At the Owl Labs Hybrid Tech Showcase, we were laser-focused on how companies can create workplace experiences that ensure every employee feels seen, heard, and valued every day.
There’s a lot of challenges that come with hybrid work, especially around workplace policies, tech implementation, and office culture. But equipping your physical spaces with the best hybrid technology available can help every employee do their best work, on their terms.
During this virtual event, viewable on the Owl Labs YouTube channel, we outlined the many ways the company’s products can improve workplace efficiency and enable seamless hybrid collaboration. We brought in members of Owl Labs’ leadership team, Frank Weishaupt (CEO) and Max Makeev (Cofounder + COO), along with Group Product Manager Beth Tuck, SVP of Global Marketing Ashley Karr, and GM of our Europe team, Stuart Collingwood to explore how the Meeting Owl 3, Expansion Mic, and Owl Intelligence System can change meeting experiences for hybrid teams.
Then, we were joined by Alejandra Albarran, Dan Root, and Emma Brudner, who each brought their expert perspectives on how companies and employees alike can embrace this new way of working. We’ll go through the key learnings they each brought to the table, and then get into the exciting product updates that we shared with the audience throughout the event and in the Founders Q&A.
Alejandra Albarran is the VP of Workspace Strategy and Design at ROOM. Her interior design background has helped her build products and spaces that work for today’s hybrid environment.
She explained that companies struggle to bring employees back to the office because they don’t provide a work environment better than working from home. And because of unpredictable attendance, companies hesitate to invest in improving their spaces — but “we need to make sure that the experience we provide when hybrid workers do come back to the office is a meaningful and memorable one,“ she said.
“Some companies are reducing their footprint, others are rethinking their spaces — making them more social, collaborative, and communal. But many people are just staying in limbo because nobody really knows how to do this. It’s hard to change things when you don't know what's going to work in the future — it can be challenging and overwhelming,” she explained.
So how should companies rise to the occasion? Charting a path forward, embracing change, and being ready to be flexible. “Plan a strategy that works for your company today and then adapt your space to that. The more flexible you can make your space, the better.”
She suggests offering variety within offices, creating many types of environments, because spaces are being used very differently today. Meetings used to be behind closed doors, and today there’s more open-space brainstorming and collaboration. And closed rooms are now primarily used for hybrid meetings, so “using modular components in each space, and being able to transform that space to suit your needs in the moment is super important,” she said.
She encouraged workplace experience teams to move forward with flexibility and fluidity, both in their mindset and in their layouts. “We cannot assume that we know what's going to happen next, so just remain open to change and understand that our employees will need different things at different times.” She suggests continuously surveying employees and gathering feedback about the space and putting it into action.
Emma Brudner is the HR director at Process Unity. She’s been making workplace policies throughout COVID and has worked in a variety of environments throughout her career, from fully remote to fully onsite, as well as hybrid.
“Company culture is like product design,” she began. “Just like you design your product, with features and a target audience and people it's not right for, it’s the same with your culture and workplace experience.” Leaders must be prepared to be intentional about defining their culture and accept that it won’t suit everyone, she said.
She implored executives to determine what hybrid means to them. One day a week onsite? No mandatory onsite time? Team days only? Get very clear on what your team expects from your employees.
Emma’s most important piece of advice for companies was to set expectations for employees and be transparent about them from Day One. “Don't offer flexible work if it isn't, and don't sell a thriving office culture if the offices are mostly empty,” she said.
“The best thing you can do as an employer is be super clear so that people can either opt-in or opt-out.” Once you’ve set a policy and laid out the expectations honestly, your company will attract employees that are ready to work within those parameters.
And hybrid work means managing two different employee experiences, she added. “You run the risk of creating two different cultures unless you're super intentional,” she said. “To create that cohesive culture in a hybrid experience, you really need people who are going to opt-in and say yes — I want to commit to this workplace experience.”
Dan Root is a Senior Analyst at Wainhouse Research, a workplace communications market research firm. He’s been working with a hybrid work model for over six years and spends his days studying tools used by offices everywhere.
