Since the pandemic forced shutdowns in 2020, technology and innovation have been playing catch-up to meet the need for secure and efficient remote solutions. Remote and hybrid work models are increasingly popular, and companies rely on technology to keep up with demand for these flexible work options. But times are changing. As remote and hybrid work prove worthwhile investments for the long haul, technology is surpassing business expectations.

The early days of virtual meeting

Meetings are one of the first obstacles to overcome when your business embraces a hybrid or remote work model. Prior to the pandemic, a business meeting was a group of people sitting around a conference table, taking turns speaking, with the rest of the group looking at the speaker, and everyone talking and gesturing naturally. There might be one or two remote participants, but they were the exception rather than the rule. With this traditional structure firmly established in most everyone’s mind, the setup for fully remote or hybrid business meetings can feel alien and impersonal.

Video conferencing technology has evolved at breakneck speed since it became the primary tool of workplace collaboration — virtually overnight. And with most people brand new to the virtual workspace, the period of adjustment made for some awkward, often amusing, meeting mishaps. From struggles to “unmute” to the unintentional use of filters rendering colleagues as talking cats, the early days of remote meetings were characterized by confusion, unfamiliar distractions, and participants ranging from disengaged on one end to hyper self-conscious on the other. A lot of newly remote employees spent more time struggling with the technology than collaborating, and many reported difficulties sharing their thoughts and opinions during virtual video meetings.

Building a better business meeting

Video conferencing applications have been quick to respond to virtual meeting challenges with user-friendly features designed to address the common difficulties of remote and hybrid meetings. Much of this technology was on display at InfoComm 2022, where the innovation spotlight was aimed at improving hybrid meeting equity and facilitating remote collaboration. Zoom’s Smart Gallery, for instance, mimics the visual layout of a real conference room. It also incorporates features to enhance nonverbal communication and offers multiple simultaneous views to put participants on a more equal footing.

Hybrid meeting equity and remote collaboration rely as much on audio as video. Conference room microphone arrays are typically omnidirectional, picking up audio from every direction simultaneously. Audio technology leader Shure is working on scalable, equitable audio solutions, including its MXA920 Ceiling Array Microphone, which includes an automatic coverage feature that divides conference rooms into audio zones for more precise volume control during hybrid meetings.

But meeting technology is only the beginning. New work models require new tools, and technology companies are prioritizing innovation for hybrid and remote work success.

New work models drive innovation

Software and hardware innovators are working overtime to keep the world working, whether remote, in person, or a hybrid combination. The innovation on display at InfoComm 2022 ran the gamut from state-of-the-art, plug-and-play audio and video tech to the management and integration tools on every IT department’s wish list. IT visibility, automation, user experience, meeting equity, and enhanced collaboration are clear priorities for the future of remote and hybrid work, and innovators are clearly on top of things.

Hybrid and remote work models are reducing business operating costs, breaking down geographical barriers to employment, and honoring the employee experience. A few short years ago, working from home was a rare privilege. Today, off-site work is common enough to drive high-tech innovation for communication and collaboration technology that makes remote work easier and more efficient, wherever it happens.

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