In March of this year, Microsoft led the COVID-19 remote work movement by being one of the first companies to send most of its employees to work from home (March 4). In fact, the tech giant made the decision a solid three weeks before Washington Governor Jay Inslee declared a statewide shelter-in-place.
Then, in early May, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella announced that most of the company’s 144,000 employees can continue working from home until at least October. Knowing the trends of Big Tech, we can speculate that they might follow the likes of Facebook and Amazon and extend it even further.
The importance of being cloud-first
How is Microsoft able to make such large-scale operational decisions? Not only did the company voluntarily send employees home early on, but it’s also choosing to keep offices empty for many more months. Most organizations would see these changes as huge risks to the normal flow of business, especially at a time as volatile as now. For companies like Microsoft, however, that’s not the case.
That’s because organizations prepared to make these massive decisions have cloud technologies to support their IT needs. For example, the onset of COVID-19 forced employers to shutter their offices and take work home. Organizations with most of their workflows on premises had to leverage cloud or hybrid-cloud solutions to allow employees to work effectively from home.
While cloud-first organizations readily weathered the COVID-19 disruption, others were forced to hastily deploy cloud technologies before sending employees home. In fact, a Gartner report found that only 12% of organizations were highly prepared for a massive work-from-home event. This resulted in IT teams adopting short-term solutions that don’t necessarily meet long-term IT goals.
Recovering from disruption
Organizations that adopted multiple, disparate communications apps might discover that employees find switching between team messaging and video conferencing super frustrating, especially when they have to log in, find meeting IDs, input passwords, and spend several minutes setting up. Instead, unified communications solutions combine those features into a single platform, allowing employees to switch from messaging to calling with a single click.
Now that businesses are over the initial shock of the pandemic and restrictions have loosened, leaders are looking ahead and planning their short and long-term continuity strategies. Those that deployed multiple communications apps might be considering consolidating into a unified communications solution as part of their post-COVID-19 plans.
Here are five advantages unified communications can offer every organization in the post-COVID-19 workplace:
1. Work from anywhere
Before COVID-19, only 4% of people regularly worked from home. At the height of the lockdowns, however, 34% of people were working from home. And in many organizations, it’s going to stay that way for a while. A Gartner survey on 317 CFOs found that 74% of companies plan to permanently shift to more remote work post-COVID-19.
If distributed teams are to collaborate effectively, communications will be critical. Remote employees want to work from anywhere—whether it’s at home, in a hotel, at the airport, or on a train. And they’ll need to keep their setups as lean as possible. Having to toggle through multiple apps, tabs, emails, and notifications just to find the right information is overwhelming for today’s employees and killing productivity.
Because UCaaS is delivered from the cloud, remote employees can communicate with colleagues from anywhere, on any device, and at any time.
In times of uncertainty and volatility, business needs can change at a moment’s notice. For example, businesses negatively impacted by the pandemic might need to scale down to save on costs. As those businesses recover and regrow, they’ll want to scale up their services to accommodate more users. On-premises communications systems don’t offer that level of scalability. Unified communications providers, however, can easily scale to match every organization’s specific needs.
Restrictions have loosened, but companies aren’t simply forcing all of their employees back to offices. In fact, a PwC pulse survey on 989 CFOs found that a second coronavirus wave is the number two biggest concern as organizations return to normal. Clearly, safety is a huge priority, and flexible/remote work positions are integral to a smooth recovery.
Unified communications allow employees to continue working collaboratively as they go fully remote or alternate work schedules with coworkers. This ensures productivity while maximizing safety efforts.
4. Business resilience
The pandemic caught most organizations off guard, and many simply weren’t prepared to support remote communication and collaboration. Avoiding another massive disruption (e.g., a second wave) is undoubtedly on every organization’s agenda. Preparedness will be key to achieving this.
Organizations are planning to build better resilience by offering more work flexibility. Another PwC survey found that 73% of CFOs believe work flexibility is vital to preparing for future events of disruption. By migrating more workflows to the cloud and allowing employees to regularly work remotely, a future work-from-home disaster could just be any other day.
5. Prepared for a remote-first future
COVID-19 has completely deconstructed the traditional workplace. Not only are employees working productively from home, but they’re also enjoying the autonomy of a better work-life balance. Eight-hour workdays have vanished, and employees work when they feel most productive.
The demand for remote work has reached critical mass—43% of full-time American workers say they want to continue working from home post-COVID-19—and organizations have plans to meet them. In order for organizations to attract the best talent in the post-COVID-19 workplace, organizations will have to compete by providing remote or flexible options.
And when they do, those remote workers will need the right tools to help them succeed. With unified communications, workers can send messages, call, and join virtual meetings all in one place. The seamlessness makes communicating as easy as working together in an office.
Ready for post-COVID challenges
The demands of the post-COVID workplace show just how important a unified communications solution is for business recovery. Offices will have fewer people than ever as organizations embrace flexible or even work-from-anywhere arrangements. At the same time, with many businesses expecting to make a full recovery by the end of 2020, IT teams might need to scale up their communications needs.
Originally published Jun 25, 2020, updated Aug 11, 2020