Sept. 26, 2020

How Is the Pandemic Changing Workplace Communications?

How Is the Pandemic Changing Workplace Communications?

Ryan chats with Irwin Lazar, VP and services director at Nemertes Research about emerging communication trends in the remote work era.

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If every day feels like another round of conference call bingo, you're not alone. 

There's no doubt that video conferencing and collaboration tools have been critical for helping businesses support remote productivity. But fully digital communication still presents both technological and cultural challenges for many.

In this episode, Ryan chats with Irwin Lazar, VP and services director at Nemertes Research. Irwin's primary research areas include unified communications, video/audio/web conferencing, team collaboration, and business value measurement. 

Discussion topics include:

  • Creative ways companies are engaging employees at home
  • Trends in unified comms and conferencing technologies
  • What might become of the open-plan office
  • And more!

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Click here for the episode transcript
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Ryan Purvis  0:00  
Hello, and welcome to the digital workspace works podcast. I'm Ryan Purvis, your host supported by producer Heather Bicknell. In this series, you'll hear stories and opinions from experts in their field story from the frontlines, the problems they face and how they solve them. The years they're focused on from technology, people and processes to the approaches they took, they'll help you to get to the script for the digital workspace inner workings.

So, welcome to the podcast. Oh, very nice to have you here. If you would mind, just give me a quick introduction.

Irwin Lazar  0:38  
Sure. Hi, I'm Irwin Lazar Vice President and service director with a company called numerous research. The company is based in Chicago, Illinois, in the US, we're about 18 years old. We spend our time gathering data from end user organizations and trying to understand why why are they spending the money they spend? What technologies are they investing in? What business value? Are they realizing out of that? I've been an analyst now for about 14 years. Prior to that my background was in network engineering. And I've started covering the transition from Digital Voice to voice over IP, and now the broader transition into unified communications and team collaboration, video meetings, and so on.

Ryan Purvis  1:17  
Right, it's great. If you tell me based on your research, in your opinion, what digital workspace means to you?

Irwin Lazar  1:22  
Yeah, so we call it the research area that I live in digital workplace or digital workspace, depending on what term you prefer. And we kind of see two primary components. One is the real time communication collaboration piece. So that's things like voice, video, team collaboration, team messaging applications, along with the hardware and support and security and all the things you need to make those those platforms work. And then the second part is kind of the non real time collaboration application. So things like email and social platforms and white whiteboarding, and portals and tools that allow people to find information that are essentially internet or intranet alternatives. So we kind of try and cross both of those spaces within digital workplace, a digital workspace.

Ryan Purvis  2:12  
Okay, and have you found this has changed with with COVID-19? Well, that's an education.

Irwin Lazar  2:17  
Wow, it is been a sea change. So the two biggest obviously, the big trend is everyone can work from home largely is working from home now. So we have seen, we just published some data showing about 90% of companies now are using video, which is unheard of, you know, pre COVID. We're seeing a large jump in the use of team collaboration applications, we're seeing companies starting to invest essentially speeding up a lot of plans, they had migrating to cloud, looking at social platforms, and, you know, trying to solve two problems. The first is, how do I get people up and running and productive right away? And then how do I get them engaged? A lot of what I'm starting to think about, from a research perspective and working with our clients is, you know, how do you manage remote workers? How do you make sure that their contributions are seen and they feel like they're still part of a team, and they can build relationships, and it's really difficult for a lot of people when they're suddenly no longer, you know, seeing their co workers participating in active discussions and so on.

Ryan Purvis  3:15  
I think we are a tribal species you like to be politics and feel feel part of something even though you may be a daily call? I don't think you get the same back over video.

Irwin Lazar  3:29  
Yeah, definitely, we're seeing a lot of one of the data points we have is about 60% of companies are using video for non meetings. So we're doing talk to a company other day that did a wine tasting, you know, they had a they brought in a sommelier and they sent out a car, an email to everyone and said, Here are the wines you need to buy. And here's the food you should have for cleansing the palate, between different glasses and so on. I've seen companies implement training courses, health and fitness classes, morning yoga, all different ways that it can again, get people who are working from home not feel that, you know, I'm here by myself and I'm just sitting in an office for 10 hours a day staring at a screen.

Ryan Purvis  4:10  
Yeah, that's that's the problem is is that you basically sits in this new cubicle to have one home with a dining table that shaves face and everybody else. And you don't ever leave home unless you physically get out. But then it's still you don't have that line between going to work today. We're gonna work for eight 910 hours and then coming home is all the same in the same place.