“Enterprise companies are currently seeing between 40% and 50% occupancy,” shared Dan, so companies must prioritize creating equity between remote and in-office employees.
Offices are still largely set up for workflows that are no longer relevant — like four employees going into a meeting room, each with their laptops, with four microphones ready to screech feedback if someone unmutes at the wrong time, he explained.
He said that companies today must embrace new, flexible technology that lets employees conduct seamless meetings, wherever they are. Room and desk booking software needs to connect to video conferencing platforms, which in turn need to connect to cameras, speakers, microphones, and screens. “We need to make sure that when you come into this office or come into this meeting space, that you're able to use it and get your work done without new friction or hurdles.”
“It's not necessarily about hitting a reset and trying to train your troops on a whole new workflow as much as it’s opening up to the various ways that folks use your technology.”
For example, if a group is meeting on Zoom in a collaborative space but a remote participant joins in, they can walk to a meeting room, connect a laptop to a Meeting Owl 3, and continue the meeting with their fourth participant ready to collaborate. “We'll all be seen and heard, we’ll have added that professional-grade experience to our meeting.”
When rolling out new technology, meet people where they are and expect a longer lead time to full adoption, he suggested. Before, companies could offer three trainings over one day, and every employee would have been in the office to take it. Now, with unpredictable attendance, it’ll take much longer to reach the moment where every employee is comfortable with every new piece of office technology, so leading with patience and humility at all times is important.
Almost all meetings will have at least one remote participant going forward, so we need to solve the issues faced by remote employees.
We want to make the people who aren’t in the room feel just as included, seen, and heard, so we’re building products that do just that. With over 100,000 customers across the world, Owl Labs products are transforming the workplace experience for remote and in-office employees.
We were very excited to share and demo the new features of the Meeting Owl 3 and its accessories, and answer audience questions about our products. Keep reading to learn about some of the highlights of what we do, and watch the demo portion of the live event below:
The Meeting Owl 3 is the third generation of Meeting Owls, complete with new capabilities that make hybrid meetings more seamless than ever. It’s an all-in-one 360° camera, speaker, and microphone. With a 1080p fisheye lens, you can see everyone in the room in a panorama at the top of the screen, and the rest of the screen space is dedicated to the participants who have most recently spoken.
The Meeting Owl 3’s AI-powered operating system, the Owl Intelligence System (OIS) has 58% better detection accuracy than the previous generation, which means it’s better at detecting what’s important to show on-screen and what can be ignored. It picks up a 10-foot video radius, and it’s now 4x faster at detecting when the speaker changes, so remote employees can always keep up with who’s saying what — and be instantly featured on screen when they start speaking.
Users can control Meeting Owls and accessories through the Owl Labs iOS, Android, and desktop apps to toggle settings like Presenter Enhance, the Ignore Zone, and panorama section. They can also use Owl Connect to link multiple Meeting Owls to cover ground in much larger rooms, for large classes and major company-wide presentations.
And setting up the Meeting Owl 3 couldn’t be easier. Co-founder Max Makeev shared he’s always hoped to build products that his mom could easily use, which inspired the plug-and-play installation experience of the Meeting Owl: it can be done in around six minutes.
You can also move the Meeting Owl setup from room to room without a problem, and the system continues to get smarter over time with constantly updated features.
The new Owl Labs Expansion Mic picks up sound at longer tables and in bigger rooms. It gives the Meeting Owl an additional 8 feet of audio radius, and attaches easily to the Meeting Owl. The mute button on Expansion Mic also lets participants easily mute for quick discussions.
The Whiteboard Owl is a dedicated whiteboard camera that streams and saves the content on a whiteboard for any meeting attendee to see clearly. It also allows remote participants to literally see through their in-person teammates as they write on the whiteboard — no more obstructed views or fruitless zooming in on blurry images.
To wrap up the event, co-founders Max Makeev and Mark Schnittman dove into a lively Q&A about the history of the company, their goal to make the remote employee experience immersive and inclusive, the decision to create an owl-shaped camera, the proliferation of remote and hybrid work, and ways they’ve taken customer feedback into account to make the best hybrid video conferencing platform possible.
Watch the founders' QA portion below: