By Thomas O’Hagan, Co-founder, b4b Group

I think it is safe to say that the shape of our workplaces – especially for those of us traditionally used to office environments – has changed enormously over the past two years.

The recent years have forced us all to change our habits and for businesses, that meant adapting to ensure we were able to continue to operate as close to normal as possible at a time when staff were required to stay at home, with technology invariably acting as the enabler.

Thankfully the lockdowns are a fading memory at this stage but it hasn’t been a case of simply reverting to life before Covid, especially as employers and their staff seek to find a new model that marries their often differing wants and requirements.

In the United States, tech giants Google and Apple, among others, faced opposition from staff as they returned to the office in recent weeks, in some cases for the first time in two years.

For the most part, companies have asked workers to be physically present in the office for at least part of the week, with varying levels of flexibility for working remotely.

Global professional firms, such as PwC and Deloitte, are reported to have given people the option of working entirely from home. Law firm Stephenson Harwood made the headlines earlier this month when it made a similar offer – as long as staff took a pay cut.

It is clear that there is a growing appetite, in general, for a return to something closer to how we operated before Covid, with a perception that being in the same building as your colleagues can improve collaboration, boost productivity and positively impact mental health.

Whatever solution companies opt for, hybrid and remote working is a luxury only available due to the massive advances in technology, enabling businesses to continue to thrive in a way that wouldn’t have been imaginable even a few years ago.

We are of course now all too familiar with the ability to connect with others through Zoom and Teams, both of which appear here to stay, while some even predict that the meetings of future will take place almost entirely in the metaverse.

The working population at large is now totally accustomed to an environment that allows working and communicating together across multiple teams and locations, between the office and the home, without significant hindrance.

Even our politicians became used to working remotely (some might say ‘at least they were working’) as Assembly sessions and committee meetings were conducted online.

Over the course of the pandemic and our emergence from it, solutions such as Unified Communications have played a prominent role in unlocking the power of collaboration among increasingly dispersed teams.

This integrates communications channels, from traditional voice calls to emails, instant messaging between staff content and screen sharing all from single usable interface or management system.

The way we were forced to adapt throughout the pandemic has deepened the appreciation for how tech can be used to empower our teams and facilitate how our businesses and staff operate. No longer a niche understanding, this is now mainstream and the future of our workplaces will never be the same.