Irwin Lazar  4:33  
Yeah, home is your workplace now and or you work in a virtual office with a background like it like I have here. And you do a thing. Yeah. And you know, the other point that I found kind of interesting in reading some research by a sociologist is that there's a big difference in how different generations and different people react to working from home. So older people that are more established that have lots of things outside of work, they love it, you know, I don't have to be in a car. for two hours a day, I can go do things with my kids or family. younger folks who are newer to the workforce, who are really, you know, they really want to get going and make a name for themselves are struggling, because, again, they don't feel like their work is being noticed. They're not able to build those bonds and mentor relationships and so on that they were hoping, you know, to be able to do as they start their careers.

Ryan Purvis  5:22  
And I think as an industry thinks that as well, certainly industry that's very expected to be behind a desk, you know, as much as possible to be shown to be working more like a trainer mentality or supporting as a hardware they happen in the office is, is optimized for, you know, low latency lines. And in 10 screens, you can see what's what's going on in the markets and all that kind of stuff. Whereas the average knowledge worker needs a laptop, and maybe a second screen. A decent chair and desk.

Irwin Lazar  5:53  
Yeah, we've seen in our research, a transition in how organizations are thinking about the home worker that, you know, April, March, April, May was the panic time, get everybody home, get them up and running, you know, deal with getting them the right applications, and now you're starting to see more of an effort around? What do they need? How do I optimize that experience? Do I give them a better camera? Do I give them a better headset? Do I send a second monitor? How do I manage their environment? So I have visibility into it? Because from an IT perspective, you know, you never really worried about home workers, it was always best effort. That really can't work today, when everyone or at least a large percentage of the workforce is now at home.

Ryan Purvis  6:33  
Yeah, and I remember sitting in a meeting with a whole bunch of heads of offices that are buying laptops from anywhere they could find them near a computer shop, what have you got? Okay, we'll take them on the stick as long as we can give our guys something to work with, which is really scary, you know, lack of planning or lack of forward thinking, if you like,

Irwin Lazar  6:55  
yeah, so a lot of companies are in cost cutting mode. And they were implementing Thin Client type approaches where they put a very, you know, low level piece of hardware at everybody's desk and a monitor. And, you know, those devices cost a couple hundred bucks. They're easy to manage. So they're running as a Citrix thin client software or something like that. And it worked great, you know, people in the office, but not so well. And suddenly, they had to go home, I talked to one company who, you know, they put in an order for 17,000 laptops, because their entire workforce is now at home. And they didn't, you know, they didn't have laptops in the office.

Ryan Purvis  7:31  
You think that means that he made a great focus on VDI technology? I mean, obviously, Microsoft has the web apps as they compete. What do you think people go back to having laptops as well.

Irwin Lazar  7:45  
I think it'll be a hybrid.

I think you'll see you know, the approach a lot of folks were using was putting VDI onto those laptops, so you can continue to maintain the existing environment. The challenge often with VDI is supporting real time applications like voice and video, you have to locally process that you can't send raw voice over the over a VDI connection. And you know, most of the VDI applications now are designed to support local voice and video, but we are seeing that organizations are looking at and going, you know, does it really make sense for that we're you know, if we're using an app like zoom or Microsoft Teams or something like that, do I really want to back all that traffic of VDI? Or do I want to spin it off at the local the person's local internet connection. So you're starting to see a lot of interest in using like security, cloud security brokers and split tunneling approaches that allow you to send traffic, corporate app traffic, maybe goes back over the VDI, but video conferencing and things like that might live outside or in just on a browser, local

Ryan Purvis  8:51  
security concerns, you know, do you trust the platform and obviously zooms head and stuff in the news about some of the the concerning elements, but there's complexity with the timing, because this is going to have a level of intelligence and and also reliance on the on the residential network. How good is that connection?

Irwin Lazar  9:12  
Yeah, I've talked to companies that are putting agents out remotely, some that are putting routers in people's homes. You know, a lot of the other problem they're also trying to solve is making sure that that home connection works. And if you've got a spouse who's also working from home, who's also on video, and you've got kids that are using Xbox or doing distance learning are so on and you run into significant contention issues potentially in the home as well. as, you know, a lot of most people don't know, you know, how to optimize Wi Fi in the home. So they've got dead spots, and they've got, you know, to 2.4 and five gig hertz networks, they really don't even know what the difference is between them and, you know, they haven't adequately placed router sourcing among organizations that have have had the highest success and how we measure success. They tend to take a much more proactive approach towards helping their workers optimize the home networking experience. Now,

Ryan Purvis  10:05  
I remember having a conversation 40 years ago where we were because what am I sort of moments was it was in movies from physical to media. And then using the data we've been collecting using an agent to manage the experience. And using automation based on that data to try and fix things. So, like performance and heart, you know, performance, things like killing an application should do it resource, restarting the machine regularly, notifying the use of outages, and we actually discuss how we that line to how far automations could go. So if we now starting to touch the BYOD device, you know, installing agents on the desktop, or giving them the application that can run on their desktop? You know, can we do that? And I think the conversation now has changed, too. We have to do that. There's no good we should be? Oh, yeah, yeah.

