Back to the Office? Navigating the New Normal

ByEdwin Diender

May 29, 2020

Edwin Diender

When I joined Huawei at the end of 2011, I was hired to help set-up industry solution sales practices for the WEU region. I was appointed as an industry solution sales specialist and acting CTO for UC&C — Unified Communications & Collaboration, in full. My job was to help develop, market, and stitch together both our CNBG  (Carrier Network Business Group) and CBG (Consumer Business Group) offerings with EBG (Enterprise Business Group) solutions, making it E2E: End to End.

I started positioning EBG as the glue between the devices that people carry and use on a daily basis, and the converged (mobile) unified broadband infrastructure that links people to their organizations and information services.

To have a compelling message and not simply repeat what the competition was saying, I started pitching that it’s important to understand the way people work together and share information across teams and departments using their devices, regardless of their location.

So, where at that time UC&C had become a technology to help install “The New Way of Working” and to replace the telephone system, at Huawei we took the industry’s business drivers and its users as focal points of our solution design, both in our approach to innovation and R&D and in our GTM plans.

As such,we don’t have verticalized product lines, instead offering a horizontal layer of industry solutions divided into business lines. That means if you’re looking for mature, commercially available, and off-the-shelf solutions that help you solve real-world business problems, we’d love to talk.

And so, here at Huawei, we redefined UC&C as User Collaboration & Communication.

Watch: Introducing the UC&C concept and CeBit (2014). And from that starting point, we began to grow our footprint in the collaboration and communications space, with revenue climbing by 6.3% in 2015.

A New Acronym: WFH

Mainly driven by hosting services, safe city and emergency command center solutions, and video conferencing solutions, our platform has fully integrated IP telephony/UC, contact center, conferencing, and IM/presence into a unified architecture. The platform brings a truly integrated services experience to organizations and enables open capabilities for industry application integration.

Read more about the UC&C in this post from Frost & Sullivan on our Global Huawei Analyst Summit 2016.

Our comprehensive family of products includes high-end immersive and room-based telepresence solutions, Multipoint Control Units (MCUs), hardware-based video endpoints designed for multiple tiers of the market, and software-based desktop/mobile clients.

To further tap into the Small and Medium Business (SMB) market, we launched the TE10 and TE20: innovative conferencing endpoints aimed at unlocking growth opportunities in the SMB segment, offering a notable degree of cost-effectiveness.

Watch: The TE20

At this point, we were confronted by what was — for us at least — a new normal. SMB and Small Office/Home Office (SOHO) appeared as an addressable market where we could find freelancers, independent consultants, flexi-workers, contractors, and advisors. And these groups are increasingly WFH or working from remote office spaces.

This new market for software-based desktop/mobile clients and all-in-one endpoints, such as TE10 and TE20, emerged in remote offices, huddle rooms, home offices, and mobile offices. Huge value was unlocked by such tools, aimed at creating an office-like environment away from the physical office, enabling working from home — and myriad places in-between — in an alternative to the office.

The New Normal

As we find ourselves today, WFH as a new way of working and UC&C have been around for quite some time. People are free to sit where they like, use the device of their choice or BYOD (bring your own device), and share information across teams and departments, regardless of location and time zone.

The majority of work, at some point, still takes place in the office, especially in administrative departments, in logistics, and in the supply chain. The same is true in front and back offices: think, service, and help desks.

The aim is, of course, to increase productivity, boost efficiency in daily operations, and assure effective office communications, but not for all job roles and not in every office scenario. The New Normal has been predominantly pitched at so-called Knowledge Workers.

And of course, face to face meetings still take place, and not just in your office, but in your customer’s too. And what of other meeting areas and remote, out-of-office locations?

Over the years, we’ve seen a rise in new forms of meeting spaces for co-workers and staff, occasionally coming to the office. Coffee corners with baristas, new-age relaxation areas, hot-desking, open office spaces; you name it, it became part of the new office experience.

An office chillzone

However, with COVID-19, work from home has become the New New Normal —for everyone, literally overnight, in every situation; not just for knowledge workers. Help desk personnel take service calls from home. Meetings have suddenly switched to online. And information sharing, industry exhibitions, and seminars, have all become webinars, conducted remotely and, again, mostly from home.

Keep Your Distance

We are observing physical distancing. Handshakes as a greeting are on the decline – in fact, the leading American immunologist Dr. Anthony Fauci has said that we should never shake hands, ever again. Some of us wear face masks (government mandated or not). We all wash our hands, likely more than we ever have done before. And we all pay far more attention, both to ourselves and to those around us. How am I feeling this morning? Who is sneezing or coughing? Am I far enough away?

The New Normal in the Office

Now that countries are lifting lockdown restrictions and cautiously opening up businesses, there are several guidelines and precautions in place to ensure that any opening is safe. In effect, we’re bringing The New Normal back into the traditional office itself —a somewhat bizarre twist of fate.

This new way of working in the office will be more and more like working from home. We won’t walk over to a colleague’s workplace as we used to , without pause for thought. Instead, we’ll check if he or she is online and send a message. We might scale up to a video call, so the conversation becomes more personal, but we will, in effect, be working remotely, yet sitting in our office space.

And when we do meet face-to-face, we sit zigzag in a meeting room. Before entering or leaving, we use hand sanitizer before and after touching a door handle or an elevator button. We will likely wear face masks and our temperature may be taken on our way in and out of office buildings.

Tying it all together

So where are we? Navigating the new normal at the office, we already can see that open office spaces all turn back into cubicles again with screens or separators between staff. And some manager’s office rooms will be reserved as potential quarantine rooms, in case colleagues develop symptoms in the office.

A WFH scenario at the office (rather than an office scenario to WFH) will most likely be The New Normal when we return to the office. And that would have been impossible to predict six months ago.

What are your views on The New Normal and coming back to the office? What will be the biggest change that you foresee? Let us know in the comments below.

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Edwin Diender

Chief Digital Transformation Officer & VP, Government & Public Sector Business Dept, Huawei

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