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The Future of Videoconferencing and Remote Working

By: George Waggott and Roberto Fonseca-Velazquez, summer law student,

George Waggott Law

In the past few years, remote working has gained considerable popularity. This is due to advances in technology which allow employees to stay connected to their workplace. This trend had already existed before the COVID-19 pandemic, but lockdowns and social distancing policies greatly accelerated it. The rise of remote working has led workplaces to increasingly rely on tools for videoconferencing and collaboration, such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams.

Remote Working

The rise of remote and hybrid reactions has led to firms engaging in an evaluation of worker productivity and efficiency more generally. There is now in the minds of many employers an open question about how much employees can accomplish. According to a Buffer survey, the biggest benefits of remote working include flexible schedules and the ability to work from anywhere. The biggest struggles include the inability to “unplug” from a workday and the difficulty collaborating and communicating with co-workers. Despite these difficulties, a Mercer survey indicates that 94% of employees say productivity while working remotely is the same or higher than in-office. It appears that employees have enjoyed the flexibility that comes with remote working, and it is predicted that by 2025, some 70% of the U.S. workforce will work remotely at least five days a month.

Statistics Canada has estimated that that Ontario-based businesses are more likely to switch to remote options when compared to the Canadian average. This is likely attributable to the cost of office space and the presence of knowledge-intensive industries such as finance, insurance, and telecommunications. Given the successes with having a substantial portion of work performed remotely, most observers have predicted that remote work or some hybrid approach which mixes remote and in-office work is now here to stay.

Videoconferencing and Related Tech Tools 

One of the key facilitators of remote work landscape is videoconferencing.

Zoom is one of the leaders in the videoconferencing space. Zoom is attractive to individuals and companies for its robust free membership and accessible interface. Despite its attractive qualities, its rapid rise to wide-scale use has come with vulnerabilities. Firstly, Zoom encountered numerous security breaches, including “Zoombombing” where hackers would disruptively enter Zoom calls. Secondly, many workers have encountered “Zoom fatigue” as a result of the constant screen time associated with more video meetings. And finally, an issue that arises with all remote working is the difficulty of communicating with co-workers. In an office, there is the ability to approach someone to ask a quick question, whereas on platforms such as Zoom, there is the need to email, set up a time to chat, and have the video call. This arguably makes it more difficult to have more spontaneous interactions when working remotely.

Microsoft Teams is another popular videoconferencing platform. A key benefit of Teams is that many companies already pay for Office 365, which includes a suite of Microsoft products, including Teams. Microsoft has continued to update Teams in an effort to make it attractive for remote working. A recent feature is “together mode,” which creates a shared virtual background for all videoconference participants to feel as if they are in the same room.

In order for remote working to continue to be successful, companies will need to value all contributions equally, regardless of whether or not they come from someone physically in the meeting room or someone on a screen. This will require an ongoing review of approach to work assignments, deliverables and the routines of the organization. It is clear, however, that remote working and virtual connection tools will stick around. It is imperative for employers to approach these transitions with a flexible mindset, otherwise they risk being outcompeted by firms who capitalize on the opportunities offered by remote and hybrid work.

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