Irwin Lazar  10:52  
Yeah. Again, that's that was the approach, like I said, it was panic, you know, get everybody home, get them up and running, grab whatever device you have at the house, you know, again, for organizations where they weren't already providing laptops to workers, especially true for, you know, remote contact center agents, and so on.

Ryan Purvis  11:07  
So when you do research, you need to speak to these vendors only with these customers, other people.

Irwin Lazar  11:13  
Yeah. So we work with a mix of vendors and enterprises. Our research is solely based on buyer side. So we go out to the users of technology, or even business leaders, depending on what it is we're studying. But most of the research I do, I'm talking to people who have direct buying responsibility, operational responsibility or involvement in communication, collaboration, digital workplace applications.

Ryan Purvis  11:36  
Okay. And then what's the general trend now do you think is kind of the obvious order to deal with right now. But now we see some countries going back to normal, but they're starting to relax. Lock downs, and the future work has now changed completely?

Irwin Lazar  11:52  
Yeah. So I think companies that we're talking to are starting to wrestle with, do I bring people back? And if so, in what fashion? The consensus majority opinion is, we're not going back to the way things were before. No one, we're not just saying, Oh, I work from home. That was fun. while it lasted, everybody comes back, they've discovered it works, they discovered, you know, the new digital workspace is the home in many cases, and again, a large segment of the population are more effective, more efficient, and prefer to work from home. So I think at least in the short term, it becomes now. Okay, what do we do when for those who do want to come back? Or those who feel like they need to come back on a partial basis? So the conversations we're having with our clients now are looking at things like, how do I control density in the workplace. So I go to a we work type approach where you have to register, you have to put in a request to come into the office or sign out a slot. Now, I only allow 50 people to come in on a given day, once they're in the office, how do we make sure they stay spaced out? What does that mean for conference rooms and conference rooms anymore to tear those out and put in one or two, three person type workspaces? How do I deal with the private the thorny privacy issues of what if I've had somebody in the office and the test positive? Ideally, I would have loved to have known who they came into contact with. So I can notify individuals or do that, again, in a way that ensures privacy meets here in the US, we have something called HIPAA very much limits what you can share about somebody's medical condition. So those are a lot of the thorny issues, starting to see some vendors attacking the space. Cisco, as an example, introduced a tool that allows you to schedule cleaning times for your video conference systems, a lot of interest in touch list, any microbial coded devices. And then I was talking recently to another vendor who is developing a, essentially a mobile checklist. So before you come in the office, you have to open up the mobile app and answer a bunch of health questions. And if the if the AI engine says, You know what, you probably shouldn't be coming in the office today, they would then you know, tell you to go home and maybe get a COVID test.

Ryan Purvis  14:03  
I've seen some other ones which, which allow you to sort of navigate the office as well. So when you come into the office, you can book your desk, and then it gives you a route to take to your desk. And then obviously it's catered for gaps. And then you know, you know, there's a gap and then another desk gap, trimming three desks. And then also looking at sort of increasing the intelligence of the building. So you know, in a peer to that point in time, temperature, the building current people will be in the building where people are traveling from so you've got an idea or hotspots, people go to hotspots coming in. But then also the logistics of if I'm going to be in the office, and I want to meet Joe is Joe gonna be in the office as well. Hey, I just want to come in that day and wait for Joe is coming next Tuesday. So I'll wait till next Tuesday.

Irwin Lazar  14:51  
Yeah, and you know, even thinking about mentioned video, you know, where our working assumption now going forward is. People aren't going to go back to the car. For him, so if I do have say, you know, 30% of my workforce that's come back into the office, and they are having meetings, they're still sitting at their desk. And they're using desktop video. And they're, they're putting additional demands on the network for bandwidth and performance to support that. So I may need to start to rethink about, rethink how I define how I build my network. So we're seeing the companies are looking at their Wi Fi strategies to make sure they have adequate coverage, and they don't over saturate the wireless points, looking at potential upgrades of wind bandwidth, or taking advantage of technologies that optimize that way in connection and certainly adding internet access for the access to the cloud providers. So yeah, I think that's the great unknown. You know, I think obviously, different parts of the world are moving at different paces here in the US who kind of got back to square one. But we're, you know, I think you in Europe are moving forward a little a little more quickly. So our next round of research we're launching in about a month is going to look quite a bit at where where people's heads are at right now, in terms of what that future office looks like.

Ryan Purvis  16:06  
Yeah, yeah. Do you have any thoughts? So in thinking about the future of the club?

Irwin Lazar  16:11  
Yeah, again, I think it'd be a hybrid, I think you're gonna see a segment of the population that wants to go back. I think from a spacing standpoint, people are going to be more spaced out, I think we finally have probably killed the Open Office concept of jamming, you know, 200 people into a space design for 50. And again, I think people are going to, you know, shun getting into a meeting room and sitting face to face for our long two hour long meetings. Yeah.

