Zoom is enabling a major shift toward remote and hybrid work. Before the pandemic, nearly all companies expected their employees to work from the office at least four days per week.
Today, the situation is reversed, with 9 out of 10 organizations planning to combine remote and on-site working—meaning that going forward, 90% of companies and their employees will work in a hybrid or fully remote fashion.
Technology has fueled this shift, including the extensive use of communication and collaboration platforms such as Zoom. The new workplace landscape presents some common challenges, but innovative technologies are rising to meet them.
Creating a Collaborative Culture in the Hybrid Workplace
When employees are scattered between home and physical offices, maintaining a culture of collaboration and clear communication can be difficult. Interestingly, research has shown that individual teams work well together remotely, says Dr. Scott Dust, associate professor of management at Miami University. “Instead, organizations need to be worried about cross-team collaboration in hybrid workplaces,” he says. “A lot of companies are keeping departments separate, but cross-team collaboration is important and leads to knowledge sharing.”
Remote collaborations also allow new brainstorming strategies. Leaders can give participants a prompt and allow them to work on a problem quietly before sharing their results, helping to draw out people who might not generally speak up in an in-person meeting. “One of the best ways to incubate innovation and idea generation is through asynchronous brainstorming,” says Dr. Jason Wingard, president of Temple University in Philadelphia. “What’s most important is that employees can easily contribute in a timeframe that works with their schedule.”
Thinking Beyond Synchronous Online Meetings
Over the past year, Zoom has listened to the needs of businesses and developed hundreds of features, updates and advances to the platform—several of which are designed to enable asynchronous collaboration. “Relying only on an in-session experience no longer fits the way teams are working today,” says Oded Gal, Chief Product Officer at Zoom Video Communications. “In response to that need, we’re developing the Huddle feature, providing a more visual way to experience the chat and engage in ongoing, asynchronous communication. We’ve also announced Zoom Whiteboard, a digital canvas that enables powerful, easy-to-use visual collaboration before, during and after a virtual meeting.” Both features will be available later this year.
Another feature, Zoom Apps, allows integration with third-party tools for both live and asynchronous collaboration. For example, integration with Asana allows project managers to open the app in a live meeting and assign tasks, go through the timeline and even work together on the project—the results of all of which continue to be available after the meeting. Other current Zoom Apps integrations include Miro, Colibri, Mural and more.
Fostering an Inclusive Meeting Environment
Making sure every meeting participant is seen, heard and understood is another challenge that remote teams face, particularly in our age of distributed teams and global business. Over the next year, Zoom will also introduce automated translation and transcription in 30 languages and live transcription services for 12 languages in real-time, helping to overcome language barriers and create a more inclusive atmosphere for cross-cultural meetings.
Another feature, Zoom Rooms Smart Gallery, creates a video feed for each participant in a hybrid meeting, even when they are sitting around the same table facing the same camera. “When everyone in the in-person conference room is in a single frame, it can be hard to achieve clear communication between all parties,” Gal says. “This feature creates a leveled environment where each person has the same visual representation, whether they’re in the conference room or a home office.”
As many companies undergo a digital transformation, keeping communications secure is another challenge they face. “A lot of times, strengthening cybersecurity is really a matter of understanding the capabilities of the tools you’re using,” Dust explains. “For example, the organizations I’ve worked with recently are using Zoom and there are many options for passwords and dual authentication, if you know how to implement them.”
Ongoing support is also essential to building a solid foundation of cybersecurity. “Remote and hybrid work are not going anywhere, so to ensure that they remain viable, both high-quality IT systems and practitioners are going to be prioritized,” Wingard says. “They have never been more important.”
To help provide that support, Zoom has layers of cybersecurity safeguards in place. “Our products are designed with security at their core without sacrificing ease of use or reliability,” Gal says. “We offer a host of in-meeting controls, optional end-to-end encryption and several authentication methods, including two-factor authentication.”
Future-Proofing Virtual Events
The past few years have been filled with virtual conferences and events in place of the usual in-person gatherings—and like remote and hybrid work, the shift is likely to last. “Virtual events have not only ‘filled the gap’ during the pandemic, they continue to represent an ‘acceptable normal’ for strategic convenings,” Wingard says. “The virtual event industry is expected to grow from $78 billion to $774 billion by 2030.”
Virtual events will remain viable, especially for content-driven gatherings, and in-person conferences will continue to include remote participants in a hybrid environment. To facilitate the new needs, Zoom is innovating to facilitate high-quality remote and hybrid events. “We provide an end-to-end experience that takes care of invitations, agenda, registration and the community aspect. We offer high-end virtual experiences without the need to buy dedicated hardware,” Gal says. “We want to make it more interactive and closer to a live event experience for everyone, whether they’re present or participating remotely.”
Business media giant Forbes used Zoom to host their events virtually in 2020 and 2021. “It has allowed us to create new connections and engagement with the communities that matter most to us,” says Leann Bonanno, group vice president at ForbesLive. “We are planning for hybrid events, and we know virtual is here to stay.”
Remote Work is Here to Stay
Experts agree that the remote and hybrid workplace will be a lasting phenomenon. “This was inevitable and has been brewing for a long time, but the pandemic hastened it,” Dust says. “Some companies are trying to figure out how to get back to the way we were, but I think that’s a mistake. It’s never going to go back.”
Looking to the future, Zoom is committed to listening to customers’ needs and problems and working to facilitate a more inclusive hybrid work experience for both remote and in-person workers. “We continue to develop new features and products to meet the diverse needs of companies,” Gal says. “Single apps no longer have the flexibility and agility to adapt as employees evolve on this journey, so Zoom is providing a platform solution to meet this demand with features that will support the connectivity and collaboration challenges ahead.”
Learn more about how Zoom is bringing the future of hybrid work into the present.
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