From Huddles to Home: Meeting the Peripherals Demand in the New Workplace

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Peripheral vision

Peripherals have always been important for office tech, but with the return to the office, along with the enduring appeal of hybrid working, they are crucial to employee efficiency and making a working environment as comfortable as possible – and something that help resellers to boost sales.

Working habits have changed greatly in the past four years, with hybrid working now a standard offering in many workplaces. As Holli Hullet, co-founder of Boom Collaboration, notes, an estimated 60% of businesses globally have work from home policies with this number still growing. “In addition, 30% of all employees are full-time remote workers while 62% work from home occasionally,” she says. 

But, as she notes, “the right equipment can significantly boost productivity while saving corporations money.”

This isn’t just about hardware such as laptops and printers, but the peripherals too, which can be just as important, whether people work in the office or at home.

“Businesses are being challenged to right-size their offices, and this is having a big impact on peripherals sales,” says James Campanini, head of B2B at Logitech Europe. “To make the most of the existing office footprint, and to help make their office space as effective as possible, businesses are looking to make their offices attractive places to work, which also suit the variety of end users you find in a typical office space. 

“Accordingly, we’re seeing employers equip their offices with a range of peripherals to suit each worker – ergonomics is an area of growth, for example – and which help employees to be as productive as possible. We’re also seeing interest in premium peripherals, that help make offices feel like special places to be.”

Ross Turner, retail & peripherals director, UK, TD SYNNEX, adds that peripherals are selling steadily. “Businesses are paying much more attention to the aesthetics and the ergonomics of products now,” he says. “That extends to the desks and chairs and the whole look and feel of the office. With the advent of hybrid working, it’s important to make the workplace as attractive and comfortable a place to be as possible.”

Jamie Hughes, UK sales director at Evolve IP, notes that the COVID lockdowns triggered a major shortage of hardware, which caused panic buying, but now many offices are re-visiting and re-investing in technologies as part of longer-term strategies. “Especially where their voice contracts are coming to an end,” he says. “The quality of headsets, for example, play a crucial role in the customer and employee experience.” 

Hybrid comes of age

Hybrid working has had a big impact on peripheral sales. “The changes that we’ve seen in working habits have really extended the opportunity of peripherals sales,” says Ross. “When they are working at home, people want to be productive, of course, but they also want their computer equipment to look good, so aesthetics and comfort are important here as well. 

“While the peak of the lockdown demand has certainly dropped, we now have several market conditions that will drive device refreshes and we know peripheral sales are closely correlated to this, so we think the next 18 months look strong.”

Mike Barron, managing director, SYNAXON UK, agrees that the increase in hybrid working – and the desire to optimise productivity in the office and home – is keeping sales of peripherals healthy. “Most desktop set-ups now make use of a large-format curved display with a Bluetooth-connected keyboard and mouse, which means fewer cables and easier hot-desking,” he says. “Many users will also have a dedicated camera and speakers or a headset for conferencing. They will usually want to replicate that set-up – or get close to it – in their home office and that’s created a good market for peripherals.

“Buyers are discerning – they want their home office set-ups to be comfortable and they also care about aesthetics and ergonomics. As a result, they often know exactly what they want and that’s good from our perspective, as it means we can relatively easily identify the most popular products and make sure we provide access to them on SYNAXON Hub. We maintain a good range of peripherals stock and we can also source just about any other product for partners, so they can always address opportunities when they arise. That’s important because attach-selling peripherals is a handy way to boost turnover and profit.”

James agrees that hybrid working is maturing. “With this, there are new demands on the sort of peripherals that home workers need,” he says. “Home working often sees workers moving around the house and working from more compact locations, which make your standard sized mouse and keyboard less effective. As such, we’re seeing interest in smaller, more portable peripherals, that help facilitate effective work from anywhere – whether that’s the kitchen table, or the bar of a coffee shop.

“‘Meeting equity’ is the phrase of the moment, and we’re seeing this drive interest in decent webcams and headsets. Without the right technology, hybrid calls can leave those with bad audio or video feeling left out and with a smaller say in the conversation. Equipping workers, wherever they are, with crystal clear audio and video ensures that everyone has an equal seat at the table.”

Quality interactions

Indeed, quality audio and visual facilities are crucial for many – and this is an area where hybrid workers can be neglected. “In many ways hybrid workers have tended to be forgotten about as they are often out of sight and out of mind,” says Jamie. “I’ve been on numerous calls where people have been using their own Apple-style earpods. While they are great for consumers to listen to their music, they are not ideal in a business environment where noise cancelling microphones can make a big difference. 

