Working in a pandemic


November 2019. Remote work is only an option in a fairly narrow cross-section of industries and precisely speaking mainly in the IT industry. In the dimension of longer than single days of the week is rather rare.  If you read the forecasts from a year ago about what the work will look like in the future, you could hear voices that the share of remote work would increase, the form of work would change, and people would be more willing to take advantage of this opportunity. This was to happen over the next dozen years. Only half a year later came the first wave of coronavirus  in the world and everything changed by 180 degrees. Large companies, but also more fore-hearted ones already in January, were preparing to reorganize their work. Since almost mid-March remote work has been the norm. Small enterprises tried to return to the normal mode of work in the summer period, while the autumn increases in the number of cases forced a large percentage of employees to switch to remote work again. During this time, the nature of the work performed has changed. Large corporate events, conferences, business trips and even face-to-face work have been suspended or transferred to the network. Going forward, the changes did not go away from the company’s kitchens, canteens or employee rooms, where the allowed number of people staying in them at once was reduced to a minimum. Traditional morning coffee in a wider circle at work today is much less common. Employees have also been separated into as few teams as possible and communication between them today is all about online meetings. In the days before the pandemic, the situation is sporadic, today the basic behavior.

Video calls


Communication has become the primary problem of remote work for a large part of the employees. Cases that could previously be solved with the help of meetings today often have to be held by video call. There are further problems with this. The company’s communication tool must ensure good call quality. In addition, the employee working from home must also have access to the Internet, which will allow for a conversation in good quality. Of course, somewhere in between all this the employee should be equipped with the right equipment for work as well as online conversations. If these three conditions are met, remote work immediately becomes less problematic. Due to the demand for online calls at the turn of video calls in March and April, applications such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Cisco  WebMeetings and Skype broke records. These applications became the employee’s primary tool during the pandemic and more. In schools which in the spring and from the end of October, the vast majority of them work remotely, students also use the above-mentioned messengers, mainly Zoom and Google Meet.

Expectations


What should be a good communicator for a conversation? First of all, it should ensure good connection quality. Of course, the standard is chat, screen sharing or virtual whiteboard. Depending on the client’s needs, the number of people who can join the conversation is important. All these aspects, in turn, affect the price. Manufacturers offer educational discounts, free licenses (with limited functions), and paid packages, which are dedicated mainly to enterprises and other institutions.

Security


The security of the conversation is equal to the expectations regarding the communicator’s capabilities and its price list. No self-respecting institution or business can allow a stranger to break into a private conversation and disrupt it or steal information. Encryption of conversations and additional protection against intrusion into the conversation are a priority for users. The Office for Personal Data Protection comes with help regarding the safe use of the videoconference application and advises on how to conduct a videoconference in a safe manner. He divides his councils into rules before, during and after the videoconference. First of all, you should pay attention to the communicator you use. It is worth reading its privacy policy and the issue of recording calls or data processing. It should be remembered that when using a video call, the number of personal data provided that could be leaked in various ways and protect conversations with a password to a minimum. After completion, it is worth checking if the application is really closed and the camera and microphone are turned off.

Problems and doubts


A few months ago, the Zoom application had to face huge problems. The term “zoombombing” application problem arose. Due to the fact that only the appropriate link was sufficient for the conversation, anyone (not necessarily the expected guest) could join it. Internet trolls very quickly took advantage of such opportunities by joining and disrupting conversations. The attacks primarily focused on connections in schools where students and teachers had interrupted classes or were attacked with inappropriate content. The company introduced appropriate changes that largely limited the occurrence of such events. Unfortunately, this problem could not be fully eliminated.

Popularity ranking


The biggest market hit this year was the Zoom app. As recently as early 2020, it had about 10 million users, while in April it was already between 200 and 300 million users. Zoom, however, has not captured every market. In Poland, the most popular is the Skype app from Microsoft. Skype has been well known on the Polish market for several years, thanks to which before the pandemic it had a large market share. Interestingly, Microsoft primarily offers another tool – Microsoft Teams, as dedicated to video conferencing. In Europe, it is popular in the Balkan countries. Zoom in turn in the UK and Scandinavia. Messenger popular in Polish schools, i.e. Google Meet is also very popular in Denmark.

Six months later


In recent months, employees have managed to switch to online contact, which gained a definite advantage over direct contacts during this period. Companies that until now have not had comprehensive solutions for communicating online on a larger scale have been able to stock up on the right hardware and applications. Many schools that had problems conducting online lessons in the spring have developed appropriate procedures and also stocked up on applications and equipment that allows them to teach online effectively today. Application providers are constantly developing their products, adding new functionalities and improving security. The answer to the question of how long the current situation will last remains open. Certainly, by spring 2021, we cannot expect radical changes and a return to the previous way of life. It is difficult at this point to say what will happen next year and how we will be the next 12 months from a future perspective. The office market has stalled at this point, because a huge part of the employees work from home, which translates into less demand for office space. It should be remembered that remote work is a good option for anyone who does not want to waste time in traffic jams, online work is not more tiring than the traditional one, but above all has the right housing for this. Employees who can not afford a separate place at home for work or because of children who do not go to school can not generate adequate time are not at all delighted with remote work. It is only to be wished that the next months will be calmer and that the situation will become normalised.
Sources:
    [1] https://cyfrowa.rp.pl/it/46423-bezpieczne-twarza-w-twarz-jakie-aplikacje-do-wideokonferencji-wybrac
    [2] https://www.forbes.pl/biznes/aplikacja-zoom-do-wideokonferencji-budzi-kontrowersje-sa-zakazy-jej-stosowania/sj9etqr
    [3] https://www.pcworld.pl/news/Zoom-walczy-z-trollami-i-zoombomberami-a-Ty-lepiej-zaktualizuj-aplikacje,423883.html
    [4] https://asystentbhp.pl/jak-bezpiecznie-korzystac-z-wideokonferencji/
    [5] www.uodo.gov.pl
    [6] Grafika: https://pixabay.com/photos/laptop-computer-pc-notebook-green-2055522/