The COVID-19 pandemic unmoored us from many traditional routines. The ability to go into the office. To see family and friends. To attend church and other communal gatherings. Or catch a flight for our annual overseas holiday.\nNow, as vaccination rates rise, more societies are resuming a “new normal” – and finally restoring some predictability to people’s lives. \nIn many large workplaces, there is discussion about how employees should divide their time – perhaps two days at the office, three days at home.\nIt all sounds very structured, but a different perspective comes from Åsmund Fodstad, Pexip’s President of Global Sales and Marketing. He believes life has been disrupted so profoundly there will be a “never-ending new normal” – one of constant fluidity and ever-evolving norms.\n \nWork becomes untethered\n“The term ‘hybrid workplace’ is so overused. What does hybrid actually mean?,” he asks, beaming over video from his home in Oslo, Norway, on what is clearly a brilliant winter morning.\n“I think as an employer today, you need to facilitate for people to work basically anywhere – whether it’s home, office, on the train, while driving, in a café.”\nFodstad notes that Pexip doubled its own workforce to 500 to meet the near-overnight global transition to video conferencing. Incredibly, an estimated two-thirds of these people will have never met a workmate in the flesh – yet this could be the future for more organisations.\nMost employers haven’t devised a proper strategy, he believes. The answer isn’t to simply reduce their CBD office space. But genuinely rethinking from first principles how to cater for the potentially infinite ways humans collaborate: from the worker who craves solitude to the colleague who loves socialising, to the one checking in intermittently while sitting on a beach.\nAn office might be designed flexibly, Fodstad suggests, to offer privacy for video calls over an earpiece and a screen while also providing access to well planned spaces for group collaboration.\nIdeally, two colleagues could sit together in a purpose-built video meeting space, enabling them to speak jointly to other people on the call without causing static and needing to mute. “It’s about creating the environment, the audio quality, and how you as an employer facilitate that,” he says.\nA world of constant immersion\nFodstad notes the technology already exists in video chat to focus in on someone’s background, automatically correct the position of their gaze or check from their eye-movements if they’re really paying attention.\nImprovements in artificial intelligence will only create new immersive possibilities. Don’t be surprised if we conduct business appointments through virtual reality within the next decade.\n“Video has already become the new phone” – in a world where people show each other in real-time, and don’t just tell.\n“We’re starting to see this during retail experiences and customer service,” Fodstad says. “Last week, I called the support desk at Nespresso. They asked to see my faulty coffee machine on a video call so they could talk to me and fix it immediately.”\nIs Fodstad so bold as to predict video will replace human interaction completely?\nNot completely. There will however, be situations where people will prefer to meet over video than in-person and the continuing innovation in technology will increase this likelihood.\n“In-person meetings will always be required in certain circumstances, however our experience in healthcare tells us that there’s a strong desire for telehealth, particularly for those in rural communities or those who are immuno-suppressed or particularly at risk,” Fodstad says.\nHe sees huge potential for AI in making video experiences even better than face-to-face meetings.\n“Imagine a scenario where video technology anticipates that a clinician is going to be late for their next session, intuitively updating the health team and scheduled patients to expect a delay. Or a general business context where someone presents to an important audience over video and has the ability – during the session - to identify stakeholders who are engaged in the content as well as those who might require further convincing or a different approach.”\nThe concept of distance erodes\nMuch of the never-ending disruption Fodstad foresees stems from our changing perceptions of distance and place. For example, the business conference industry has relied on face-to-face interactions forever. But how often will people fly between cities for a work trip ever again?\nBefore COVID, Fodstad travelled for meetings in places like New York and Hong Kong for up to 200 days a year.\nNow, he believes people are more aware of the environmental impact and opportunity cost. Something subtle has also shifted in the human psyche so we see the beauty in our own locale.\n“That next meeting in New York better be a damn important one,” he says. “No seriously – they’ll need to put together five important meetings, over a day or two days, before I actually book.”\nThis article was based on an interview with Åsmund Fodstad using Pexip video meetings to bring everyone together.\nThe evolution of new normal is never ending. Start today by making your meetings in a hybrid workplace more effective with a free copy of Gartner’s insight into hybrid working and meeting equity.