Last week was AstriCon Plan 9 (Virtual AstriCon), and while it was the best virtual event I’ve been part of (seriously!), yet another virtual event makes it seem as if we’ll be working from home forever. But some companies are quietly already partially back to work, or making plans to have employees come back to work. No matter what, this will end someday, and things will be back to normal.
But will they? Will it end, and then just like that, just like we started to work from home one day, we’re back at the office as if nothing happened? Based on all that has happened these many months and all we’ve learned about working remote and what tools work and what won’t, it’s doubtful employee life goes on as if it’s 2019.
As I’m sure you are aware, there are some companies that have announced employees can work from home indefinitely. Certainly things won’t be the same for these employees. At the same time, some companies have announced their intention to have employees come back to the office. One thing to learn from all this: no matter what type of company you fall into, that company needs to plan for the next disruption to business. Or at least want to give enable employee work from home flexibility – because not only is it good for the employee, it is also just good business for the company.
And so from all that, it is likely businesses will upgrade their phone system to Unified Communication systems simply because they enable remote working more efficiently. Employee laptops and smartphones, via an application, can be an extension of the business phone and can answer phone calls to the business work number and can also place outbound phone calls from the business work number. This enables a business to therefore look like it’s open and operating fine even though its employees are not physically all together. And Unified Communication systems often come equipped with instant messaging capability, which enables someone who answers the phone to find someone quickly to get an answer, just like it might happen if they were in an office.
Remote working highlighted the importance of electronic collaboration capability. If you are not going to be right next to someone, or in the same room, talking about something you both need to see, then the next best thing is sharing it on a screen and talking about it. The collaboration and presence tool has emerged as the best place to do that, and in a UC system, that can be part of the softphone client. These capabilities are here to stay because even when we go back to the office, it might be easier to show something and share something on a screen, and not have to make someone who is not in the same office feel like a third wheel.
Now we get to video calls. Group video calling, and sharing of documents as well, in a group environment is critical. This is here to stay.
When we go back to the office, it won’t be what we were used to. It will certainly be similar, but we’ll bring these new tools we found, such as softphone clients, collaboration, and video, and utilize them in our day-to-day work. I’m looking forward to getting back to the office.