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Is Unified Comms Keeping up with Hybrid Work?

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Image: Panther Media GmbH - Alamy Stock Photo
Everything from contact center interactive voice response (IVR) for better customer experiences to the ability to create a bot for employees to check their health benefits and file HR requests is possible in the current world of ubiquitous unified communications tools.
How should vendors position themselves now that their customer base is expecting a single pane for completing various task-based workflows? Venkat Kandhari, a Principal Consultant at Infosys Limited, says, "Modern hybrid workspaces demand persona-based, experience-driven, collaborative hybrid workspaces that continuously learn and develop to provide a secure communication and collaboration experience anytime, anywhere and on any device."
Enterprises want both luxury and flexibility to work with multiple vendors seamlessly, Kandhari says, in hopes of realizing organizational goals swiftly. He added, "Vendors are not (just) technology enablers/providers and must play the role of a technology partner to navigate the next steps with enterprises."
The point, according to Kandhari, is that customers and employees are looking for the total experience, meaning a "uniform experience" throughout the integration process of unified communications as a service (UCaaS) and contact center as a service (CCaaS) platforms.
This experience is (largely) because these employees have shifted their definition of the workplace from "the geographic location where I do my work" to "a suite of apps and services.”
Workers: Hybrid Work Is Here To Stay
The workforce seems to think so—that is—according to data collected by the unified communications strategy firm enableUC. The firm's research found that 57% of remote employees say they’re considering shifting to a hybrid work approach.
Similarly, researchers at the consulting firm McKinsey found that 35% of workers say they can work from home full-time and that another 23% can work from home from one to four days a week. A mere 13% of employed respondents say they can work remotely, at least some of the time but opt not to.
Kevin Kieller, EnableUC co-founder and lead analyst and No Jitter contributor, says that end-users are not monolithic, but they do have in common an element of wanting to retain some autonomy over when and where they work, "The majority of fully remote users want a hybrid work, while the majority of hybrid users also consider working fully remotely."
In this context, employer flexibility becomes all the more consequential because of a demand for good in-office experience when/if they return to the office. According to Kieller, many workers have “tricked out” their home offices and now have two or even three monitors – and they want the same technical set-up in the workplace.
Kieller shared that many customers he's spoken with recently have indicated something quite intriguing. "Some have suggested that they now turn on their “out of office” indicator when they go to the office, indicating they’re not accessible for work because they are socializing (reconnecting) with colleagues at the office."
He concluded by saying if someone goes to the office to collaborate in person, then improved video ("people framing") and audio; are likely essential to support hybrid work phenomena like meetings where some people are there in person and others connect from their home offices.
Kieller says pulling off seamless UC is not easy, but it is possible. On the organization front, he added that it would be nice for more firms to invest in supporting remote work.
The economic reality does not allow for it for most. However, especially given that employees have 'made do' for the past two-plus-years means that it's possible—which, as Kieller said, "Some organizations may choose not to, but remember that all remote or all in the office is easier than hybrid working. Sometimes, I think people forget this."
He reminded me that it is quite an arduous task; moving back and forth could necessitate additional headsets, extra power supplies, and the same docking station at each place. Attempts at making hybrid work technologies more accessible (have been) made by UC firms like Cisco, which has an “all in one” device, Cisco Desk Pro.
So, it seems that hybrid work is in no danger of going away anytime soon. It also appears that UC providers are at least doing their part to ensure things like access to tools to execute remote work with relative ease and for IT management.
But one thing is for sure: gone are the days of simply being a technology provider. Now, it seems that being an experience provider trumps all.