The COVID19 pandemic forced organizations all over the world to go remote – with no warning. With entire companies now working from home, the way that they communicate completely changed, as did the tools they need to do so. All of a sudden, every business needed desktop and mobile tools to support remote workers, video became a requirement and headsets were more in-demand then phones. For those of us in the communication technology sector, this forced us to quickly adjust to the new remote solutions our customers needed, altering the industry more than anything in a generation. However, this sudden landscape change served as a case study of what next-generation technology could do for our world, and therefore provided a window into the future of communication technology. Because of all of the benefits it offers to businesses, employees and society-at-large, remote work is not a trend – it is the future. As a result, communication technology that does not support secure and flexible remote usage will quickly be pushed to the side.
Though it took a global pandemic to force the issue, businesses around the world are proving that not only is remote work effective but it provides financial, productivity and operational benefits. As a result, 70 percent of founder’s plan to allow some or all of their employees to continue to work remotely, according to Entrepreneur Magazine. This blog will highlight the many reasons that remote work is the future and what that means for the communications technology industry. Let’s start by taking a look at the benefits that remote work offers.
Cost Savings – As employees are proving they can be as, if not more productive from home, many businesses are already scrapping their large, expensive office spaces in favor of a largely remote workforce. Not only is the recurring cost of commercial real estate one of a businesses’ largest expenses, but it also has to be furnished, maintained and secured – adding additional costs.
Increased Employee Morale, Productivity and Lower Turnover – There are many studies that prove that when they have the opportunity to work remotely, employees are happier and more productive. 80% of remote workers report having a higher morale when working remotely, and 70% of those same respondents reported lower absenteeism. In terms of productivity, 86% of employees say they are most productive when they do not have the usual distractions of the office (Global Workforce Analytics). Employers offering a work-from-home option in 2018 saw turnover rates fall by over 50% (Stanford).
More Access to Talent – Now that they have the tools to ensure any employee can be successful from anywhere, and have experience doing it, businesses can now realistically hire employees anywhere in the world. This could greatly expand the talent and resources that any business has access to.
No Commuting – and the societal, employee and business benefits that result
The average daily commute in the United States is 54 minutes (Washington Post), in Europe it is 1 hour and 24 minutes (sdworx.com) and they are likely longer throughout much of Asia. Cutting our commutes opens up more personal time, raising employee morale and increasing productivity, while eliminating a major source of absenteeism and distraction. On a macro scale, cutting out the commute would have a major impact on our environment by lowering one of the largest sources of pollution – transportation. Less traffic and congestion also mean more habitable and enjoyable cities.
So, what does all of this mean for the communications technology industry? Here are the four most important changes that will shape the next generation of the industry.
1. All communication platforms must now support secure remote access and allow employees to work anywhere, any time, on any device
Massive growth of cloud platforms in 2020 proves that firms of all types are flocking to secure and flexible remote tools. This shift has proven to be best for businesses and their employees, and what is best for the customer has to be best for the industry. Those in the industry that do not adjust their business model to this new remote reality will likely get left in the dust.
2. Major acceleration in adoption of cloud communication platforms and growth in personal collaboration device market
Cloud technology has been ready to and able to support a flexible workforce for years. Whether it was lack of trust in the cloud, lack of trust in remote employees, or both, society was not yet ready to adopt it up until this point. Now that many businesses have experienced the benefits of remote work, it will be critical for them to support a flexible workforce moving forward, and cloud platforms have proven to provide the most seamless and powerful way to do so.
A direct result of cloud platform adoption is the growth of the personal collaboration device market, which had already been on the rise over the past few years. Headsets and webcams allow businesses to ensure that their remote workers can always communicate with the highest possible quality, and their affordable cost makes them a no-brainer.
Another thing to look out for is the possibility that Microsoft Teams and similar providers will move to an open-integration hardware model. This often-rumored possibility would make it even easier for businesses to adopt the cloud by ensuring they can integrate with any of the hardware they already and would likely tilt the market even further towards the cloud.
3. Video is no longer a nice-to-have feature – it is a requirement
Video provides the most personal connection and builds relationships more than voice, which is much more important as many businesses go remote. UC Today has reported a 200% increase in video usage across all major vendors through June, even with the expected decline in traditional room-based video conferencing systems. To prove the major opportunity that video will continue to have, 87% of millennials (future business decision makers) report that video has a positive impact on business communications, while only 25% report currently using it at work (Cisco).
4. Increased reliance on Wi-Fi for on-premise deployments
This was a trend even before COVID19 as Wi-Fi technology is now as quick and secure as wired connections. In comparison to the traditional wired deployment, Wi-Fi is quicker and easier to install, cuts out miles of wasteful, costly and unreliable cables, allows much easier expansion, provides more mobility with greater range and streamlines all traffic onto one common network. The eco-friendly wireless office was already gaining momentum and now with the growth of web and mobile tools, the likelihood of devices moving between home and the office and the need to allow employees to work anywhere in a physical setting, Wi-Fi deployments will become the norm.
The way that I see it, COVID19 is not forcing the communications technology to change – it is helping us to finally evolve. Flexible communication platforms that allow businesses to work from anywhere have been around for years, and I believe they have always been best for the customer. However, this model was different from what we were all used to. Now that businesses received a crash course in working remotely, and now that the benefits of flexible work are becoming obvious, there is no going back. It’s time for the communication industry to evolve into the next generation – a generation of flexible and remote tools that can be accessed anywhere on any device.