"In the wrong hands, it can be a worst nightmare," said one panelist.

Claudia Adrien

April 14, 2022

4 Min Read
ai
shutterstock

CHANNEL PARTNERS CONFERENCE & EXPO, LAS VEGAS — Costa Chatjiantoniou, head of sales, cloud and hosted services, at Sherweb, tells the story of his wife’s transition to hybrid work. The pandemic created a two-year backlog of clients for his wife, who is a health care professional. However, her employer recognized the opportunity for hybrid work, and because Chatjiantoniou’s wife is a specialist, there wasn’t a need for her to go physically back to the hospital. Moving to a hybrid model helped her employer eliminate the backlog and telemedicine allowed her to expand the hospital’s patient base.

Costa-Chatjiantoniou.jpg

Sherweb’s Costa Chatjiantoniou

In this case, hybrid work proved beneficial for the business model. However, hybrid work is just as much a business decision as it is a lifestyle, as Chatjiantoniou explained his wife was happier working from home.

He spoke this week during a panel discussion at the Channel Partners Conference & Expo.

“It’s about 50% of the workforce that doesn’t want to go back, so employers are having to find new ways of collaborating,” Chatjiantoniou said.

Rise of AI

So, what will enable employers to accommodate this growing demand for hybrid work?

Artificial intelligence will be instrumental.

Arnold-Jon_J-Arnold-and-Associates.jpg

J Arnold & Associates’ Jon Arnold

Jon Arnold is principal at J Arnold & Associates and led the discussion.

“AI is playing a big role in everything we’re doing now,” he said. “One of the really cool AI-driven innovations in the speech-tech area is a noise suppression application.”

The technology is cloud-based and runs on apps. When a person is in a meeting, for example, the technology uses AI to filter out sounds that are not voice.

“It’s trained well enough that it will block out things like that cat in your background or the crinkling of your bag of chips,” Arnold said. “Noise suppression uses AI algorithms to minimize and, in some cases, cancels background noise altogether.”

The big platforms have this technology. Microsoft Teams partners with a company called Krisp. BabbleLabs was acquired by Cisco two years ago and it’s been integrated into WebEx. Google also has a noise suppression application.

This technology may help at-home workers separate aspects of their personal lives from the prying eyes, or ears, of supervisors. However, bosses still want to know what their employees are up to when working remotely. This desire to maintain control can go overboard. Arnold said Microsoft had a tool that it eventually disabled because it became a kind of surveillance technology.

“I think anyone who’s selling these solutions has to kind of have this underlying message. When you go down this road with AI, it’s really cool and sexy. But in the wrong hands, it can be a worst nightmare,” he said.

Along the same vein, there are also legal and policy gray areas regarding supervision. Do employees working from home have to follow a dress code? Can employees smoke in their home office during work hours? What’s to prevent someone from consuming alcohol on the clock? Can newer AI technologies even monitor these behaviors?

However, the promise of hybrid work and the technologies used to promote collaboration may outweigh the potential questions surrounding its overuse.

The Rise of Video

The biggest change to come out of the work-from-home era is the rise of video.

“In the past, video was hard, complex and only for the executive teams, and you needed an AV guy in the room to set it up. In other words, it was a scarce resource,” Arnold said. “Today, of course, we’re all doing video all day long to the point where it’s become default. That’s a huge change in behavior.”

The same can be said for the evolution of the phone. When employees do venture back into the office, they’re likely to use a cellphone over the traditional desktop version, Chatjiantoniou said.

“The trend for having a desktop phone even within a work environment is going away. People are more than happy to take their mobile device to work or communicate on their laptop. Everything is in a collaboration suite on their laptops,” he said.

Part of the reason desktop phones may be on the decline is because of the supply chain backlog, he said. A lack of supplies has forced some manufacturers to use non-traditional parts to create the equipment.

“The [desktop] phone is slowly going to go away because, quite simply, you can’t get them,” Chatjiantoniou said.

Where desktop phones could be on the decline, according to the panelists, personal assistants are making their way into the home office. Workers may be accustomed to using Alexa and Siri solely for personal uses, but Arnold said these devices can be programmed at home to support work as well.

Despite the ease of use of these devices, the technology is complicated. And the technology – whether it’s cloud or AI – is going to get even more complicated soon. Partners shouldn’t shy away from these products.

“You shouldn’t be afraid to sell it, right?” Arnold said.

Want to contact the author directly about this story? Have ideas for a follow-up article? Email Claudia Adrien or connect with her on LinkedIn.

 

Read more about:

Agents

About the Author(s)

Claudia Adrien

Claudia Adrien is a reporter for Channel Futures where she covers breaking news. Prior to Informa, she wrote about biosecurity and infectious disease for a national publication. She holds a degree in journalism from the University of Florida and resides in Tampa.

Free Newsletters for the Channel
Register for Your Free Newsletter Now

You May Also Like