Businesses need to utilize COVID opportunity to re-evaluate work practices

By Rahul Vaimal, Associate Editor
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Work Place
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Businesses around the UAE will need to revisit and re-evaluate their workplace framework, considering the lasting effect that COVID-19 would have, experts said.

“Work practices across businesses around the world have been disrupted, more or less overnight, by an unexpected circumstance. This offers a unique opportunity for organizations to re-calibrate working practices that serve as the cultural foundations of long-term organizational success,” said Abhishek Sharma, partner, Public Sector at Oliver Wyman Middle East.

However, Sharma was quick to note that this is a fast-narrowing window of opportunity. “Some parts of the world are already beginning to emerge from their lockdown period. If this opportunity is not seized now, old practices and routines will quickly reassert themselves, and this once-in-a-lifetime chance to effectively drive large-scale improvements in working practices will have slipped away.”

According to a recent study by Oliver Wyman, COVID-19 has disrupted five areas of work-life that organizations will need to analyze and encourage in the coming years. These include switching to interactive means of communication; reforming business meetings; implementing compliance with hygiene in professional settings; ensuring employee well-being; and replacing physical cash with digital alternatives.

Some of the main changes have been visible around communications and meetings which has increased remote working tech adoption.

Sam Tayan, managing director at Zoom in the Gulf area, spoke of the platform ‘s progress during the COVID-19 lockdown months, and how it would transform the future of remote work.

“The coronavirus outbreak has transformed many organizations into fully remote operations almost overnight,” he said. “The pandemic has introduced rapid and dramatic shifts in how people work; also changing habits and opening new opportunities for the work environment. Globally, the usage of Zoom has ballooned overnight – far surpassing what we expected when we first announced our desire to help in late February.”

This growth includes more than 100,000 schools across 25 countries, which has turned to Zoom to help students remotely pursue their education. The estimated number of regular meeting users, both free and paid, conducted on Zoom as of the end of December last year was around 10 million.

“In March this year, we reached more than 200 million daily meeting participants, both free and paid,” Tayan revealed. “As of April this year, we reached more than 300 million daily meeting users, both free and paid. That is a 50% increase this month, from March to April. Recent figures for April this year also reveal that free user sign-up growth in the UAE increased 105 times as compared to January figures.”

Asked if the region will see a greater investment in technologies that help businesses work remotely, Tayan said: “We are very optimistic about the growth potential in the Middle East and have begun investments in the region with our headcount commitment. Going forward, we are committed to infrastructure, marketing, and services investment with the continued cooperation of the government.”

In addition, he also noted that as the use of video conferencing software improves, concerns about user privacy and security are becoming a top priority for many organizations.

“In our commitment to security and willingness to progress with the intelligent acquisition, we have acquired Keybase, a secure messaging and file-sharing service, which will further strengthen the security of our video communications platform,” Tayan said. “We also launched Zoom for Home, to support business professionals working remotely. Also, as part of our 90-day plan announced on April 1, we are doubling down on our commitment to security and we are proactively working to better identify, address, and fix issues.”