Ryan Purvis  16:38  
And I've always hated the office, I think it was one of the worst decisions ever made. If you read a book called people were,

Irwin Lazar  16:46  
no, I'm not familiar with that. It's worth reading.

Ryan Purvis  16:49  
Live as it was published in the 70s, or 80s. But it talks about all these things that we're going to go through now, around, you know, production people and giving them this space, especially if you're if you're a knowledge worker, you need time to think and to develop content and to work on things you have kills all that because of the noise and the disruption. And you know, you need, you can have an office of three or four people. I think six was like the sort of Max, that can also if you've got development teams working together, and that's a good case unit that needs to work together. And it gives you the benefit of everyone's weekends and music, be quiet. But also, if you need to talk about stuff, some people need to talk about their stuff all together in the collective. And you can move them around if you need to look at yours. But it's worth reading, if you enjoy that kind of stuff.

Irwin Lazar  17:38  
Excellent. My, my favorite stat that I heard is one of ours. And I apologize, I can't remember where it came from. But there was an organization, it might have been published in Harvard Business Review that studied interaction between people in open offices. And they found that messaging traffic went way up, when you were in an open office, because you were looking around and everybody had their headsets on everybody had their head in their computer, you didn't want to bother him. So you didn't go, you know, kind of tapped me on the shoulder for a second where if they're sitting in queues, or they're sitting in offices, you can kind of you know, peek in and see if they can, if they can. So yeah, with 30 40% increases in messaging traffic for people working in open offices, which is completely counterintuitive to what you expect. I never forget

Ryan Purvis  18:17  
the for a guy with a good friend of mine now. And we sit right next to each other. So he cannot be here. And we email each other to go for lunch. We get up and leave. And we start with how ridiculous this was. But he noticed everyone around you. And I think this is just before the days of public. You met Scott. And then obviously the link came up then we started using that to do it. But it was a ridiculous thing of this low and he just didn't have anybody and those in the offices. But when we moved into an office, a few people that it was Hey, we go for lunch, let's go for lunch. And the communication was just say just right. But it was a bit more open.

Irwin Lazar  18:55  
Yeah, it's like texting your kids when they're sitting on the couch across from you. I've done that.

Ryan Purvis  19:03  
Yeah, they wanted to ask you so. So I mean, what are the things that you've seen now? I mean, obviously, a big thing for wellness for tea. Tea, I think the most used quote now as of 2020. Is your amuse been pretty well, I mean, what are you guys seeing from from talking to what are they looking for? Beyond the sort of obvious thing that there anything?

Irwin Lazar  19:24  
Yeah, so obviously, like I mentioned earlier, you know, we see tremendous uptake in video. More than 91% of companies now they're using it, we found almost 30% of companies that say the video is used for every meeting, we found a similar percentage that said that they viewed video as a critical application, meaning that they have to have it up and running. They have to ensure that it has high quality, performance as well as availability. And again, this is just a sea change from you know where the networking mindset was that years ago where you just really hope nobody ever turned video on. So I think you know videos as replaced Not replaced. But I don't know how we ever would have survived this epidemic with work from home without, you know, apps like zoom and teams and WebEx and others, if we were still in an email and audio conferencing world that the productivity levels would have fallen off. Again, I think what people are looking at now is what other tools can I bring into that digital workspace to allow people to collaborate more effectively. So the missing piece right now is ideation, you know, you, you get a bunch of people in a meeting, it's really designed for conversation, and maybe sharing a PowerPoint, something like that. But it's not really useful for folks that have sit around and work on developing something together. So I've seen a lot of interest in digital, virtual whiteboard applications, like mural mural, blue scape, and dozens more others that are out there. So that's a space we're starting to watch a little more closely. And then, you know, kind of more than a HR, I guess, aspect of work from home and making sure that you can track productivity and manage people and make sure that they feel like they are on a solid career trajectory.

Ryan Purvis  21:05  
So Jay, you mentioned that Rdh to so we get the seal. And we were very much culture being in the office as much as possible and 75 days a week for brainstorming, you know, with a whiteboard and the rest of it. And we're feeding that now, when we were doing our calls on the stuff, we're just not getting the, the you know that having sometimes it's taking maybe 50% longer or even hundred percent longer. You mentioned sort of the most common apps, what are the thoughts? Or are you seeing anything around AR VR or anything like that, that could help this process.

