When the COVID-19 pandemic effectively shut down the world, many businesses shifted to remote working virtually overnight. Although some employees have returned to the office as the situation improved, many continue to work remotely or are increasingly using a hybrid model. As the business world continues to adapt around the changes brought on by the pandemic such as hybrid working, future-proofing the workplace with technology to accommodate the new normal is a top priority for IT professionals.
For most businesses, the shift to a hybrid workforce means the end of assigned cubicles and single-purpose boardrooms, and the beginning of hotel-style working spaces and multipurpose conference rooms, as well as the need to connect to remote workers seamlessly to foster collaboration throughout teams.
While the type of work your employees perform may vary dramatically from one team member to the next, they all share the need for technology that enables a high level of performance and productivity. Supplying your team with performance-focused accessories designed specifically for business environments will be critical to success as their workspaces remain fluid.
Two key areas to focus on when future-proofing an office are hot desks and meeting spaces. Here are some suggestions to help you create the office of tomorrow by ensuring your teams have the technology and accessories they need:
Hot Desks & Hoteling
Where we work in the office is changing dramatically. We are moving away from assigned cubicles and focusing more on a "hotel" desk-style design that will allow hybrid workers to book themselves into a workstation at the office during their visits. The challenge with a hotel desk system is designing them to allow any team member to be productive while on-site, regardless of their responsibilities. The work performed at a hotel desk by your graphic designer or videographer will be dramatically different from the work done by an accountant or sales representative.
Multi-monitor workstations with ergonomic and articulating monitor arms outfitted with future-proof cables, such as 8K UHD HDMI cables, will ensure that any team member booked in for the day will have a setup allowing them to perform at their best.
Universal laptop docking stations are a must-have for shared workspaces as they ensure compatibility with all leading hardware brands and operating systems. Integrating these docks into hot desks and hoteling environments ensures all employees will be able to easily connect their laptops to the network and peripherals as well as reduce support requests due to compatibility issues. Professional-grade, performance-focused docking stations are critical for the future-proof office, offering increased physical security protections like universal locking ports, screw-locked cables, and VESA mounts while reducing the risk of loss thanks to devices being physically secure. Enterprise-level docking stations offer IT departments greater options for manageability with support for IT management utilities such as MAC address pass-through and Wi-Fi auto switching.
In some cases, supplying your employees with more portable solutions like USB-C powered multiport adapters might be a better option than integrating docking stations into workstations. These adapters are portable and have multiple ports that will give your team members the ability to dock their laptops while in the office and easily transport to a new location. This powerful and portable alternative to docking stations provides much of the same functionality and manageability capabilities, like a full range of data and video connectivity options as well as charging capability. An added benefit of multiport adapters is their driverless design. A team member with a new laptop or a traveling team member visiting the office can dock their devices without the need for IT support.
Over the years, supporting the various technologies used in boardrooms or conference halls has become one of the IT pro's worst nightmares. Because boardrooms are typically designed using proprietary connectivity hardware, users often encounter issues trying to project their screen, accessing the in-room computer system, or connecting Microsoft Teams or Zoom into the room's audio system. Even within a technology-focused company like StarTech.com, proprietary boardroom solutions have been a Pandora's box for help desk team members.
Focus on transitioning boardrooms to become a more robust and inclusive environment with connectivity solutions such as a pass-through conference table box containing HDMI, Ethernet, audio, and other connections that connect directly to the boardroom TVs and projectors. This allows any team member or outside visitor to easily access the boardroom technology and removes the concern that today's "Zoom Rooms" will not interact with the hardware and software of tomorrow.
The future-proofing of the boardroom does not end with simplifying how to connect. You should also ensure that the connectivity solutions include considerations for technological advancement — for example, outfitting display solutions with certified 8K Ultra High Definition (UHD) HDMI cables and adapters. The laptops and accessories in use today may not require or support 8K resolution, but over time those devices will be upgraded and be able to take advantage of the existing, higher-performance infrastructure. Also, don't overlook the importance of updating dongles and peripherals, such as USB-C display adapters. While the USB-A connector is still widely used, the number of devices that exclusively utilize USB-C ports continues to grow. Integrating USB-C adapters in your workplace's infrastructure is critical to ensuring compatibility with your team's devices and minimizing downtime.
Making sure your office is future-proofed can be a daunting task for IT professionals. Integrating the right technology and accessories in your workplace will set your team up for success by maximizing performance and productivity, wherever they choose to work.
Kevin Luff is Chief Product Strategy Officer at StarTech.com.