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How COVID-19 is Changing How We Work
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A look at how a global pandemic is altering business and how working in the digital age could ease the pain
At this point, it’s probably safe to say just about everyone has been impacted by the Coronavirus pandemic. This strain of Coronavirus, or COVID-19, has scientists and medical researchers racing to identify potential cures and vaccines, but has proven highly complex and resistant.
We’ve already seen just how quickly COVID-19 can spread through communities. Italy, Iran, Spain, and portions of the U.S. like Seattle and San Francisco, have all instituted extraordinary measures to contain the spread. But we have also learned that when measures are instituted well, they work. China, the epicenter of the outbreak, has less than 20 new cases per day according to the World Health Organization. Similarly, Japan and South Korea, once thought to be the next regions for massive outbreaks, have effectively fought back the spread. We are learning that with decisive and strong measures, communities can turn the tide on the virus relatively quickly.
Taking a lesson from these instances, many other countries and communities — including the United States amid a national emergency declaration — have followed suit to get out ahead of the situation. Though the virus is different from the common cold or flu, the same steps for prevention are proving effective at slowing the virus’s growth. They include constantly washing hands, avoiding unnecessary contact and crowded events where the virus could spread, staying home or otherwise confined to slow the spread and keeping up-to-date with science-based updates and alerts through authorities like the Centers for Disease Control or healthcare professionals.
In short, this is real, and it’s changing the very nature of how we live and work. Thanks to modern technologies, much larger numbers of global citizens have the ability today to self-contain without losing the ability to work and earn a living.
Shifting How We Work
Right now, companies across the United States (and across the globe) are asking their employees to work from home rather than come into the office. Viewpoint, part of the larger Trimble organization, has done the same.
Of course, not everyone can do their jobs from home. Workers in manufacturing or on assembly lines can't take the heavy machinery they operate home with them. Neither can construction workers building projects in the field. Or healthcare workers and first responders on the front lines of this crisis. And folks in the service and retail industries working in brick and mortar businesses are being hit hard during shutdowns. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that only about 29 percent of Americans can effectively work from home, according to 2017-2018 averages.
Still, millions of office workers — accountants, IT professionals, salespeople, marketers, executives, administrative staff and many more — can work remotely with relative ease today. This, when combined with the ability for many schools and education facilities, industry conferences, even concerts and other entertainment events to also continue operating virtually, will dramatically help the spread of COVID-19.
And no, the concept of working from home is not a new idea, as FastCompany notes in a fascinating 2019 article, but the resources available for remote workers and learners have improved dramatically in just the last decade.
Welcome to the New Digital Age
The last global pandemic was in 2009 with the H1N1 virus. At that time, plenty of modern technologies existed that brought people together digitally and improved communication and collaboration. Businesses could connect their teams via online web-conferences or video solutions like Skype. Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter were exploding. Email programs like Outlook, Yahoo and Gmail were adding new features to improve functionality, and plenty of online programs existed to share files, manage projects and more.
However, the difference between 2009 and today is the ease in which remote workers can function. In 2009, the cloud was still in its infancy and not yet globally accepted as the digital path forward for business operations. Then, workers likely had to deal with clunky, unreliable VPN connections to access vital data or information on company servers; today, the cloud has provided most businesses with the tools employees need to create their own virtual work environments at home that are nearly seamless.
Cloud-based communication and data storage solutions like those provided by Google, Microsoft and Amazon provide a foundation for cloud services. Meanwhile, everything from web-based project and document management solutions designed for different industries to virtual chat and networking programs to leading technologies like advanced data analytics, artificial intelligence and more are built in the cloud to take advantage of the real-time processing power of data.
Today, many businesses, including contractors, have integrated, cloud-based software solutions that allow them to run their businesses from virtually anywhere. These solutions work by hosting all the data that is essential to running a company in secure cloud environments and providing the tools needed for all stakeholders to easily access and share data, automate workflows and communicate in real time.
This means countless office employees can work remotely when needed. Workers are no longer tied to their office desktops. Many day-to-day business functions can be carried out as easily from your den as from your cubicle in the office with easily portable devices like laptops, tablets and even smartphones. And that’s why so many companies today can effectively help get ahead of a crisis like COVID-19, by allowing their employees who can to self-quarantine and work remotely.
We’re Here to Help
We can’t do much about the spread of the disease, but we can help sort through all the information out there to help contractors get the resources they need to keep the lights on. We’ve gathered content on the disease, working from home, tips for parents, thoughts on how to use our products better/easier, and much, much more in a COVID-19 Contractor Resources page, which we'll continually update as additional information comes in.
Here, we’re trying to ensure our stakeholders have the information and access to the tools available to them to help ride out an uncertain time. We’ve been helping contractors for 40 years, we’re not planning to stop now.