Irwin Lazar  21:43  
Um, we're seeing interest in AI. So using things like AI to improve the meeting experience both example, Google came out with some filters that will automatically improve the experience. Polly's had some capabilities that are better for centering and then doing lighting and so on. Developing transcription, developing highlights, BlueJeans has a really cool thing called note taking within a meeting, you can, you know, click on something, say, Hey, I really want to protect this for preserve this, make some comments and come back to it later on exporting information out of the meetings like transcripts and action items, and so on. So I think that that area is really exciting. We we asked about AI, we asked about virtual reality, we found roughly about 3% of our 528 Global participants had interests are we using applications, typically things like Oculus or Microsoft Halo, either for proof of concepts for training, for remote tours for talk to one company in the real estate business. I've talked to companies that are Boeing has a project, they've been working on Microsoft that they publicly talked about to use Halo for training airplane, or engine mechanics or airplane engine mechanics. So you're starting to see some use cases, but a lot of it is still we're not really entirely sure what we're going to do with this. There have also been efforts over the years when Second Life got hot, I guess about eight years ago or so to say, you know, maybe we should make a virtual reality meeting space where people can have an avatar and go in, those have kind of fizzled have, I had one that really didn't succeed. I've talked to some companies, they're doing some things with Oculus. You know, it's, it's a challenge, I think, for people to sit and it's hard enough to stare at a screen all day. But now wearing virtual reality goggles and not really sure where you are, if you had the chance to use it those platforms, when you take those goggles off, it's really disorienting. For a couple minutes, I'd say that there will be some specialty use cases, but probably not, you know, something that will be a common way that people need to communicate.

Ryan Purvis  23:52  
Yeah, I have seen some examples of specific training a with a sort of a briefcase with its own mobile computer, and then you've got maybe, you know, eight or 10 headsets, and then you can use it to go to their training, let's say it's a fire safety briefing or whatever it is. And they can use the room, they can use the units and do it. And those some now mean, not necessarily completely made flexible to be operated in on individual side. But the theory is that you could actually distribute each headset and people need to get me to use it and connect over a decent thing it over WiFi but over connection to do the thing at home as much as we've done in the training room. Yeah. I've seen one or two knobs on there, but not many.

Irwin Lazar  24:43  
Yeah, and I've seen some, you know, let me see what you see type scenario. So if I'm inspecting a oil pipeline, or a manufacturing plant or something like that, and I'm wearing a say a halo or Google Glass was the use case for this. Somebody is sitting back in a control room can can see what it is that I'm seeing And direct me to you know, hey, don't cut that wire cut this one or something like that.

Ryan Purvis  25:04  
Yeah, definitely. Yeah, I mean, I think there's a good there's a great use case there with the CRTs, where you're looking at a component, there's some level of recognition to what you're looking at and the outcome that you need, when the instruction manual that you need goes to section and says, okay, for this component, you need to cut up and read or disconnect in that order. And then you can work with otherwise, you know, your risk file, whatever it is, yeah, almost doing some of that thinking that you need to do before you actually get there. Yeah, definitely.

Unknown Speaker  25:36  

Ryan Purvis  25:38  
Um, what was your your sort of feeling with looking each country? I mean, you've obviously first of all technology. In some countries, you've got third world technology and others. I mean, is there is there a level of third world catching up because of this almost leapfrogging because they didn't have the legacy infrastructure?

Unknown Speaker  25:56  
Um, definitely, yeah,

Irwin Lazar  25:57  
definitely. Especially when you think about video. And in order to have decent quality video sessions, you need bandwidth, and you need, you know, videos, that hard technology, it's a lot of bandwidth plus reliable antenna performance in terms of latency and jitter. So, you know, think about some of the scenarios that some of the companies I've talked to here in the US send people home, and they live in rural areas with, with not very good internet connectivity, and they struggle. It's certainly it's been a big issue for sending students home, again, and even in developed countries. So imagine it's even exacerbated in underdeveloped countries, when you think about so many companies have moved r&d type efforts into some of the underdeveloped parts of the world that imagine that it's not something I've directly researched, but I would imagine they're struggling a little bit more. And I think that may also decide who comes back to the office, you know, if you're living in a remote part of the of your country, and you don't have real solid internet connectivity, you know, you're probably more likely to head back to the office when that option arises.

Ryan Purvis  27:00  
Because you're pretty far less they also have space limitations having a sponsor work in the household. Yeah, your apartment. I mean, I think like Singapore, UK, if you live in the city, you instantly have this space to work continue, continue every day for 12 hours, maybe? Not too late, but certainly not.

Irwin Lazar  27:22  
Yeah. And I think, you know, again, when you're thinking about contention with if you have kids or spouses working, it's one of the big reasons I think virtual backgrounds have become so popular, because so many people are just working at ad hoc spaces in their home and, you know, not in the nice fancy home office.

Ryan Purvis  27:36  
Definitely. Did you see anything in the research around people's working times, if they if they shifted their days to suit all integrated, they're working?

