May 7, 2020
The coronavirus pandemic has forced millions of people to quickly adapt to a slew of lifestyle changes. From no longer going out for leisure activities or shopping to putting a hold on conferences and vacations, everyone is feeling the impacts of the pandemic on their daily lives. One area that has been particularly affected for many people is their work.
Since the CDC declared COVID-19 a pandemic and local governments put a cease to non-essential activities, many companies were forced to adapt to the work-from-home lifestyle practically overnight to keep things up and running. This massive shift to remote work has brought with it some growing pains, but there have also been several positive changes to the home office landscape.
Unsurprisingly, the technologies that allow us to connect virtually and from a distance have seen a huge boom in popularity. The cloud-based video conferencing tool Zoom has become a household name where two or three months ago, most people hadn’t heard of it. Now that more people are working from home than ever before, the way that people work is changing. What was once a meeting in a conference room is now a video call from home, and employees have had to find new ways to communicate with each other.
Instant messaging apps like Slack, Microsoft Teams, and SAGE Chat have also grown in popularity during this time. While video conferencing is great for meetings, messaging fills the gap for less formal conversations and time-sensitive communications. Employees and employers alike are having to adjust to communicating largely online, but thankfully these applications make staying in touch a little less challenging.
Some have described the pandemic’s effect on remote work as “the biggest work-from-home experiment in history”, and they’re not wrong. In the past, remote work had a bad rap. Many employers believed that their workforce would be distracted working from home, and the distance would make supervising employees difficult. However, digital work technology has advanced to a point where communication with and supervision of employees remotely is something that can be done easily.
Workers who have had to transition to working out of their homes are also largely treating this experience as a chance to prove to employers that working from home is feasible. In the last decade, working from home became a very popular perk for companies to offer their teams, and employees want to prove to their managers and supervisors that they can be trusted with remote work so that when life has returned to normal, remoting in will still be an option.
So what does this all mean for the work-from-home landscape moving forward? For starters, many of the “rules of engagement” set during this time, like using IM for time-sensitive needs and email for regular correspondence, or frequent team check-ins (either by video or in-person), are likely to remain habitual long after we’ve returned to our offices. Additionally, companies whose employees were productive and communicative during their remote work experience may begin to offer working-from-home as an available perk to their teams. Lastly, though video conferencing and messaging apps may see a dip in use when everyone is back to the office, companies are probably going to continue to incorporate these technologies into their everyday operations.
Having to quickly pivot to remote work forced many companies and employees to embrace new technologies into the way that they do work. Even once things are back to whatever our “new normal” will be, these technologies are likely to remain a part of the way people do business.