Published: 22nd July 2020
How they're making it work: Leveraging technology to build collaborative workspaces
PhD Scholars from IIT-M’s Department of Management Studies write about the changing workplace and how major industries are working their way around new obstacles
With a larger part of the global population now living under mobility restrictions, as per the government regulations proposed by their respective countries, many organizations across industries have shifted their business processes completely or partially online, where their employees are forced to embrace a work-from-home (WFH) culture on a scale that never before was attempted. Not surprisingly, with a surge in the demand for video conferencing apps, the third week of March 2020, saw the highest number ever seen with enterprise-focused mobile app downloads reaching 62 million in both the ioS and Google play store. While the increase in usage of video conferencing apps such as Microsoft Teams, Google Hangout, Google Meet and WebEx helped them jump in their rankings, Zoom Cloud Meetings remained as the undisputed winner.
Business communication apps also saw record levels of growth in March, 2020, according to the statistical data from mobile market data provider App Annie. Instead of relying on a company intranet, organizations have begun to make use of various business communication apps available for instant messaging, email-style message threads, and other notifications via SMS text message or phone call. By leveraging the benefits from more than one available app, businesses have begun to streamline and enhance internal communications for better team cohesion and improved productivity. Some of the most popular globally recognized business communication apps available on mobile devices and desktops/laptops for employees to communicate effectively with one another are: Slack, HipChat, Basecamp, DialMyCalls, Redbooth, Wrike, Skype, Flowdock, and Azendoo.
While being separated from ones near and dears, to stave off the effects of isolation, video conferencing and collaboration service platforms have come to rescue as a lifeline to many. According to Mr. Praveen Kanyadi, Cofounder and VP of Products at SpotCues, “From communication challenges to connectivity issues and process disruptions, remote working can cause disruption at the workplace, creating fear, anxiety, and chaos at different levels,” He also added that, “First and foremost, leaders must identify all areas that would be impacted through remote working and come up with a communication plan for each of them.” It is important that the senior management identifies alternative ways for employees to virtually connect and manage adhoc situations. While e-mails were the most widely accepted and used mode for formal communication, organizational leaders have also realised the importance of real time communication for team meetings and strategic business discussions while working remotely.
Organizations have begun to realise the importance of adding a synchronous component to their existing communication channel. Video conferencing applications have currently been viewed as the ultimate solution by many organizations to connect with their remote workers, customers, and other stakeholders in real time, that also enables the practice of ‘social distancing’ to ensure employee safety and control the pandemic spread. This scenario prevailing across the globe has multiplied the adoption rates of video conferencing applications manifolds.
A survey conducted with 229 HR global leaders on April 2, 2020 by Gartner, Inc., world’s leading research and advisory company, revealed that nearly 50% of organizations have 81% or more of their employees working remotely since the outbreak of the pandemic. Tom Eagle, A senior research director at Gartner believes that “the COVID-19 crisis will be a catalyst for transformative work cultures and practices that will be significantly characterized by remote work,” noting that use of video-conferencing applications and other web-based tools will become indispensable for workforce collaboration and communication. As per the forecast by Gartner, the cloud video conferencing market that includes platforms such as Cisco WebEx, Zoom and Microsoft Teams could be outpaced only through the growth of cloud-based telephony. The Gartner’s workforce consumer survey suggested that ‘the average amount of time employees spend in meetings each week has reached 11.7 hours, with 9% of respondents spending more than 20 hours of their working week in virtual meetings during the current lockdown period’.
With businesses today making more-global footprints, teams in organizations are becoming more geographically diverse and dispersed. Face-to-face collaborations amongst the global teams have increasingly been difficult. And with adhoc, uncertain and unplanned occurrences of events such as the current pandemic outbreak, the workforce requires greater and convenient access to workplace collaboration tools than ever before. He also added, “COVID-19 crisis has continued to drive demand for video conferencing applications at an accelerated pace in today’s digital workplaces with changing nature of work”.
As John F. Kennedy said, “Change is the law of life and those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future!”