Irwin Lazar  27:45  
Not in our research, but I've read some other studies that have said that the workday is on average length, and people are working more hours at home, I think that's fair. I've been working from home I mentioned, I think, for about 14 years, and it's hard to turn off, it's hard to walk away and close the door, had a manager I worked for, when I was at a company called Burton group, who, you know, he told me that look, the secret of successful working from home is set up in basement, and then you know, whatever quitting time is 536 o'clock, don't go back down there. I have not followed that rule at all. So I have my home office set up in a spare bedroom. And you know, the last thing I do before I go to bed is sit back down and check messages and email and respond to things. And, you know, it's really probably the worst activity to do. Between that and mobile devices. You know, there's that expectation, I think that people are always connected and always reachable. I have heard that people have shifted, and I've seen this again, in our organization, other organizations I've worked with, people tend to shift to the hours that worked for them, depending on you know, if they can, so we've got people who they find their most productive from midnight to 2am and then you won't see them until you know, noon the next day. And then I've seen others and one of the beauties of work from home is that you know, people can be flexible, they can say you know what, I want to go to the gym at 10 o'clock every morning. So I want to put that into my calendar again. It all depends on whether or not you can do that in your job or if you have to be at your desk at certain hours.

Ryan Purvis  29:15  
Yeah, I mean I definitely find I've done that way to be able to say Call me at 10 o'clock in the morning which is awesome everyone get together chat with you what you're working on what you do today that kind of thing. And typically ones that calls done here before off that only other things that I want to do is personal stuff or work stuff. Where is it in pockets where like my younger son so there's time to put him down for his nap so that typically those 2000 days is me playing them to sleep and putting them down that I'll I'll work as fast as I can in that hour we need to see to Kenya to catch up which is almost more productive because I've I've had the break with him to work and then go for a walk later on. The day that not. So we'll catch up maybe an hour or two of other stuff that doesn't need anybody else to be around me to do the calls that I needed to do.

Irwin Lazar  30:09  
And think how incredible the value is of that time of being able to spend with your child and have that opportunity to put them down for a nap and so on.

Ryan Purvis  30:17  
Yeah, exactly. And this is, when I was in South Africa, it was a common thing that the company I worked for was very much like that you were, okay, look, we were more consultative and more sales. So you're either working from home and then going out to see customers, or you're in the office for a little bit, and you're still gonna see customers in New York, you know, you can balance your day, every day, most days. So when I came here, I worked for corporate, it was very different, where you expect to be in the office, sort of, you know, at six, whatever it was, and everyone was watching everyone else to see who came in early, who left late. And, you know, it was a weird social pressure. But in this view of generally valuable work, just

Irwin Lazar  31:00  
yet. Yeah, and some of the conversations I've had with folks as they've gone through this transition, that's one of from a management standpoint, one of the big shifts is that you're used to manage by when people are in the office, and you assume, you know, hey, if they're at their desk at eight o'clock in the morning, they're productive, and then they leave at six. And you know, from a new worker standpoint, maybe you wanted to make sure you were the first one and the last one out. Now you have to think about how do I measure manage people when I don't know, if they're logged in, you know, presence is not something anyone can rely on. So it then becomes more task based management, you know, so what we have done in our company is, at the end of the day, you post a list of here's what I did today, you know, so guess what my hot things are that I'm working on tomorrow. So again, you know, if I'm managing people, or my manager can see what I've accomplished during the day, that that approach tends to work a little better. And again, as long as you get your work done, I don't care if you're in the office for two hours, six hours, eight hours, whatever, I just want to make sure you're getting done what you need to get done.

Ryan Purvis  32:03  
Yeah, you're gonna have weeks where you to do 60 things, you can see the font and the size and scale, the completion of those things differ. But that's how it should be in a sense that your results are not not time driven. Yeah, definitely. So I can see, I can see, I've seen it change in my way, people that I've dealt with previously that were very much watches or factory mindset in the sense that we can show it that was very different for friends a lot of work, and it's less to do in the front line stuff.

Irwin Lazar  32:40  
Yeah, frontline workers, people are billable by our standards that consultants here in where I live outside of Washington, DC, a lot of the folks are government contractors. So they are paid based on the hours they work. So it's again, a very different approach. Do you see that

Unknown Speaker  32:56  
changing in the future? I mean, with

Ryan Purvis  32:59  
more and more risk automation out with something else?

Irwin Lazar  33:03  
Yeah, I don't think it will, just because the amount of structural change that would be required to go from a billable hour model to you know, billable work model, I think would be very difficult. Especially when you're thinking about, you know, if you're using staff augmentation, it's different if, you know, if I bring in consultants and I say, okay, go out and build me a new application, roll it out. And you know, we know when we define a project plan of six weeks, that's great. But if you're, if I'm bringing you on for support staff, and I expect that you're going to be available for eight hours a day, you know, yeah, I want to know that I'm working.

