Collaboration has always been an important part of making government run smoothly. Sometimes, it’s collaboration between government agencies. Other times, it’s collaboration between government agencies and private companies or consortiums. In most cases, however, collaboration happens daily between employees and groups in the same organization.
It’s that third type of collaboration that has grown tremendously since the start of the pandemic, and it shows strong signs of continuing to grow as agencies adopt more permanent hybrid work structures. Agencies have begun to rely even more heavily on collaboration platforms as participants remain dispersed, especially critical features like presence, which notifies users of the availability of other participants, screen-sharing, messaging and file sharing.
But today’s changing work environment means seeing collaboration in a new light. There are new variables to contend with, like unprofessional background noises from children playing or vacuums running, and the sometimes unreliable bandwidth and Internet connections in some homes that can lead to poor audio or video quality. These factors can impact productivity and frustrate users.
Collaborating effectively across different locations and in different situations requires clear, reliable and secure communication. That means crystal clear audio and video, comfortable headsets, and more functionality for things like whiteboard sharing, panoramic views, along with an easy-to-use set-up. To improve these capabilities for employees, some agencies are investing in technology compatible with their collaboration platforms that help bridge the gap between home and office environments.
“In your home office, you might be tempted to rely on the tinny speaker on your laptop, but that’s not conducive to really hearing what other people are saying and making sure you are being heard properly,” says James Greene, Business Development Manager for the Public Sector at Jabra.
The right headsets, for example, can significantly reduce background noise and improve sound quality. The Department of Veterans Affairs, for example, uses Jabra headsets for telemedicine, which allows VA staff to conduct secure, private conversations with their patients without interruption.
New possibilities with video
The same is true of video. “If you are limited to a 3 inch x 3 inch space with your laptop camera, you don’t have the option of sharing a broader spectrum of your workspace, which you may need to do in a collaborative environment,” Greene says.
Improving video capabilities means widening views, providing more options for zooming in and out, along with other intuitive capabilities. With the right technology, for example, a user can move around the office space and the camera will follow her movements, continually keeping her framed.
Users also can take advantage of picture-in-picture, enabling them to communicate with someone on one side of the frame while focusing in on a widget to explain how it works on the other side. This would work extremely well in an agency like the VA, which could use the technology to demonstrate the proper way to stretch to a patient.
With advanced video capabilities, whiteboards also become much more useful. Advanced whiteboard sharing with a 180-degree field of view allows users to share content from up to three whiteboards digitally, toggling between them as necessary. In the picture-in-picture scenario, users also can focus the second video stream on a whiteboard, and then walk to that whiteboard and write on it.
“Collaboration between people, agencies and external parties is critical to progress throughout government, and agencies are actively looking for ways to continue collaborating effectively, despite recent events,” Greene says. “Taking a fresh look at your needs and capabilities and fixing the weak spots is a critical step in maintaining productivity and furthering progress.”