Thanks to many recent advances in workplace communication and collaboration technology, many organizations barely skipped a beat while transitioning to fully remote work due to COVID-19.
Remote work is not new, as many organizations have already been doing so well before this global pandemic forced us to stay at home for the time being.
Depending on what research you read, you’d find that a majority of full-time U.S. workers reported they were able to work from home at least partially. Videoconferencing company Owl Labs in its State of Remote Work 2019 survey found that 62% of workers surveyed work remotely at any frequency.
According to Global Workplace Analytics, regular work-at-home has grown 173% since 2005, 11% faster than the rest of the workforce and about 47 times faster than the self-employed population.
COVID-19 escalates growing trend
This situation is what unified communication and collaboration platforms were made for, said keynotes at Enterprise Connect’s virtual event held last week.
At Cisco, the Webex team has been working remotely for some time, and keynoter Sri Srinivasan, senior vice president and general of Cisco Collaboration has been working from home for the last two years.
“My team is spread across the world,” Srinivasan says. “Connecting virtually is just second nature to us.”
Cisco Webex started seeing steep growth in usage around the first week in February.
Traffic from Asian countries was the first to rise, starting in China then spreading to South Korea, Japan, Thailand, Singapore and others, closely tracing the spread of the virus.
With that growth in usage came a multitude of new users who were unfamiliar with the technology. They needed help with the basics, like setting up a meeting, joining a meeting and using the platform to continually stay engaged and connected with team members back in the office.
“It’s a big, daunting change,” Srinivasan says.
That transformational change will continue long past COVID-19, according to new research.
Meeting the demands of the new normal
According to a new Gartner survey of more than 300 finance chiefs and executives from research firm Gartner, nearly three in four said at least 5% of their previously on-site workforce will move to permanently remote positions when the pandemic is over.
Of those finance leaders, almost a quarter said they will move at least 20% of their on-site employees to permanent remote positions.
“This data is an example of the lasting impact the current coronavirus crisis will have on the way companies do business,” said Alexander Bant, practice vice president, research for the Gartner Finance Practice. “CFOs, already under pressure to tightly manage costs, clearly sense an opportunity to realize the cost benefits of a remote workforce.”
In fact, nearly a quarter of respondents said they will move at least 20% of their on-site employees to permanent remote positions.
To help facilitate those transitions to remote work, it will take enterprise communications platforms like Cisco Webex, Microsoft Teams, Zoom and Slack.
Steward Butterfield, CEO of Slack, said in his Enterprise Connect keynote this technology has never been more useful than it is at this moment.
Platforms like Slack are helping organizations and their employees cope with this sudden and disruptive change for which nobody had a playbook.
“If there was ever a time to focus on communication and collaboration across the enterprise, this is it,” Butterfield says.
Butterfield was speaking from a makeshift home office in his attic. He found a long coax cable that he dropped through the attic window into his basement. Across his company and others, workers struggle to balance childcare, battling for bandwidth with family members and other household issues.
Clearly, these are not normal times, Butterfield highlighted.
“Across Slack, there’s a pervasive belief that we were meant for this – that we were meant to help,” Butterfield says.