Achieving digital equality is the process that meeting facilitators and employees should take to ensure that the experience before, during and after a hybrid meeting is equal for all.
We are finding that organisations, more than ever, are searching for ways to achieve digital equality to effectively transition their employees to a hybrid way of working. To do this, sophisticated technology is needed in the office. These tools range from digital whiteboards, and sophisticated audio visual meeting equipment to virtual project management tools and even virtual reality technology. Once the technology is installed into the office space, a combination of adopting digital equality practices and receiving sufficient training on how to use the technology should bridge the gap between physical and remote employees. Achieving digital equality is important to increase employee productivity, enhance team cohesion, reduce bias and decrease individual siloes.
In terms of the traditional conference room, the static fixed screen on a wall produces rather unnatural and formulaic meeting experiences in which remote participants often feel side-lined. Remote participants find it hard to hear and ‘read’ meeting room participants from such a distance. More immersive experiences, supported by specialist conference spaces with high-definition screens where everyone can be visible at once allow non-verbal cues to be seen and interpreted.
In Microsoft’s reimagined hybrid meeting experience, every participant has a clear view of every other participant—life-size, and at eye level. From personal experience, this is a game-changer as it emulates a more life-like experience in the room and that real, albeit digital, face to face feel. A digital whiteboard can also be integrated to create an inclusive collaboration experience for those inside and outside of the room. This creates live, connected experiences that can be edited by everyone simultaneously and easily shared across apps.
Zoom has also re-envisioned the hybrid meeting experience. They have launched their Neat board, which is a large and immersive multi-touch screen that can be mounted to a wall. It is integrated with a powerful audio system and has a versatile wide-angle camera that is suited for conference calls. The 4X digital zoom means that the faces of participants in a meeting room can be framed and captured on the screen, similar to how virtual participants are viewed, to enable an equity of experience for in office participants and remote employees. This also means the person chairing the meeting can always be seen. The Zoom audio processing hardware also eliminates ‘double talk’ issues, where a person’s voice becomes muted by others talking over them or by background noise, making hybrid conversations more equal and natural.
As teams become distributed, the technology required to meet the new demands will become even more sophisticated. In addition to installing hi-tech meeting spaces, leaders need to provide their teams with the technology training and etiquette standards, both at onboarding and on an ongoing basis, to keep employees up to date with the latest requirements. Social and behavioural training on how to make hybrid meetings inclusive for all participants, whether they are virtual or present in the office, has got to be vital.
We will be discussing the challenges of digital equality in more detail in our next webinar in the ‘Enabling Hybrid’ series on 13 June. Please register here if you would like to attend.