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February 14, 2020

There’s no place like home!

COVID-19, cloud-based communications tools and the business case for remote working and VR workplace training.

With the Coronavirus outbreak bringing travel bans, self-isolation and curfews across the globe, technologies that facilitate working from home are booming right now. But can cloud-based communications tools really help to address public health crises, as well as improving team productivity and an individual’s health? And does this give us a glimpse into the logical evolution of our working week – and could this include collaborative virtual reality training and office spaces?

Commuting: bad for our health, businesses and the global economy?

As containment is the key to fighting the spread of COVID-19, we’ve seen some Chinese cities go into lockdown, Hong Kong closing crossings into China, surrounding countries limiting borders and airlines suspend services completely. These limits on travel are having a significant impact on businesses, with economic consequences being felt across the globe. Warwick McKibbon, professor of economics at the Australian National University in Canberra highlights that in 2003 the SARS outbreak cost the global economy $40 billion and he predicts the impact from coronavirus could reach three or four times that amount.

For traditionally office-based businesses, working from home can provide a viable solution to minimise disruption by keeping workers working and businesses operational, and it’s proving to be a testbed for cloud-based collaborative working spaces being adopted on a much larger scale.
“It’s a good opportunity for us to test working from home at scale,” says Alvin Foo, managing director of Reprise Digital, a Shanghai ad agency. “Obviously, not easy for a creative ad agency that brainstorms a lot in person. It’s going to mean a lot of video chats and phone calls.” In addition, Alvin Graylin, the China President of HTC noted that “The positive environmental impact of this behavioural change will also be very interesting to see for the weeks of this giant social experiment. There’s essentially no cars on all cities in China…wonder what the C02 numbers look like.” 

The sky’s the limit! The growth in cloud-based platforms

Against the backdrop of these public health-led travel restrictions, cloud-based communications platforms are thriving. Recent indicators of success include:

  • Zoom Video Communications announcing its shares skyrocketing. On 3 February 2020, shares were up nearly 15%, their best one-day performance since 7 June 2019.
  • DingTalk’s video conferencing traffic reaching a historical high, with the surge associated with over 200 million employees of Chinese businesses working remotely.
  • WeChat Work boosting capacity for its audio and video conferencing tools, allowing up to 300 participants per meeting, in response to growing demand.

Working from home can improve performance 
Beyond the immediate need in response to the Coronavirus crisis, remote working is becoming increasingly common, and the perception of it being about pyjamas, procrastination and daytime TV is changing. 

Collaborative online tools are now facilitating new ways to communicate, share ideas and work together as a team. By reducing travel time and costs, team and client meetings are more efficient and agenda-focused. Additionally, by integrating remote working, businesses can access a wider talent pool, as attracting and retaining the best people to the job is no longer restricted geographically. 

There’s increasing evidence that remote working improves individual productivity. Online collaborative working tools such as Trello, Favro and Slack enable employees to work in an efficient and measurable way. According to a study in August 2019 by Airtasker based on a survey of over 1,000 employees, home-based workers were more productive, working 1.4 more days each month than people who worked in an office. 

And for individual employees, the option of remote working can also improve work/life balance; reducing stress and making them happier and healthier. A win-win for all!

Is the future virtual?
With the benefits of remote working clear to see, is the next logical step to make virtual office space truly virtual? The development of VR collaboration tools such as VISIONxR™ can offer a range of businesses game-changing opportunities for remote teams to collaborate and communicate together and take advantage of the benefits of VR training for employees.

Moreover, immersive technologies have broader applications for businesses than simply facilitating home working. VR for industrial training has the potential to transform the way that a range of businesses develop employee skills by creating collaborative, safe and realistic training spaces that give teams the chance to learn and practice new skills together in a way that’s not always possible in the real world. 

The Coronavirus outbreak has highlighted that businesses need to prepare more effectively for unforeseen events and uncontrollable environments through strategically planning and investing in alternative working practices. By embracing the creation of virtual working worlds, businesses can address these issues by providing viable and effective alternatives to physical working and learning spaces. 

Further reading