The threat of the Coronavirus or COVID-19 pandemic is steadily growing in the United States and as a result, many companies have turned to ordering their employees to work remotely. As this continues many companies face the challenge of reframing their business protocols and processes. The increasing uncertainty and anxiety about the personal dangers from the potential pandemic and its impact on the economy will make the challenge of adjusting to these work changes even greater.
For example, the social media platform Twitter has encouraged its employees to work from home to do their part in preventing the spread of the virus. Other companies such as the tech giant Google and investment bank JP Morgan are also amongst the companies currently exercising remote working protocols for safety. While only a third of people in the U.S. currently work remotely, this sudden shift may be a taste to what experts predict that in the year 2025, 70% of workers will be working remotely. If you want to learn more about remote & virtual solutions, Schedule a Free Consultation Now.
A global poll from 2018 by data and insights company Kantar found that of 33,000 people, 32% valued a job where they could work from home. Joe Hirsh, a leadership and communication expert, told CNBC that he believed the outbreak of the coronavirus has the potential to make working from home more common practice. He argued that if more companies follow in the footsteps of Twitter and Google, this could “shift workplace dynamics.” Jon Addison, vice president of talent solutions EMEA at LinkedIn, agreed that businesses would inevitably find it more challenging to continue with “business as usual” under the current circumstances if they lack the technology infrastructure to work remotely or flexible working policies. For some, he said, the coronavirus outbreak could act as a “wake-up call” to enact this change. He said that working from home could actually prove advantageous for certain tasks, such as those which require “deep focus or privacy due to the sensitive nature of what’s being worked on.”
As more and more companies are following suit in asking their employees to work from home, some may worry that they are not equipped to handle such a change despite the necessity. Fortunately, many systems and programs already exist and have been around, being utilized by those businesses and companies where remote, virtual and outsourced staff is not by any means new. Many platforms are offering free access in light of the Coronavirus outbreak while many others have free account options already available.
Cisco’s WebEx, for example, reported that traffic on its backbone connecting China-based Webex users has increased by 22 times since the outbreak began. At the same time, it’s seen four to five times as many users in Japan, South Korea, and Singapore, with the average time spent on Webex video meetings doubling among users in those countries. Simultaneously, free signup rates in countries with infections have increased by 700% or more.
If you are setting up systems for your team and or business to prepare for the possibility of having to work remotely, here are some options you may want to look into:
Long-time conferencing service WebEx’s default-free plan offers you conferencing for up to three users with HD video, screen sharing on desktop and mobile devices, and limited recording options. It supports up to 50 participants per meeting, with meeting times capped at 40 minutes and online storage limited to 1GB.
With its special, Webex is offering unlimited usage with no time restrictions, support for up to 100 participants, and toll-call dial-in in addition to existing VoIP capabilities. This offer is being made with a free 90-day license to businesses that are not already Webex customers.
Google Hangouts Meet
Google, with 8,000 employees in Ireland, has already put its remote working conferencing to the test when it asked for all staffers to work from home for fear of possible coronavirus infection. Google isn’t offering free conferencing services to new users, but it is rolling out free access to its advanced Hangouts Meet video-conferencing capabilities to all its G Suite and G Suite for Education customers. This includes larger meetings, for up to 250 participants per call live streaming for up to 100,000 viewers within a domain; and the ability to record meetings and save them to Google Drive.
These features are typically available in the Enterprise edition of G Suite and in G Suite Enterprise for Education, but they will be available at no additional cost to all customers until July 1, 2020.
LogMeIn is another experienced video conferencing company that usually comes with a 14-day free trial. Now, according to the company, starting immediately, it will provide critical front-line service providers—including eligible healthcare providers, educational institutions, municipalities, and non-profit organizations—and current LogMeIn customer with free, organization-wide use of many LogMeIn products for three months through the availability of Emergency Remote Work Kits. This includes its flagship program, GoToMeeting and GoToWebinar.
Microsoft Teams, which is more of an Office 365 feature than a separate service these days. In response to the virus threat, Microsoft is offering a new six-month Office 365 E1 trial offer that includes full meetings, collaboration, and workflow capabilities and will enable all global customers—e.g., hospitals, schools, and businesses—to start using Teams immediately. In addition, beginning March 10, Microsoft is rolling out updates to the free version of Teams that will lift restrictions on user limits and make it possible for users to schedule meetings for video calling and conferencing. The free version of Microsoft Teams was already impressive in its own right. It supports up to 300 members, with guest access, one-on-one, and group video and audio calls, shared files (2GB per user and 10GB per team), screen sharing, and document collaboration using online Office apps.
Zoom is offering, for its Basic (free) users in China, unlimited meeting time for conferences with more than two participants. Like Microsoft Teams, its default-free offering is good enough for many small-to-medium businesses (SMB). Its free tier allows unlimited 1-to-1 meetings group sessions of up to 40 minutes and 100 participants.
Other major conferencing services, such as Slack and Zoho Meetings, haven’t announced any special deals although it is safe to assume that they and all other conferencing services will be offering new deals soon. The demand for remote-meeting software is spreading faster than the virus as worry infects the business world. You may also want to look into project management software such as Monday or Basecamp.
For those who are new to the world of virtual and remote work, these are just a few programs and tools you can utilize to make sure that everything is business as usual, despite the change in location. Next week we’ll share tips on how to manage your new work situation, in the meantime check out our other awesome articles about remote teams and remote work.
We hope everyone is safe and doing well. In times like these, the best thing to do is stay informed, keep calm and hope and pray for the best. Learn more about MyOutDesk remote & virtual solutions: Schedule a Free Consultation Now.