Advancing the Workplace: 4 Ways Telepresence Robots Fuel Hybrid Work


May 12, 2021

By Youssef Saleh, Ava Robotics

With the rollout of vaccines and nicer weather in play, businesses are building and iterating on plans for hybrid collaboration and operations. These plans have to account for employees, customers and clients, as well as existing workspaces and systems.

Acceptance and adoption of remote work mean telepresence robots are here to stay

Perceived business needs and history have not been welcoming to remote work. But if there’s anything the past year has taught us, it’s that work can and will happen in a more fluid fashion. Options and advancements for distributed teams have been sitting on a shelf for too long, especially considering the global nature of many businesses.

Telepresence robots are among the smart adoptions and technologies to promote a full continuum of collaboration. IT teams have reworked their day-to-day, and managers are finding that it is becoming more of a standard expectation for both new and existing employees to have flexibility and capability around remote work. Beyond employees and internal teams, customers, prospects, clients, consultants, and more fuel the need for better access, mobility, and experience. 

As enablers for hybrid work, telepresence robots offer unique opportunities to extend collaboration technology in four primary ways that advance: mobility, choice, systems integration, and workplace design.

Ava Map plan design

Bringing independent mobility to telepresence goes beyond “video conferencing on wheels.”

1) Offering safe, autonomous mobility

Giving people the ability to move autonomously, safely, and effectively through a physical space is powerful. Not only do some telepresence robots have sensors for cliff detection and collision avoidance, they also don’t have to be driven in order to move from point to point. More natural movement can make the difference between engagement and disengagement. Being able to walk through spaces, move closer to join a spontaneous conversation, or position yourself for a better view, unlocks a new level of virtual access to people, space, and content. 

Fully autonomous telepresence robots take the stress away from both users and on-site participants by moving how and when it makes the most sense for the situation, whether it be a guided tour of a hospital, an all-hands meeting, a new product demo, or a quality control check on a factory floor. Bringing independent mobility to telepresence goes beyond “video conferencing on wheels.” It opens doors to experience collaboration and facilitates communication in more natural, nimble ways that give people a sense of autonomy.

2) Promoting choice and well-being

Interaction and human connection hold limitless value for overall balance and quality of life. There has been an ongoing discussion since the onset of the pandemic regarding the juxtaposition of productivity and mental health as protocols and rapidly evolving situations form our experience in the workplace. A new light is being shined on how happiness, wellness, and a sense of owning experiences drive better work environments and outcomes.

Once a business determines its initial approaches for return to work, the ability to work where and how it best suits the individual will prevail as a business priority, challenge, and opportunity. Telepresence robots bring the opportunity to satisfy a range of desires and expectations to fruition. Empowering people to be present, spontaneous, and in control of their workplace interactions is both an operational and cultural draw.

Baby Telepresence

3) Integrating seamlessly with systems and tools you already have

Telepresence robots don’t add complexity to the workplace. Getting up and running shouldn’t require a significant investment of time or resources, new tech stack items, or extensive user training. Telepresence robots should always be compatible with any standards-based video conferencing infrastructure and Wi-Fi connection. Ideally, video-conferencing technology is already built-in, so there is no need to integrate or source video conferencing capabilities.

These smart robots also map out space, can be scheduled to safely navigate to defined destinations, and continuously learn more about the space as it is being used. When sessions are complete, they return to the dock to charge. There should never be any additional requirements needed to complete this process whenever someone wants to teleport into your space.

4) Flowing with iterative workplace design

As offices open, a premium level of responsibility will be expected. In addition to cleanliness, consideration and utilization of space are top-of-mind. Many offices, for example, have chosen to flip a 70/30 split of office and common space on its head. Designing for social distancing but also realizing that there will be more remote collaboration, drives a more iterative, modular approach to workplace design.

With more open space, employees will still need to participate in meetings without large screens. Touchless doors are also increasing in workplaces. These conditions set the stage for autonomous robots to thrive and extend virtual capabilities across the board, from sales to HR to engineering, and much more.

Collaboration moving forward

Collaboration is on a continuum: phones to email to social media to video calling to practical teleportation through mobile telepresence—and beyond. Telepresence robots are not simply a response to temporary conditions. They empower and enable people and processes within workplaces. 

Hybrid work has been coveted long before the pandemic forced our hands. Telepresence robots mobilize hybrid collaboration, providing people with the agency and lasting presence necessary to customize and improve the way we work.

About the author: Youssef Saleh is the CEO and co-founder of Ava Robotics.

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