While companies are starting to transition to flexible work environments, there is still a huge chunk of companies worldwide that don’t allow remote work. OWL Labs estimate that about 44% of the world’s companies continue to permit any form of remote work.

However, a recent event is starting to shake up this figure: the COVID-19 outbreak.

Counteracting shocks

The disease outbreak caused massive shocks in economic activity all over the world. This is especially true in highly affected countries such as Mainland China. If the outbreak were to persist for the months to come, the paralysis of business operations is simply not permissible.

In countries where the infection rates aren’t as high, while business operations are going on as usual, the possibility of an outbreak within a company cannot be eliminated.

The shocks from on-going outbreaks and the prevention of one to begin with in workplaces can both be counteracted by considering the acceleration of systems that will allow remote work.

While the COVID-19 outbreak is bound to end eventually, its accelerating effect in the future of work will be definitely withstanding if the frameworks are properly laid down.

Surge in demand

As early as now, this effect of the COVID-19 is clearly felt.  Video conferencing software company, Zoom, has recorded an increase of 2.2 million monthly active users — a 44 percentage point increase — as of February 2020. This is their best month since going public in April last year.

In order to cater to this surge due to the outbreak, Zoom lifted the 40-minute limit on video conferences for free users in China.

Among the countries that increased the use of remote working tools include China, South Korea, Japan, Italy, amongst others. These areas are also the prime customers of Zoom as of the moment.

“ We have been in constant touch with our employees in regions impacted by the epidemic, as well as our customers in those areas, and we’re providing support in every way we can,” Zoom CEO Eric Yuan said in a blog post.

Prominent companies which also began to encourage remote work among their employees include Japan’s largest advertising agency, Dentsu Inc, IBM, Amazon, Merck & Co., and Twitter.

Recommendations

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention  (CDC) also encourages businesses to implement flexible work hours and work sites. This is a form of social distancing that can aid in slowing down the spread of the disease.

“For employees who are able to telework, supervisors should encourage employees to telework instead of coming into the workplace until symptoms are completely resolved,” CDC said.

To make this happen, CDC suggested to businesses a revisiting of their existing information technology and infrastructure in order to ensure that they are capable of supporting multiple employees that are working from home.

Some of the technologies recommended by ZDNet include:

  • Webcams for video conferencing
  • A high-quality headset
  • “On the air” signs, to prevent disturbance during meetings
  • Virtual Private Networks (VPN) to maintain online security
  • Productivity, collaboration, and business applications that will facilitate the management of a large number of people working remotely.
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