Shift in Work Culture in Post-COVID–19 World

Published on 14 May, 2020

The fear of COVID-19 has led to the need for social distancing and lockdowns across nations. Most corporates have introduced WFH policy to ensure business continuity. However, this policy can be sustainable only if it has a strong technological support that enables smooth connectivity and easy collaboration. Will it be feasible for companies to make WFH a permanent feature or will the technology infrastructure cost be too high?

Over the last 2–3 decades, businesses have not only become more global, but the nature of business has also undergone a drastic makeover. The economic contribution of service-based businesses has increased significantly, with technology at its backbone. Using collaborative tools, people across the globe can connect seamlessly with one another from their office or home. Furthermore, the growing usage of cloud computing has made it possible for multiple users to work on the same file/program at the same time, eliminating the earlier system of one user at a time.

Even with today’s ever-improving technology, the adoption of work from home (WFH) policy has been relatively low and WFH was still reserved for emergency situations. However, following the outbreak of COVID-19, which has forced several nations under lockdown, millions of workers across sectors and organizations are currently working from home. In these testing times, technology, especially web conferencing apps and project management tools, has been pivotal in helping organizations chart out a continuity plan and ensure the safety and security of employees as well as the business environment.

As the world is facing uncertain timelines with governments extending the lockdown periods to maintain social distancing, video conferencing apps can keep people connected. These apps allow people to connect and collaborate seamlessly not only for work for but also for socializing across geographical boundaries. Demand for apps such as Houseparty, Zoom, Hangouts Meet, and Microsoft Team surfaces has grown exponentially. In 2020, between March 14 and 21, these apps saw a record 62 million worldwide downloads across platforms. This was the highest download rate, up 45% from the week prior, (the largest growth among any categories across app stores combined that week) and up 90% from the weekly average of business app downloads in 2019.

In the same week, cloud meeting app Zoom was downloaded 14x more than the weekly average in Q4 2019 in the US, 20x more in the UK, 22x more in France, 17x more in Germany, 27x more in Spain, and 55x more in Italy. Google’s Hangouts Meet also witnessed downloads in UK, US, Spain and Italy reaching 24x, 30x, 64x and 140x respectively, as compared to average weekly downloads in Q4 2019.

The chart below shows worldwide daily downloads for Zoom app (millions)

The WFH model is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it could help companies save costs, since they can have a larger number of people with the same number of seats. On the other, it will lead to an increase in IT infrastructure cost. Although employees will cut down on travel time, there are still questions regarding employee discipline, efficiency, and focus in the WFH model. After COVID-19, the management of IT and service companies in India expects 20–30% of their staff to shift to this model. For more companies to follow suit, a detailed cost benefit analysis, along with its impacts in the long term for businesses and economies, will have to be considered in order to establish the efficacy of the WFH model as a sustainable option in the long term.