“There’s often a line that shouldn’t be crossed between business and consumer devices, especially at the cheaper end of the market. Business grade hardware is vital to deploy. A headset is not just a headset.

“Business grade solutions are imperative and offer many upsell opportunities. We’re seeing lots of demand for Jabra headsets that deliver superior performance and can help organisations raise their game. Getting the right solution for the right person in the right environment is crucial. First impressions count. A poor end point experience can undermine a complete comms platform investment. A crackle on a call or no noise cancelling microphones should be avoided. The whole experience is only as good as the end point.”

Jamie adds that hybrid working has triggered lots of laptop usage but the quality of cameras and speakers is not always up to the job. “We had a large increase in hardware sales last year and this growth continues across different areas,” he says. “Headsets and webcams are popular, but the biggest rise is in huddle spaces with small video bars.”

Holli agrees that many companies are reinvesting in communications technologies to replace what was bought in haste during COVID. “This is from infrastructure to smaller peripherals that are now often deemed not fit for purpose,” she says. “Lots of offices have been re-designed with more huddle rooms for example to accommodate lots more remote meetings. They need high quality hardware to facilitate this change.

“Whether in the office or home. Meeting equity has become one of the most important components for a successful hybrid work experience. People need to be seen and heard clearly in equal quality wherever they are based.

“Everyone needs an equal voice and presence, so they don’t become alienated and feel inferior. The performance of equipment at home needs to match that in the office. This often requires upgraded equipment for hybrid workers, especially webcams and speakers.

“There’s no doubt professional grade video and audio is the key to successful hybrid working. Now the dust has settled on working from home practices, a clearer picture is emerging that enables companies to develop longer-term strategies with portable and powerful professional quality video and audio at the heart.”

Ross adds that connectivity solutions such as WiFi access points, mesh systems and range extenders also continue to sell in healthy numbers. “It’s becoming a more sophisticated area of the market – SMBs need good, fast, reliable communications as much as big firms,” he says. “We still see really strong demand for high-res’ webcams and top-quality noise reducing headsets as people continue to look at ways to improve the way they communicate in the digital world.”

Upselling

With such a range of opportunities, peripherals offer great opportunities for resellers to upsell customers buying other office hardware. “Peripherals can sometimes be thought of as ‘add-ons’ and a bit of an after-thought,” says Ross. “But for the user, they are an important part of the set-up – they are products that get used every day. Screens, keyboards and mice are the primary interface between the person and the PC. The desk and chair provide the physical platform on which people work – and they are using these products all day, every day. 

“It’s therefore important that they choose the right peripherals and that they invest wisely. All resellers need to do is simply remind customers of these facts and they are well on their way to a successful upsell. There some exceptional ranges designed for professional use available, and many resellers do good business and make extremely healthy profits from selling high-grade peripherals. 

“It’s an area that many more B2B resellers could benefit from to a much greater extent than they do today. In many cases the value of the peripherals and accessories used with the laptop, PC, or workstation, can exceed that of the main device itself and there are enhanced margins available with these products too, so it’s definitely worth asking the question!”

James agrees that peripherals are ripe for being upsold. “Quite often a customer will initially start by wanted to upgrade just their video conferencing solutions, for example, but will quickly consider upgrading their webcams and headsets in tandem, to ensure their employees are receiving a consistent experience,” he says. “Logitech is well placed in the peripherals market as it has a decent play in all areas of it and can offer a convenient and familiar crossover to end users.”

Future

Looking towards emerging trends in peripherals, James says that in the next 12 months he expects to see considerable interest in alternate technologies. “Those that provide smart actions and help to improve the in-office experience – docking stations, for example, that also double as deck systems to help indicate office occupancy,” he says. “As employees – and employers – become more health conscious, we’re also seeing increased interest in ergonomic mice and keyboards, which help to reduce RSI-related injuries and improve comfort, boosting productivity.”

Ross adds that free standing displays and mounting arms are extremely popular, as are mice and keyboard combos, desktop speakers, desktop storage devices, and all kinds of connectors and cables. “We are also seeing more interest in stand-up and flexible desks,” he adds. “What a lot of businesses and individual users want in all of these product categories is really good quality, reliability and performance – and yes, they are prepared to pay a premium for that.”