In June, the well-known digital signage blog Sixteen:Nine published a special report entitled Workplaces Reworked: How Digital Signage and Display Technology Drives Post-COVID Working Environments. The 81-page, editorially neutral report is free to download and chock-full of great insights and information, discussing how modern workplaces reflect evolving work styles, mindsets, and technologies in the wake of COVID-19. In particular, this report is useful to the digital signage industry because it analyzes how digital display technology currently affects and will continue to impact work environments.
The report covers a wide range of topics in detail. Here are some themes that stood out.
The Hybrid Office
One would be hard-pressed to find a single public venue or business that hasn’t addressed its own COVID-19 procedures. Given the intense scrutiny on health and hygiene practices and unprecedented numbers of new or revised work-from-home policies over the last 18 months, it would be logical to assume that businesses will close their office spaces permanently.
However, the report spells out that traditional offices won’t go away completely, leaving ample room for digital signage investment in workplace environments. In short, despite the increasing acceptance of full-time work-from-home as a viable option, both employers and employees expect to return to an office for at least part of their work week and digital display technology can make that return easier.
The report offers several ways companies may facilitate a returning workforce while addressing safety and distancing concerns. In addition to offering flexible, staggered work schedules, office space owners are improving meeting spaces, opening up floor plans, using desk reservation systems (also known as “hot desking” or “hoteling”), shifting to temporary office spaces, and getting employees acclimated to a more tech-centric office style.*
“Huddle rooms and spaces equipped with AV technologies power small and impromptu meetings for staff, both on-site and remotely” (p. 6). While smart rooms have been around for more than a decade, increased demand for LED screens that can connect participants from all over the world and allow them to be seamlessly engaged is leading to easier, more affordable options.
*A portable, all-in-one solution like ASPECT™ would serve well in an agile office environment. ASPECT LED displays are available in multiple sizes and pixel pitches and pre-configured at a standard 16:9 aspect ratio. While all systems can be wall-mounted, each display comes with an easel-style frame for safe, free-standing deployment.
Upgraded Meeting Spaces/The Digital Stage
In addition to small, tech-enabled meeting rooms, the report also discusses larger group meeting rooms and “townhall” areas. The former would be “tech-enabled with intuitive, video-enabled whiteboard and presentation displays” while the latter focus on “bringing big groups together, equipped with video wall displays and the support AV and IT technology needed to run everything from a company town hall of team-building exercise to staff parties and outside corporate and charitable events” (p. 21–22).*
“WorkDesign magazine suggests that with full-time office occupancy expected to be down, long-term, by as much as 50% companies will reconfigure leased spaces to remove desks and create these kinds of informal meeting and collaboration areas” (p. 22).
As part of this transformation, “an increasing number of companies will use excess floor space to install small video production studios for both live and non-live content creation” (p. 18). One article in the report suggests that executive briefing centers (EBCs) are becoming antiquated in favor of broader-use events spaces.
The Digital Stage could elevate every kind of communication need, from thought leadership to internal presentations to onboarding, product launches, press conferences, and do the job of an EBC to boot. Imagine the Digital Stage as a high-tech, immersive environment that takes the corporate theater . . . to the next level. An expansive LED screen forms a backdrop with an advanced suite of sensors to provide a real-time, reactive effects to any presentations imagery. . .Since this technology was originally designed for the entertainment industry, the Digital Stage could become the center of a company’s media strategy, and the production hub for its marketing and communications output (p. 28).
*Tech giants like Salesforce and Slack Technologies are on the forefront of this trend. Multipurpose spaces like Salesforce’s “Ohana” rooms, for example, have an open layout that allows the company to host a wide variety of events. Multi-use rooms let companies stage a conference in the morning, with a high-end digital display system to support the event’s visual needs. By afternoon, employees can be back in the same room, collaborating around a table while company-relevant announcements or inspiring artistic content play on the screen.
Of course, LED screen technology is not just for showy TED Talks or corporate-sponsored gatherings. “Interactive technology enables collaboration, peer-to-peer learning, and specialized technical training” (p. 29).*
Another key area where digital display usage in offices is on the rise, according to Workplaces Reworked, is through ubiquitous, networked LED screens. Big, impressive lobby displays seem to be becoming more of the norm while practical, communicative use is the up-and-comer. The use cases for digital screens as communication devises varies depending on the type of businesses, but several commonalities exist.
“Business communicators use digital signage for everything from welcoming new staff and celebrating milestones to getting the word out on changes to benefits programs and company policies” (p. 30). In addition to direct messaging, LED display technology tied to network operations centers can relay wait times, meeting room booking and availability, efficiency levels, safety screenings, and more.
Furthermore, digital displays are not limited to conventional office spaces. Manufacturing facilities seem to be a prime market for the LED industry. Many of the above-mentioned communication needs exist in these locations, plus additional safety messaging. “Communications to front-line employees, whether on the factory floor, out in the field, or in a healthcare facility, is very challenging. That is where the combination of digital signage and employee apps will become more important” (p. 35). Similarly, digital displays can show workers whether they’re on-target to meet production goals and instruct workers what to do in the event of an emergency.
*Companies like SMC3 use high-definition, direct-view LEDs to train current and future employees. The development’s expansive training room was designed with large-format video and AV integration in mind rather than as an afterthought. The resulting setup allows the company to have a conference call in a full room (500 people) while still allowing everyone to participate.
Planning for Digital Assets/Five Key Tips
The Sixteen:Nine report concludes its main topics with a discussion of how to plan for digital assets and presents five key tips for how to do so (p. 57):
“Before hardware can be considered, the communications team needs to have an understanding of digital signage and an idea of the messaging they want or need to present long term” (p. 55). In other words, technology like LED screens can solve many problems, but businesses must first understand what gap they need to fill and how technology will fill that gap before investing.*
“Done well, screens are stitched into the fabric of how a business operates – raising awareness, motivating, informing, alerting and guiding” (p. 58). Digital displays can be a powerful communication tool and essential to unifying employees spread across multiple locations. They must also be able to capture attention in an age where people consume information at a rapid pace.
This summary covered some of the highlights that stood out from an LED display industry perspective, but we encourage you to read the entire report for all the supporting data and expert analysis.
*Businesses that don’t have the in-house capabilities to manage devices should consider a technology partner that offers managed services. These technical teams complement existing IT personnel with specialized skills and 24/7 content management.