The realities of remote working—but how long will they last?

By Christiaan Brink, Product Executive, Caseware Africa

Overnight, we all turned into remote workers, raising all sorts of technical and human issues for us and our companies. Now that we’ve been at it for several weeks, some trends are starting to emerge: 

Microsoft Teams and Zoom are clear winners when it comes to hosting video meeting between colleagues and with clients—not to mention virtual coffee dates with friends and even book club gatherings and the like. Teams reportedly added 12 million new active daily users in the first week of lockdown, which gives you some idea of what it means when businesses across the world move online more or less simultaneously. Microsoft has also made the product available to schools at no charge. Part of its success is probably due to the strength of the Microsoft brand, and the way it integrates with the ubiquitous Office suite. Zoom’s success is probably attributable to its free version, its efficient use of data and its good social interface.

The cloud is demonstrating its mettle.Corporate VPN capabilities have often buckled under the strain of the entire workforce trying to access systems, thus harming productivity and solving the problem has proved to be expensive. By contrast, those organisations that opted for cloud-hosted solutions have not experienced this difficulty—the applications and data are readily accessible from anywhere, are designed for high-volume access and are well-protected by the cloud provider’s large security teams and rigorous authentication protocols. Caseware’s decision to follow a cloud-first strategy means that clients who were already using Caseware Cloud were able to continue work seamlessly during this time.

Education could be in for a profound disruption.Education institutions latched onto online channels as an additional revenue stream a few years back, but now that the entire “real-world” student body has been forced online, there’s every chance that a more fundamental reboot of the education model is in the offing. It could mean that the best teaching would be available to anybody anywhere—provided that governments can offer the necessary devices and connectivity where they are needed.

Business real estate is in for a reset.They say it takes only three weeks to form a new habit, and by the end of lockdown, many of us will have become habituated to working from home. If a more hybrid work style evolves, with home perhaps becoming the place to do work that requires deep concentration, then companies may find themselves needing less floor area and even perhaps less appetite for prime locations.

Online retail will accelerate.The impact of a new habit could also be made about e-commerce. Lockdown will have prompted many to take their first steps into online purchasing, and if their experience is good, they may continue using digital channels. The big retailers are online already, but the smaller high street stores will probably need to do some lateral thinking.

Performing could be redefined.Many artists are streaming performances from their living rooms and other unlikely venues, and may be opening up a new stream of revenue for them once live performances become possible again. Just as many sports fans opt to watch the big game on TV for reasons of convenience and also the better view, so a new audience for all the performing arts could be created. And shouldn’t our local film industry explore streaming as a way to reach a wider audience, especially as sitting cooped up in a movie house may be less appealing to many for a while?

Exercising and socialising grow in importance.There is a certain amount one can do by participating in online exercise classes and having virtual dinner parties, but our appreciation of the real thing grows by the day.

Despite its many negatives, the COVID-19 crisis has delivered one clear benefit: a renewed sense that ultimately we all have more in common than we thought. In a country with our history, the sense of unity is inspiring. Let’s hope that we can keep that spirit alive even though we still have so many difficult challenges to solve as a nation. If there is one thing we have realised during this time, it is that, as human beings, we are social creatures desiring community and relationship.

Christiaan Brink, Product Executive, Caseware Africa, a division of Adapt IT.

Christiaan holds a degree in Computer Engineering and has extensive product development experience and a passion for technology.  He spent 12 years based in the UK creating software solutions for the investment data industry across EMEA.  Christiaan joined the Adapt IT group in 2019 where he currently leads the product group for the Caseware Africa division.

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