Ryan Purvis  33:36  
Yeah, he's sort of such an interesting thing that I'm also hearing is that people are less worried about waiting to live to work, longer roles that are being advertised, or even some of the groups and all that discussing I need to hire a project manager, okay, we they live, as long as they can work two days a week or five days a week. Within our timezone, it's almost okay to go, let's go a couple hours each direction, you know, maybe he trades, okay.

Irwin Lazar  34:04  
And that's one of the, you know, we're talking about where what the next six months looks like, in our study that we published about a month ago, was about 28% of companies told us that they started looking at reducing real estate. And so you know, here in the US, one of the big likely trends is people are going to move out of high rent district. So real estate in places like New York City and San Francisco and others, where the rents have been exorbitant. You know, do I really need people in those metropolitan areas anymore? Or can I hire him and you know, have them work and live out in the suburbs? Again, that you know, may require that I provide some kind of common meeting space like leveraging a wi workers or some shared workspace for when people do need to go meet in person. I think that the next six months to a year are going to be really interesting for commercial real estate around the developed world, as well as HPC. I think the two markets that are probably the ones that are going to get the most attention, I think HPC is going to be A big space to watch because of companies trying to figure out how do I make sure that there's sufficient air flows and implement UV light systems to filter air and so on. So, yeah, those are the two that I think are gonna be really exciting is the right word. But interesting.

Ryan Purvis  35:15  
There, I think there's been a few companies that have have committed to permanent work from home protocols. Now, we want to reveal not to say that you don't even come to the office, but but you can work from home without having to ask permission to work. Yeah. And when we've been talking about it, which I quite like, as a news, you know, you can call will pay for you or the company will pay for your regions card or your we were called. And you can work at the nearest one to you, or meet people at the nearest one to you that suits you. And we just slightly better use the card and anyone as opposed to we live, which is only when you're assigned to. But that idea of having satellite offices you go to when you need a day to go work or book a meeting room, rather than have this dedicated office, that could be an hour and a half commute, in fact, from you on off commute every day. Which isn't ideal. When the person I need to meet with the assessor coming down off the actual of the middle distance between us, is it in our sort of flexibilities that are logical and practical, but because of the sort of culture, you've had to go to the office, which, which has created pain?

Irwin Lazar  36:26  
Yeah, no, I think that's something that should be a rapid evolution. Imagine again, as companies are looking to save some money and revisit whether or not we need office space and be interested, like, you know, in the hospitality, space, obviously, that's been hit pretty hard by the pandemic, you know, maybe they start turning space into co working offices, and so on. So,

Ryan Purvis  36:47  
yeah, so what are the guests? Recently, we talked about that in shopping malls, good shopping, especially as African they go shopping malls, we had some really large retailers, which you would know where they were large retailers that are basically one of them go bankrupt. They've taken large for Force Base in shopping mall? And what are what do they do that because they can't get another large retailer, in take care of mobile, because it was under pressure. But turning that into a co working space, because you've got the space, you've got all the electrical point at Let me see,

Irwin Lazar  37:22  
if I'm a Starbucks, I probably would pay to build that space. You know, if I'm sitting right, you know, by that workspace.

Ryan Purvis  37:29  
I've definitely seen that here. Where were the some of the smaller coffee shops, there's some franchises or big names, have have an extra space where she now put up signs saying, come in and do your work here. Social distance, like for the stuff that has to generate that footprint, but also, it's it's a nice place to come work with eating at home.

Irwin Lazar  37:54  
Yeah, and again, that addresses the need we talked about earlier, where there are people who, for whatever reason, just prefer to be in an office. I've seen people that still go back to their office, even though there's no one there just because they like getting away from the distractions. You know, again, it just depends on your personality and your home situation. If if your kids are now toddlers and running around and you know, playing, that becomes a little bit more distracting. I've been fortunate. My kids are older now. But when they were young, they knew when the doors closed, you know, dad's on a call Do Not Disturb. Now they just come barging

Ryan Purvis  38:30  
material is done. Some lady needs to be cleaned up. Which I don't mind. I mean, she's eight months pregnant. So congratulations. Thank you. Did you in less than two months now? Six, six weeks? I think so. Yeah. So there's no way I can work at a shared office space for now. But once she's born, not after, because custody will become a route. But that's, you know, that's that's awesome. And I think the new feature in the sense that you have to, you have to find what works for you. In your job.

