The shift to working remotely has been a significant change for many U.S. companies, and virtual communications have been the primary method of interaction during the coronavirus pandemic. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has published guidance on how businesses should plot out their COVID-19 prevention programs, and with the vaccine rollout steadily progressing, companies are debating whether a return to in-person interaction will soon be in order.
The transition back to a physical work environment will be slow and may not happen at all for some companies. Money saved from reducing brick and mortar locations and the continued threat of COVID-19 will keep virtual work environments in existence, and they may even become a permanent fixture of modern work. Because virtual work is here to stay, businesses are developing core remote communications programs that involve end-to-end virtual communications protocols and solutions.
The New Age of Video Conferencing
Video conferencing has been a gamechanger for businesses because it created a way for clients and colleagues to connect face-to-face. Zoom, Skype, Cisco WebEx, Google Meets, Microsoft Teams, and GoToMeeting are a few top platforms that allow groups to meet in a more personal way. Embedded tools such as whiteboards, messaging, screen sharing, and document sharing enable co-workers to fully collaborate while in meetings, which up-levels productivity.
Instant Messaging is Becoming Just as Common as Email
Having dedicated channels to speak with team members that can be moderated through an administrator is a much-needed element of communication required for daily updates and interaction necessary to stay up to date on urgent business items. Slack, Skype, and Microsoft Teams all have instant messaging features available in the cloud or can be used as a web app. The ease and accessibility of instant messaging platforms is contagious, and when used from a mobile device, instant messaging can feel just as natural as text messaging.
Email is Still a Staple in Business
One of the most critical yet underrated communication tools today is email. With other tools such as collaboration systems and messaging solutions that are now making waves in the corporate communications space, email is being redefined and rediscovering its role in the business sector. Archival features, the ability to attach documents and sending long-form messages, is still best served through email. An email address is also easer to widely distribute versus sending out instant messaging invitations that require signing up for an account, and it’s relevant for activities such as e-faxing, email marketing, and record keeping.
Digital Project Management Tools
Digitizing project management functions are making project execution, planning, and management much easier among remote teams. Since the ability to have spaces where associates can block out and assign tasks has been eliminated for many, project management has moved to tools such as Atlassian, Monday, Trello, Teamwork, and Microsoft Teams. Moving project management tools to a digital platform also allows external parties to be involved and reduces the concern of losing track of tasks. Project managers can even look up past ideas, communication, and completed assignments for planning and reporting purposes.
Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) Systems
When the sudden and swift wave of shutdowns began to hit corporate America early in the pandemic, organizations with Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) systems could easily install softphones for associates. Employees could then effortlessly continue to utilize work lines and inter-company extension dialing. VoIP capabilities also add agility to employees’ work lives, and associates can take calls from anywhere they can access Wi-Fi.
The need for constant and active collaboration is needed for companies to remain competitive in a global world. The adoption of video conferencing, instant messaging, email, project management tools, and softphones to mobile applications makes it possible for employees to work on the go and create more work/life balance. This new way of operating reduces hiccups that impede productivity, and the growth of virtual communication solutions is enabling businesses to thrive amid the current pandemic and prepare for whatever the future may bring.