In many ways, the COVID-19 global pandemic has redefined communication. Almost everyone in the world has had to grapple with the death of traditional communication that we were so accustomed to. Overnight, handshakes, facial expressions, and face-to-face meetings became a thing of the past. If you have had to partake in an awkward ‘elbow bump’, or have realized that you depended on lip reading more than you may have thought, then you’ll be aware of how much has changed since March 2020.
The fact is, the way we communicate with friends, family, and colleagues has been altered, and will remain so for a little while more.
As the world continues to navigate through shelter-in-place orders, lockdowns and work from home guidelines, many people have found themselves embracing digital communication platforms like never before.
The pre-COVID thinking that we all needed a digital detox, has quickly been forgotten and, in the blink of an eye, people have become completely reliant on their computers for their day-to-day lives. Morning workouts, meetings, virtual coffee breaks, hanging out with friends, and of course, binging Netflix series (anyone remember Tiger King?) are now all facilitated by an internet connection and a screen. With all in-person interaction being quickly replaced with a digital alternative, it’s easy to see how people have started to dread turning on their laptop in the morning.
Post-COVID Workplace Communication
But, life goes on- and so does work. For people returning to the workplace, it will likely look a lot different, as many companies impose strict physical distancing and mask wearing procedures. Gone are the days of careless mingling with team members and meetings in close quarters. Some offices have been completely redesigned to ensure employees can actively avoid each other, a far cry from the collaborative environment that so many workplaces strived to create over the last decade.
Perhaps the biggest change to workplace communication will be meetings, or lack thereof, as face-to-face interaction becomes a thing of the past. Even as offices reopen, many businesses have decided to move all meetings to online-only. That means many workers will find themselves sitting at their desk all day, with little interaction with colleagues. With all of these changes how do companies foster open communication and collaboration when teammates—whether they be 6 ft apart or 6,000 miles apart—no longer interact face-to-face?
Many companies are hedging their bets that streamlined communications platforms will be the answer to a lot of these questions, and they just might be right. Unified Communications or UCaaS platforms have enabled many businesses to make the switch to remote working relatively seamlessly.
Voice services allow employees to make and take calls from anywhere, on desk phones, softphones or mobiles, assuming that they are connected to the internet. This is important for many customer facing services who may be experiencing increased demand during COVID . UCaaS enables businesses to continue to provide a strong customer service, even from remote locations.
Perhaps more importantly, UCaaS platforms enable collaboration between teams through video conferencing and document sharing. While it could be argued that there has been an over-abundance of video conferencing during the pandemic, it is now seen as a must for companies who have implemented remote working procedures. While it’s hard to pick up on all the cues of face-to-face interaction over Webex, video conferencing is proving itself as a solid substitute for office communications. Physical distancing may require that cramped meeting rooms are a thing of the past and so even in the office, workers will depend on video conferencing for team meetings.
In addition, UCaaS can enable teammates to work collaboratively on projects even when they are not huddled over the same desk. The right platform will offer tools that allow for real time doc sharing between employees, creating streamlined workflows and fostering idea sharing. This feature is incredibly important for feedback, encouragement and can help to recreate some of the dynamism previously enjoyed in office space.
The importance of infrastructure in a remote working world
Underpinning the ability of large amounts of the population to work from home is a great infrastructure. If this pandemic had happened even 10 years ago, it’s likely that many workplaces would not have been able to respond in the same way. Developments in internet services and technology over the last 20 years meant that many people in metropolitan areas were able to migrate to remote work in a matter of days.
However, it's clear that public networks still have a way to go before they are capable of handling the sheer amount of traffic required for enterprise-grade work. As the number of people working over personal internet connections skyrocketed, issues with latency and jitter started to become apparent as the public networks struggled to handle concurrent video conferencing, voice services and messaging features occurring on networks that had been primarily used for personal services prior to the pandemic.
These issues caused by busy public networks can be solved in part by moving more traffic to private internet networks. Not only does this reduce latency, packet loss and jitter, but data is also more secure as- by definition- only those given access can join a private network. Private networks can handle more of your media without the latency, lag and jitter. This makes communication and collaboration between employees, coworkers, and customers seamless and is one way to bridge the communication gap both during the pandemic and after.
As 2020 draws to a close, it’s clear that our dependence on apps such as Zoom and Google Hangouts is not a thing of the past. While they may not be as integral to life as they were back in April, the relative success of working from home initiatives and continuous regional lockdowns, mean that it could be a long time yet before we can interact with colleagues, friends, and loved ones completely independently of digital comms.
But hey, this doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Those of us lucky enough to have access to ultra-fast internet networks should take advantage of the advancements made in communications technology over the last number of years. By implementing and getting comfortable with communication platforms, we can still enjoy a level of connectivity not so far removed from what we once knew.
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