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Wednesday, Dec 11th

Communication Tools that Think

Communication Tools that Think.

Plantronics expanded its portfolio of wireless headsets for Unified Communications (UC).

Long gone are the days when we shut down our computers or send calls to voicemail when the clock strikes five. Our work and private life is one big melting pot. We take client calls from the car, consult with the boss while on the treadmill at the gym and socialise at work through social media channels. What do all these activities have in common? Background noise. And the great challenges to productivity and happiness with it all around us while working.

Working nomads

According to recent European research by Plantronics, manufacturer of innovative communication solutions, four out of five employees in the office experience undesired background noise. This is a troubling number. Complaints about phone calls, noisy colleagues and noise coming from communal areas are some of the most common issues. But sound is everywhere. During the day, workers carry out different type of work at many different places. We are becoming working nomads: itinerant workers with a smartphone, laptop and Unified Communications solutions at the ready. Do you want to keep your modern worker productive and efficient? Unfortunately, according to the same research, support of this sort (even when highlighted to HR) is done just a little or not at all. A missed opportunity for the importance of having satisfied employees cannot be emphasised enough. It is time to support them.

Smart tools

The first trend to dive into is that of the growing popularity of headsets. By integrating advanced technology with hardware, communication becomes possible anytime and anywhere and headsets are getting smarter, they are starting to think along with us.

Last month, Plantronics introduced the very first stereo Bluetooth-headset with active noise cancellation for employees that want to concentrate and not get disturbed: the Voyager Focus UC. A technological achievement, for noise and background sounds are actively suppressed. This headset is clearly designed with the end user in mind. It is wireless, has a perfect fit, can simultaneously connect to a smartphone and a laptop and is fully compatible with Skype, Skype for Business and most UC platforms including Cisco, Avaya and Unify. Thanks to the Class 1 Bluetooth you can roam up to 30 meters from your device. Smart sensors know when the headset is being worn or not and can be used to simply take or reject a call. In addition the Smart Mic can alert you if you are still on mute or not in a conversation. Smart headsets such as the Voyager Focus UC have a positive impact on effective communication and collaboration, both inside and outside the office. They are a boost for one's productivity.

Integrating communication resources

The next step involves integrating the different means of communications so that everything can be managed through one application. Unified Communications (UC) is one of the most important solutions. UC increases the mobility and flexibility of employees, improves collaboration and eliminates the need to use fixed desk phones.

Unified Communications includes the integration of presence, e-mails, calendars, meetings and chats or Instant Messaging with various communication resources such as a PC, smartphone or tablet. The advantage is that information flow can be managed more directly, time can be saved and the dependency on location or a single device can be eliminated. Special UC-tools, such as the Voyager Focus UC, support this form of communication with hands-free convenience and professional sounding audio quality. This ensures a clear and fast way of communicating, and ultimately a more efficient business operation – keeping employees more than happy because they can choose their own favourite communication tools. 

Smarter Working

Now that the tools and infrastructure have been addressed, it is time to discuss the working environment. Many offices do not take distracting background noise and the need for flexibility into account when designing the workspace. Definitely a misstep, since it is known that noise can cause stress, has a psychological impact and can dramatically reduce productivity.1 In an optimal workspace there is room to communicate, concentrate, collaborate and contemplate. By controlling the acoustics these four zones can be established to meet the requirement to match work to suitable workspace. This can be achieved for instance by "Soundscaping," which measures how sounds at the office are perceived and how it can be improved.

Smarter Working Offices are increasingly popping out of the ground in South Africa. Well-known examples of companies that have already been designed according to the smart principles. Plantronics is in the midst of building a new headquarters in Hoofddorp according to the Cradle-to-Cradle principles, which create a healthy and inspiring working environment where flexibility and optimum residual value of the building are its starting points.  

Office of the future

Smarter working initiatives and smart office design developments are gaining fast traction. Expectations are that firms are only getting smaller: the need for workplaces is less when employees can also work from home or on the road. Today's worker carries around the office of the future in their pocket or bag. Whether you're walking, running, sitting or lying down, as human workstations, productivity travels with us everywhere when using smart communication tools and smarter working skills.

1. Opinion Matters surveyed organisations employing over 250 employees in the UK, Germany and France (1000 per region) in February 2015

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