The workplace culture is changing, and hybrid work is one of the hottest trends right now. The 5-day a week, 9-to-5 grind is quickly losing favour with a large portion of the working class. And employers are in on the trend too. Fifty-four percent of Canadian employers are bending to the mounting pressure for more flexible work models, even if it’s only to meet employee expectations in a bid to acquire and retain talent. But still, establishing and running an efficient hybrid workplace can be a big challenge.

This article gives an overview of hybrid work and how Microsoft is helping organizations enable and support a productive hybrid work environment. Let’s get started.

What is hybrid work, and why is it so popular?

Hybrid work is a workplace scenario wherein employees can work both remotely and from the office. This work structure has really taken off and is shaping up as the future of work. Fifty-eight percent of professionals currently work in hybrid workplaces. In retrospect, we always knew remote and hybrid work would eventually take over modern workplaces; the shift just needed one big push to go mainstream.

In early 2020, the pandemic hit and brought strict contact and travel restrictions. So, 9-to-5 workplaces had to shut down, and many companies encouraged employees to work from home. Remote work structures actually performed surprisingly well in most organizations.

Thanks to the ongoing vaccine rollout, most countries have lifted interaction and movement restrictions. This means businesses can resume the old 9-to-5 routine. But still, most employees are reluctant to return to work. Two years of remote work have hooked people on the freedom and convenience of working from home. A recent survey involving 20,000 Canadian found that only 20 percent of them wanted to head back to the office after the pandemic. The rest said they’d prefer working from home, either full-time or part-time. Some were adamant that they’d rather switch jobs than go back to the office full-time.

Hybrid work is the best compromise between on-site and remote work. It gives employees a high degree of flexibility and freedom while keeping them closely tethered to the host company.

Streamlining hybrid work with Microsoft Teams Rooms

At any one time, a hybrid workplace will consist of both remote and in-office workers. The biggest problem with this arrangement is the inherent detachment between the two groups. Synchronizing remote and in-office employees into a cohesive, collaborative unit can be quite a challenge. For instance, virtual team meetings can be one-sided, leaving one group feeling anonymized or voiceless.

Teams Rooms is Microsoft’s answer to the collaboration disconnect in hybrid workplaces. Even before the pandemic, Microsoft had pioneered and built upon existing solutions to facilitate virtual and semi-virtual workplaces. Microsoft envisions a hybrid workspace where employees can seamlessly interconnect, collaborate, gather and share information, and feel like part of a team regardless of geographical, social, and technical barriers. Teams Rooms brings organizations closer to archiving this ideal image of hybrid work.

What is Microsoft Teams Rooms?

Microsoft Teams Rooms is a more advanced, rebranded version of Skype Rooms Systems (SRS). It’s the most recent iteration of SRS, which was first launched in 2016. This new upgrade transforms the virtual meeting room into a feature-rich, inclusive, and highly interactive collaboration space. It combines the capabilities of smart devices and Microsoft Teams to create a seamless meeting experience for each participant, whether they’re in the office, at home, or even on the move. Teams Rooms essentially levels the virtual meeting setting, giving all participants an equal seat at the table regardless of where they are.

Microsoft has partnered with world-leading hardware manufacturers, including Lenovo, Logitech, HP, Dell, Crestron, Yealink, Polycom, Neat, and Jabra, to bring the best audio and video performance in Teams Rooms meetings. The idea behind these partnerships is to have standardized, AI-powered hardware that provides HD media streams compatible with the platform’s new video layouts. The hardware and video layout are specially optimized for hybrid meetings.

Check out Microsoft-certified Teams Rooms devices here.

The unique Microsoft Teams Rooms features and capabilities

Let’s look at some of the features that set Teams Rooms apart and make it the ideal hybrid collaboration solution:

  • One-touch join: Users can instantly join a meeting with just one click or tap of a button. They can also add rooms to meetings, find nearby rooms, and queue multiple meetings in different rooms with just one touch.
  • Intelligent, high-definition video streams: The AI-powered cameras not only record HD video but can also automatically zoom in to the person speaking to direct the audience’s attention, making the speaker more prominent.
  • Quality audio: The hardware captures high-fidelity audio, ensuring everyone in the room can be heard loud and clear. Also, intelligent speakers equipped with Microsoft’s voice recognition technology can automatically transcribe conversations with incredible detail and accuracy.
  • Inclusive video layouts: Teams Rooms automatically optimizes the display content depending on the number of attendants and display size. This ensures the best use of the available screen space. It can even disperse video streams across multiple screens when not sharing content.
  • Collaborative whiteboard: Each user can access a shared, live digital canvas on which they can visualize and represent complex ideas and information. This promotes real-time collaboration in every meeting.
  • Intelligent capture: Meeting attendees can use the in-built smart content camera to frame, zoom in, and focus on particular sections of shared items such as whiteboards and documents.

Why Microsoft Teams Rooms?

There’s no doubt that hybrid work is here to stay. But that’s actually a good thing. Hybrid work is all about flexibility, allowing for a healthier work-life balance among employees. The extra freedom ultimately promotes employee well-being, prevents burnout, and, rather ironically, binds the HR community even closer together. More importantly, employees working in hybrid environments are equally — if not more — productive than their fully in-office counterparts. After all, happier employees are more willing and driven to work.

But, and this is a big but, hybrid workplaces can only succeed if properly established and managed. Besides dictating work policies, a hybrid workplace also needs robust tools to facilitate collaborations, communications, and synchronization between telecommuters and in-office workers.

This is where Microsoft Teams Rooms comes in. It fills the gaps between physically disjointed teams and individuals in a hybrid work scenario. Inclusivity is a great way of securing the success and future of a hybrid workplace.

Get in touch with Softlanding to learn more about incorporating Teams Rooms and other Microsoft solutions into your work model. We’ve partnered with Microsoft to make digital transformations a reality for Canadian businesses and non-profits.

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Softlanding is a long-established IT services provider of transformation, professional services and managed IT services that helps organizations boost innovation and drive business value. We are a multi-award-winning Microsoft Gold Partner with 13 Gold Competencies and we use our experience and expertise to be a trusted advisor to our clients. Headquartered in Vancouver, BC, we have staff and offices in Toronto, Montreal and Calgary to serve clients across Canada.

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