Optimal Networks

Global Trade Magazine: COVID-19, Remote Work, and Technology: Was 2020 Just a Blip?

As originally published in Global Trade Magazine, January 30, 2021

COVID-19, Remote Work, and Technology: Was 2020 Just a Blip?

by Heinan Landa | Optimal Networks, Inc.

How did 2020 reshape your business?

While some organizations were better prepared for a shift to working from home, only 14% of businesses worldwide had fully remote workforces prior to the pandemic.

This means that, at some level, 86% of us had to make sudden, rapid changes to adjust to an entirely remote way of operating, communicating, and leading.

As Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella put it last April: “We’ve seen two years’ worth of digital transformation in two months. From remote teamwork and learning to sales and customer service, to critical cloud infrastructure and security—we are working alongside customers every day to help them adapt and stay open for business in a world of remote everything.”

Now that vaccines are beginning to roll out and the prospect of returning to our offices becomes more tangible, the next question we face is this: Which elements of 2020 will stick, and which will we discard as soon as it’s safe to do so?

COVID-19 ushered in 6 primary changes to the way we work

The most obvious change to our work environments is that we made a quick shift to remote work—with varying levels of disruption and success. If we zoom in a bit closer, we can pull out six major changes:

1 – We embraced collaboration tools.

Microsoft Teams has seen a 160% increase in users from March to October, Slack sold for $27.7 billion, and Gartner predicts the worldwide market for social collaboration tools to reach $4.8 billion by 2023. While these tools were plenty popular pre-pandemic, many businesses found themselves without a way to communicate with a fully remote team and quickly implemented one package or another (or, in some cases, multiple packages).

2 – Live document coauthoring finally got our attention.

With “old school” collaboration methods off the table, we finally jumped head-first into tools that many of us already had access to, but weren’t really using—namely Microsoft SharePoint and Google Drive. Instead of emailing documents back and forth or trying to whiteboard over Zoom, we posted links in our new Slack or Teams channels and edited our project simultaneously.

3 – Video conferencing exploded.

Between Zoom (up to 300 million daily participants), Teams (up to 115 million daily users), and Google Meet (up to 100 million daily participants), we were on so many video calls last year. In fact, we spent so much time using these tools that “Zoom fatigue” became a thing we say in real life. The market for these tools is expected to hit $50 billion by 2026.

4 – Virtual events… happened.

All of our networking, fundraising, recruiting, team building, and client appreciation events went virtual. We tried webinars virtual conferences, virtual happy hours, virtual magic shows, and on and on and on. These, from anecdotal evidence, were better than nothing, but generally hit or miss.

5 – We stopped caring so much about where employees and new hires live.

If we’re all working from home, “home” can be anywhere. With 70% of company owners open to letting their employees work remotely after offices can safely reopen, we open the door to hiring the best talent regardless of their geographic location. There are a few hurdles to clear when it comes to expanding your company’s footprint (taxes and healthcare, for example), but we’ve quashed all concerns about effective remote work.

6 – We took less time off and burned out more.

Lastly, the combination of working from home and diving into applications that generate notifications 24/7 has further blurred the lines between “work” and “home.” A recent Monster survey found that 69% of workers are feeling burnout, 59% are (still) taking less time off than they normally would, and 42% don’t plan to take any time off.

So, which of these trends should we expect to stay for the long haul? Which will go? Here’s my take.

Read more here!

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