Irwin Lazar  39:03  
Yeah. And I think you know, going back to some of the things we're talking about earlier, it I would expect one of the follow on technology investment areas for organizations is going to be on social tools, you know, Yammer and igloo and others that, again, help people find knowledge in their organizations and bring that to the forefront. I think you just saw a couple of weeks ago that slack went out and bought a directory company that stores again, experts, it allows you to find experts in different areas, and what projects that I've worked on and so on. So, you know, as you're thinking about this model of I'm working from home most of the time, or I'm spending a handful of time in a office or in a shared workspace, you know, again, how do I interact with people and then that's, to me the you know, the biggest question going forward is how do organizations establish some potential competitive advantage by improving the way people can find information within their companies and engage with one another? So, yes, enterprise social No one knows technology's been around forever. no going back to jive and Atlassian and so many others and then kind of faded away. And now it seems to be potentially poised for a little bit of a comeback.

Ryan Purvis  40:10  
But you mentioned portals earlier, I think that's one of the things is having a place to go to find everything. As you find everything across the enterprise, but having a focus, Paul tells you all the it stuff and the focus for the HR stuff and and when they tend to do is have them all part of one big pool, which creates this minutia that you have to navigate. But you do have to have something that that's and it's going to be simple. I think that's the problem is convoluted.

Irwin Lazar  40:38  
Yeah, and you want to avoid redundancy. So I've talked to companies like IBM that has a really interesting digital workplace, or workspace product. And you know, those vendors and I mentioned a company called igloo, and they're trying to figure out, you know, we want to not replace, say, a Microsoft Teams in a large company, but we want to integrate that into so it becomes almost like Facebook, and Facebook is a really good example of workplace bringing more of a social ish, socialistic, very different social type. environment for that people can work in very much like consumer, Facebook. So you're bringing to the front information people need to know versus ads, you're integrating with the real time, collaboration capabilities, video messaging, meeting calling. And that may, I think those kind of applications are probably poised for some pretty significant growth, again, as a means of overcoming isolation in the workplace.

Ryan Purvis  41:34  
Yeah, I think isolation is the key, I think we can solve that problem. And then you mentioned this as well, in the sense that because you work from home, you can do certain things that you couldn't do if you're commuting. So like in South Africa, you play sport every weekend, during the weekend and the weekends, because you can eat wasn't that bad. And typically, the sports were around, we worked, we live it, it was all kind of in the same thing. I found that very different in the UK, where you commuting an hour and a half each way. So you don't have the time and you can't necessarily so far away from your two locations, and you can't commit to support one location or the other, it becomes quite a difficult thing to arrange. But being known that you'd be home sort of three days a week, so I'm happy as realtors make sure the days of this practices, I'll be at home and the data that the operators have in the office, and you've got that flexibility. And definitely, I do need to run to see what's happened downstairs is that you want to share?

Irwin Lazar  42:30  
Um, no, again, I think, you know, we're just kind of in a state of flux, all the plan, all the best laid plans are going to default to what the virus decides it wants to do. You know, and a lot of the plans that people were talking about even a month or two ago, are changing rapidly. So, you know, I think companies just need to make sure that they're being agile, flexible. We're seeing it here in the United States, where a lot of schools that are planning going back in the fall are now canceling that because of the outbreak of the growth of the virus. And I've seen some other countries so I think preaching flexibility and patience is probably a good thing at this point. So

Ryan Purvis  43:06  
when people find you look, your

Irwin Lazar  43:09  
best way to get me is on twitter at I am la ZA are

Ryan Purvis  43:13  
great stuff and LinkedIn soon as well.

Irwin Lazar  43:16  
Yeah, LinkedIn are one of those are great stuff.

Ryan Purvis  43:19  
And thanks for your time.

Irwin Lazar  43:20  
Thank you as well and gratulations on the new arrival. Thank you very much, people.

Ryan Purvis  43:29  
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Irwin LazarProfile Photo

Irwin Lazar

Vice President & Service Director

Irwin Lazar develops and manages research projects, conducts and analyzes primary research, and advises enterprise and vendor clients on technology strategy, adoption and business metrics, Mr. Lazar is responsible for benchmarking the adoption and use of emerging technologies in the digital workplace, covering enterprise communications and collaboration as an industry analyst for over 20 years.
A Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) and sought-after speaker and author, Mr. Lazar is a blogger for and contributor for writing on topics including team collaboration, UC, cloud, adoption, SD-WAN, CPaaS, WebRTC, and more. He is a frequent resource for the business and trade press and is a regular speaker at events such as Enterprise Connect, InfoComm, and FutureIT. In 2017 he was recognized as an Emerging Technologies Fellow by the IMCCA and InfoComm.
Mr. Lazar’s earlier background was in IP network and security architecture, design, and operations where he advised global organizations and held direct operational responsibility for worldwide voice and data networks.
Mr. Lazar holds an MBA from George Mason University and a Bachelor of Business Administration in Management Information Systems from Radford University where he received a commission as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army Reserve, Ordnance Corps. He is a Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP). Outside of Nemertes, Mr. Lazar has been active in Scouting for over ten years and serves as the Chartered Organization Representative for Scouts BSA Troop 1882 in Haymarket VA.