Last updated: Feb 15, 2023
A survey published this week by office tech giant Poly shines a light on the tools hybrid workers need. We spoke with Poly’s CTO to learn more about what the future might hold.
Like it or not, hybrid work is here to stay--and a new survey indicates that employers will have to level up their technology to keep workers happy and productive.
In fact, a whopping 72% of workers say their employers can be doing more to create a uniform experience for office and remote workers, and nearly half of surveyed workers say their at-home work equipment outshines their office equipment, according to findings published this week by Poly, a 6,500-person enterprise that peddles communication equipment to other businesses. (About 4,000 U.S.-based workers and another 1,000 managers were surveyed by an independent company that Poly contracted to run the survey.)
The survey also underscored how job roles and personality types can impact work preferences: 64% of self-identified introverts say their productivity has increased since the pandemic began, compared to 51% of extroverted workers. And, perhaps surprisingly, the survey found video conferencing to be more popular among senior employees than any other group. More than 80% of directors and senior managers cite increased confidence when presenting via video versus middle managers (61%) and entry-level employees (55%). Why? These senior employees might simply have better technology at home than their younger counterparts.
“I certainly heard anecdotally at the beginning of the pandemic, ‘we've got to get high quality things to our executives, we've got to get high quality things to our managers,’” Poly’s chief technology officer David Bryan told The Org. “If you do have that better equipment, or they've set up special zoom rooms and things, it's made it easier for those more senior folks.”
When it comes to the survey results, Bay Area-based Poly certainly has some skin in the game--its headsets, office phones and other workplace products are used by every single Fortune 500 company, which together generated $13.8 trillion in revenue last year, making up roughly two-thirds of the U.S. economy. A publicly traded enterprise, Poly itself recorded $1.73 billion in sales for the 2021 fiscal year, a 2% uptick from 2020.
But this vast customer base also means that Poly has a unique glimpse into what the future of office tech might look like, as hybrid work largely becomes the norm for small startups and tech giants alike.
The company’s CTO Bryan said his team has spent the past year working on hybrid workplace products like sound-blocking microphones that only pick up on the person speaking in a meeting and video conference software that can automatically zoom in on the speaker. Poly’s production timeline is often two or three years out, so Bryant is quite literally building the future of office tech.
“We get to go play with the fun stuff,” he told The Org. “We get to just build next-gen things and new technology and really see how it resonates with the customers as a pipeline into what we end up building further out in the future.”
These days, Bryan is focused on “meeting equity,” or ensuring that remote workers have an experience equal to in-office counterparts--and vice versa. “It's not just for you feeling like you're in this meeting room, but for us to feel like we're out there with the rest of the [remote] participants,” he explained. “For many years, we spent a lot of time trying to make sure that the one or two remote participants were able to get a great experience of feeling like they're in the room with the maybe dozens who were in the meeting space. Today, you could certainly end up with not only equal numbers of remote and local participants, but also a situation where maybe there's only a few people in the meeting room, and there's even a new set of challenges to that.”
His second priority is integrating “more intelligence in our devices, having them be a bit smarter.” The automatic noise-blocking features that his team has already rolled out represent one example of this.
Bryan’s end goal: “Hopefully, if we did something like this [survey] again in a couple of years, we'd see higher satisfaction.”
Poly appears to have plenty of money on hand to implement this vision. In late March, computing giant HP said it would buy the company for $3.3 billion in cash--sending Poly’s stock price up 52% the day the deal was announced. The acquisition is slated to close by the end of 2022, but the companies aren’t sharing many details yet.
“Until closing, it is business as usual for Poly,” the companies said in a statement. “Both HP and Poly will continue to work as separate, independent companies and will continue their normal employee, customer, supplier and business partner interactions as they had been doing before this announcement.”