders are responding positively to the new working dynamic and now favour virtual collaboration over face-to-face interactions, having realized the vast potential for both time (45%) and cost savings (41%).
Business and investment priorities have shifted
As the shift to hybrid becomes permanent and employees swap corporate settings for the home office, business leaders are being forced to re-examine business models and investment priorities for equipment.
When considering collaboration tools, you might first think of Microsoft Teams or Zoom. But underpinning all these functions is, of course, the audio experience. Over the past year, audio quality has emerged as the non-negotiable enabler of business continuity, client and partnership management and internal communications. Of the global decision makers EPOS surveyed, 56% say that high quality audio equipment is essential to their business, and a further 34% think it is desirable.
Professionals adapting to remote working can often fall into the trap of using consumer-grade communications tools, which can lead to frustrating and counterproductive experiences. To ensure the hybrid transition remains viable, business leaders are on a mission to optimize the virtual working experience by addressing pain points like background noise, interference, and poor audio quality. For those that can solve these issues, productivity benefits are unlocked, creating a firmer foundation for modern work.
Leading sectors like financial services and utilities are doubling down on audio spend
Audio has undoubtedly achieved a new level of importance in business. According to our research, 83% of global decision makers think that audio equipment has become more important over the last two years, and a further 56% say it has become much more important to maintain and establish connectivity with clients and teams. 64% also agreed that having quality audio technology today is more important than having a quality laptop or PC equipment to facilitate the required communication lines with clients and partners, and is essential to business performance.
Recognition and investment commitment is coming straight from the top, with C-level executives the most likely to push for an increase in annual investment.
There are also clear lines forming between the sectors who have recognized the new modus operandi. EPOS found that 66% of respondents working in the Healthcare and 64% in IT and Digital industries say that high quality audio equipment is indispensable to their performance. Meanwhile, 42% of decision makers globally (and over half in APAC and Germany) have observed an increase in the importance of audio technology in helping to maintain client relationships within their business.
This new importance has resulted in an increased urgency for businesses to ensure that the right solutions are in place, and the majority of business leaders (78%) are willing to pay more to get ahead. This is especially true for those working in Telecoms and Utilities (73%), Hospitality (68%), Financial Services (68%) and IT and Digital (67%). While an average investment increase of 26% can be expected across sectors, this rises to 31% in the finance sector.
For the minority (20%) of organizations who have decreased spending in audio equipment, this is rationalised by the expectation that staff will either bring their own devices or use devices with in-built audio. While this may be functional, it risks quality and could result in a myriad of negative audio experiences being reported by employees daily, such as background noise, interference and poor quality.
Bad audio is bad for business
Pre-pandemic, we know that employees lost an average of 29 minutes per week due to poor sound quality, interruptive background noise, and signal issues on voice and video calls. In 2021, with more collaboration moved online than ever before, the challenge of poor audio is not just a frustration but a heightened obstruction to business and individual productivity ‘ all of which can ultimately impact the bottom line. The risks and rewards of modern business are far too high to gamble with a plug and play experience; no two individuals and no two roles are the same, so why should their audio solution be?
A superior remote working experience is a true business differentiator, accelerating employee potential while also improving productivity. It is well-established that effective call quality can lead to better customer service, greater employee motivation and confidence, and enhanced customer retention. 85% of businesses say they plan to put policies and technologies in place to support a remote, flexible workforce long-term while 65% believe remote work helps them reduce capital and operational expenses and manage risks.
Future proofing starts today
Not only do we now have access to technology that enables working from anywhere, this technology is increasingly becoming a key business success differentiator. When choosing audio solutions, business leaders need to map out how they want to work as an organization and consider which collaboration tools will create closer-knit teams that achieve greater results. Business leaders must also look beyond the pandemic and towards securing future talent as Generation Z enters the workforce ‘ remote or otherwise. Ultimately, the future of the workplace is hybrid ‘ combining digital technology with face-to-face experiences ‘ and will be conducted in multiple locations, not just a single office base. Underpinning this must be a seamless employee experience.
In preparing for the hybrid future, we are already witnessing that several sectors and larger organizations are a step ahead ‘ they recognize that technology and audio solutions are vital for business operations and are prioritizing investment. For the laggards, there’s now a real danger of being left behind. Organizations must take measures to ensure their future success. The need for business readiness in the hybrid age is clear; it’s now time to act.