For months, TikTok and WhatsApp were the undisputed leaders on Apple’s App Store and Google’s Playstore. But like so many other things, this was also turned on its head by COVID-19. Today, the list of the most downloaded apps is dominated by home office apps such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Skype.
Many businesses were forced to switch to remote working when lockdowns were implemented. This massive surge in demand for modern enterprise software does not come as surprise. With lockdowns starting mid-march German companies found themselves in unknown waters most organized work and workers around their physical offices.
Home office is becoming more popular
The result of a survey realized by Bitkom showed that four out of ten companies in Germany enabled their employees to work from home. In 2018 it was only two out of ten in 2014. Nevertheless, the so called Betriebspanel (corporate panel) 2018 issue by the Institut für Arbeitsmarkt- und Berufsforschung (Institute for Employment Research) revealed that only one out of five employees used his or her right to work from home partially or totally. Reasons against home office among others are aversions by the employers and fear of insufficient information exchange.
Still, the main challenges lie on the employer’s side. In the Bitcom survey, 65 percent of the interviewed companies not having implemented home office working models did not want to treat their employees unequally as not all can work from home. More than half of them were convinced that productivity would decrease without direct exchange between colleagues. Other reasons mentioned were legal regulations for safety at work, the lack of control regarding working hours, the risk for data security and the costs for the necessary technology.
According to a survey conducted by the Bundesverband Digitale Wirtschaft (BVDW) (Federal Association Digital Economy) between March 5th and 8th 2020, around 60 percent of the respondents stated to favor working from home in times of situations posing a risk to health such as the COVID-19 pandemic. Though, almost half of the respondents thought that their employer would not be technically prepared to enable employees to work remotely.
But the app stores’ data shows how companies were forced to change in the last weeks. And this might even result in a long-term transformation of German working environment standards.
Collaboration and Video Conferencing Tools as the big winners
Now, most of us work at home and the big winners seems to be collaboration and video conferencing tools such as Zoom. Its user base has grown from 10 million daily users in December 2019 to over 200 million daily meeting participants in March 2020. We have Zoom weddings, virtual classes, aperitif dates with friends and even the UK cabinet is meeting via Zoom.
The platform was designed for enterprise customers with full IT-support. That’s why Zoom did not anticipate this broad variety of new users. Zoom has been forced to respond to issues regarding privacy and security as well as challenges regarding capacity and infrastructure. One example is “Zoom-bombing”, i.e. crashing open group calls to put obscene things onto everyone’s screen. Besides, some of the Zoom traffic is routed through Chinese servers. Whereas they probably have no interest in listening to drama or maths classes, it might be a good idea for the UK government to revise its Zoom usage.
Zoom shows that making sure that employees can work remotely overnight is not only a question of installing a new app. It is also a question of a reliable and secure infrastructure outside the office. On top of this technological challenge, there’s also the challenge to adapt to new processes and behaviors. Nevertheless, the current crisis forces this change of work and infrastructure. It might in turn override arguments against the home office in the future.
Positive effects of flexible working models
Sure enough, the transformation of working models can be rocky and there is no “one size fits it all” approach. Apart from that, it is heavily linked to a company’s culture. Still, there are several positive effects of more flexible working models. In a survey conducted by Censuswide on behalf of Glassdoor Mid-March 2020, 53 percent of the approximate 1,000 respondents having an office job mentioned the decrease of transportation costs as an advantage of remote working. Nearly half of them appreciated to work on its own pace and assumed a better work-life balance thanks to home office. Finally, 61 percent of the respondents would welcome a long-term positive effect on the home office arrangements in their company.
Thus, employees start to realize the benefits of remote work and stronger push for it.
Clevis Research is ready for the future of work
So, does this indicate that the crisis serves as a disruption to the German work culture? From our perspective, this is certainly the case. We entered into remote work ourselves. And we believe that the wide-spread forced familiarization with modern business technologies will permanently reduce aversion against the home office altogether.
Our working environment changes, so do we. We at Clevis, are ready for the future of work.
by Meike Winkler
Clevis Research is a market research and advisory boutique. We support clients to pursue global business development opportunities and spark new growth.
David Aberspach, Head of Sales / Team Lead Market & Strategy