The long-term impact COVID-19 has on workplaces and technology

The outbreak of COVID-19 has sent the majority of all businesses into a tailspin.

With productivity on the line, companies of all sizes have scrambled to adopt a flexible work-from-home (WFH) arrangement. But even as COVID-19 restrictions are starting to ease up, employees are less than enthusiastic about returning to the office.

A survey by Gartner conducted at the end of March and found that 74% of CFOs and business finance leaders expected at least 5% of the workforce to work from home permanently.

In the past two months, companies have endured a large-scale trial run of remote employment, which, for most businesses, was implemented at the last second.

Workers have had to learn how to navigate remote collaboration tools while figuring out how to deal with the unique challenges of working from home. For their part, companies have rushed to build the proper infrastructure to support a remote workforce.

It’s been stressful, to say the least. But as we emerge from lockdown, what we’ve learned in recent weeks can fundamentally alter the future workplace.

We’ve learned the ropes of remote work. With companies investing in home office equipment for their workers, the traditional office workplace appears to be growing smaller in that same rearview mirror.

How Companies Have Adapted to Remote Work

As the number of COVID-19 cases was peaking, so did companies’ fears about maintaining productivity through these turbulent times. One of the early concerns about remote work was that broadband networks would collapse beneath the weight of increased usage.

ISPA, the trade body for service providers in the UK, quickly put an end to people’s concerns by calling attention to the fact that the nation’s peak activity in the evening was often ten times the average daytime demand.

Other fears weren’t quelled quite so quickly. While large technology firms like Google and Twitter had the pre-existing infrastructure that could easily take on remote work, the majority of businesses struggled to get their ducks in a row.

Let’s take a look at a few of the lessons businesses have learned in their race to be fully remote. Perhaps the most obvious lesson was the value of laptops over desktops. With agility and resiliency at the forefront of the corporate consciousness, it’s safe to say desktops are about to taper off in terms of popularity.

Data storage was another problem. Companies that used physical servers to store their data were unable to access it once workers were sent home. Nowadays, cloud-based solutions are looking more desirable in the eyes of businesses everywhere.

Another challenge was keeping the lines of communication open. This alone left many companies scrambling to implement a viable communications platform like Microsoft Teams, Slack, or other third-party white-label services.

Mobile communication is a WFH essential. The issue wasn’t a lack of mobile phones, but the inability to obtain or store clients’ phone numbers on personal phones. In any case, using personal phones for business purposes is costly for the employee. The solution, as many businesses found, was to enlist existing VoIP technology.

New Tools for Remote Collaboration

COVID-19 was an opportunity for remote tools like Zoom and Slack to steal the spotlight. Let’s take a look at a few of the collaborative platforms that have made headlines recently.

1. Zoom

Zoom is a popular video conferencing app that’s known for being able to handle up to 1,000 participants in a single meeting. The company has recently put its product in front of business owners by lifting the 40-minute limit on conversations offered under its free tier.

Zoom has surpassed 300 million daily meeting participants since the start of this pandemic, up from 10 million in December.

2. Trello

Where Zoom represents the team meeting down the hall, Trello recreates the feeling of your boss swinging by your desk to check on your progress. As project management software, Trello allows you to divide tasks, assign them, track team progress, and construct workflows for repeat jobs.

3. Slack

Slack is all about workplace communication. It’s a one-stop-shop for messaging, workplace tools, and any files you may need. Business owners love it for its free-to-play business model, which lets individual teams or offices sign up rather than requiring the entire organization to commit at once.

Working From Home Permanently After COVID-19

Is WFH the new normal? It’s too early to say. What we know for sure is that workers who have been sent home with a laptop aren’t so eager to reunite with early morning traffic jams or crowded subways during rush hour.

Twitter has doubled down on its commitment to the work from home movement, going as far as to say that their employees can work from home “forever.”

As workers tune into meetings with the click of a button, the question many of them are now asking is why it was necessary to commute in the first place. What people have experienced in recent weeks was an instant elimination of the need to travel 1.5 hours to work, in addition to work flexibility that allows them to stay close to home and take care of family members who are sick.

We now know that it can be done. Businesses that were once reluctant to switch to remote work due to fears of lost productivity have had their decision made for them. And the results of this trial run can set the tone for what the typical workplace looks like in the years to come.

WFH doesn’t just benefit workers. A remote workforce cuts down on a number of costs, including expensive real-estate and maintenance fees. When it comes to recruiting top talent, workplaces that offer flexible arrangements are more likely to attract highly motivated and skilled individuals. Due to the nature of remote work, the talent pool also widens exponentially.

Preparing Your Business for the WFH World

Companies are thinking differently. The standard nine-to-five with a lunch break near the middle is beginning to seem like a setback. When it comes to deriving value from the workplace, the traditional office environment is being reevaluated. Questions like, “How many hours are people spending getting to work?” are now being challenged.

Of course, successfully transitioning to WFH is no easy feat. One of the biggest roadblocks ahead for companies is security and privacy. Existing IT strategies will have to be reevaluated. As for employees, the social aspects of an office environment aren’t quite replaceable through Zoom calls.

Are you interested in learning more about the ways in which workplaces are moving online? Get in touch with the team at Globalgraphics by calling (416)-256-7800 or clicking here.

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