The coronavirus pandemic stalled the economy in March – sending millions of workers home struggling to set up remote offices in their kitchens and living quarters, and hopping on Zoom calls with colleagues. A range of new technologies and devices unveiled this week at America’s largest consumer technology show, the CES (Consumer Electronics Show), are designed to help workers manage their new work-life balance.
Currently, seven in ten workers who can work remotely do all or most of their work from home, according to the Pew Research Center. More than half of these workers want to continue working from home for at least part of the time after the pandemic has ended. Before the crisis, only about two in ten workers who could work from home did so, according to Pew.
This shift is causing tech companies – from big corporations like Dell to startups – to redefine the burgeoning work-at-home market.
Many distant workplace trends that consultants have been predicting for years without much traction have been accelerated by the pandemic. “The things we thought would take five years and five weeks,” said Jeff Schwartz, US director of future work at Deloitte Consulting LLP. “The difference between 2020 and the last decade is that 2020 was a time machine for the future.”
However, the transition from office to home is not always easy. Pew found that one in five remote workers complained of having trouble finding suitable jobs at home. A third said constant interruptions were a problem – presumably from pets, children, spouses and other household members.
Here are some of the new workplace trends emerging from CES that may be reflected in your remote office.
Chasing the stream
After the Zoom and Microsoft teams replace face-to-face meetings, tech companies are rolling out computers and devices designed to enhance the digital streaming experience.
One problem many work with from home is spotty WiFi. Blame an old router or the fact that employees share WiFi with their partners who also work from home, as well as their children who attend online school.
However, the companies at CES are rolling out the answer: a new generation of products that operate on a new 6 GHz spectrum called Wi-Fi 6E. While current Wi-Fi products operate on the crowded 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, next-generation routers and devices that support Wi-Fi6 should be faster, partly because they don’t compete for Airwave storage have to – as older devices still do this and work on the 2.4 and 5 GHz bands.
New products presented at CES include Netgear’s Nighthawk RAXE500 router, one of the first routers to support Wi-Fi 6E technology. The company bills the device as helping families manage work, education, doctor visits, and smart home technology without encountering WiFi issues. The $ 600 device, which looks like a stingray, is available for pre-order, according to the company.
Computers with Wi-Fi 6E capabilities are also being introduced, such as Dell’s new Latitude 9420 laptop, which has a variety of connectivity options, including Wi-Fi 6E, as well as numerous other extras that support the Zoom lifestyle.
“So many of us work from home and study from home. I have two children who study from Zoom calls at home. This hybrid work culture remains,” said Rahul Tikoo, senior vice president, Dell Client Product Group . “When you make a Zoom call, we want to make sure you’re getting the best possible bandwidth.”
The Latitude 9420 has what Tikoo calls “little treats” to make remote work easier, like the SafeShutter, which Dell calls “the industry’s first automatic webcam shutter”. In other words, when the laptop detects that you are using Zoom or another streaming service, it automatically opens a visible physical shutter. When you’re done, the clasp closes.
“These devices do some of the work for you,” Tikoo said. “We are always concerned.” Hey, is my camera off? You don’t have to do three more clicks to make sure your camera is on. “
This laptop, which will be available later this spring, starts at $ 1,949.
Fixed the pitfalls when working remotely
Slow WiFi is only part of the problem when working from home. Uncomfortable furniture, background noise from children or pets, and safety are other issues that can make remote working uncomfortable.
Ergonomics is on the table at CES this year. A company introduces what is known as the “world’s first office chair with heat and massage technology”. The X-HMT chair isn’t cheap: it ranges from $ 900 to $ 1,250, depending on the model – but it may appeal to remote workers looking for more convenience in their current office furnishings.
“The introduction of heat and massage was in development before COVID, but there was this home office explosion,” said Tony Mazlish, CEO of Future Seating, the maker of the X-HMT. “People are trying to figure out how to behave themselves. Every day people say, ‘I’ve been on my kitchen chair for six months, I’m done.'”
When the chairs shipped in November, Mazlish said he expected about 20% of his chair sales would come from the X-HMT. Instead, it was about 40%, he said.
A comfortable seat might be a solution to the challenges of remote working, but tech companies are introducing devices designed to solve another big problem: background noise.
Headphones, earphones, and other audio devices that block out background noise aren’t a new technology – Bose and Apple’s AirPod Pros have long offered such products. However, the noise canceling technology is still being improved. Some of the latest headphones and earbuds are aimed specifically at remote workers, such as the Jabra Elite 85t, the popular brand’s first wireless earbuds with active noise cancellation. The $ 229 worth of earbuds can address remote workers with their “6-mic” microphone feature (six embedded microphones), which Jabra says will provide “excellent call quality for both the user and those on the other end of the call.” “offers.
A clean work environment is also important for remote workers, and CES offers a wide variety of products aimed at disinfecting and cleaning. Among them is Targus’ UV-C LED disinfectant light, which will retail for $ 299 this spring. The device is located on the desktop keyboard and runs for five minutes every hour. Germicidal UV light is passed over the keyboard and mouse to disinfect them. (It has a motion detector that stops the machine when you’re at your desk.)
Dell, HP, and other computer manufacturers are introducing new products at CES that are being marketed to remote workers who may want to pick up and move around while juggling zoom calls and requests for fast processing.
As workers switched to remote work, the PC market picked up. This gives new life and interest to ultra-light, ultra-fast laptops, as well as screens that can be connected to devices for a crisp display.
“The PC is experiencing a great renaissance,” said Dell’s Tikoo. “Third quarter data showed the industry grew 23% – we expect that to continue.”
New products include an HP creative notebook called the HP EliteBook x360 1030 G8 that supports 5G broadband and which HP calls the “highest screen-to-body ratio” in its category. It was also awarded the CES innovation prize for design and technology.
For its part, Lenovo introduces the “thinnest ThinkPad ever,” the 11 millimeter thick ThinkPad X1 Titanium Yoga, which starts at $ 1,899. It’s also packed with features for speed, including 11th generation Intel Core processors and 5G wireless technology
Another trend this year: curved screens that can be connected to your laptop or other devices and offer an impressive work experience. One such screen is Dell’s UltraSharp 40 Curved WUHD monitor, which it claims is the world’s first 40-inch Ultrawide Curved WUHD monitor. That will go on sale later this month and start at around $ 2,100.
One company that isn’t at CES is Apple, which traditionally holds its own launch events twice a year. According to trade magazine MacRumors, the Cupertino, California-based tech giant may launch new versions of its AirPods and iMac sometime this spring.