The COVID-19 pandemic has left an indelible mark on business as we know it. Prior to the pandemic, digital transformation and innovation were reinventing nearly every industry and new tools and processes were taking form with the implementation of more technology. Now, business leaders have been faced with the need to operate remotely for the foreseeable future.

A report from the Society for Human Resource Management and Oxford Economics demonstrated that 64% of salaried and 49% of hourly employees are working remotely most of the time, significant increases from 3% and 2% respectively in January 2020. In March, 74% of CFOs were already planning to transition more onsite employees to remote workspaces permanently after the COVID-19 pandemic subsides, according to a Gartner survey.

The challenge is that these business leaders need to find new ways to keep communication channels clear and continue to serve the needs of their customers and clients, especially while operating remotely.

The answer for most business leaders is putting more technology in place. When the right technologies are implemented effectively, they can help to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 and help to transform businesses and industries who may be struggling to function otherwise. Technologies, such as those built on artificial intelligence, are also helping to remove the need for individuals to conduct manual tasks that technology can do for them.

Countless businesses and industries are therefore recognizing the substantial impact of technology for its ability to transform their current processes and affect the way they work long term.

Transforming commerce

In many ways, the novel coronavirus has been a commercial real estate agent’s worst nightmare. More businesses are transitioning to online and closing up shop as a result. With the growth of eCommerce and online ordering during these times, business operations have shifted to virtual forums.

With the greater need to social distance, individuals are avoiding going into stores unless absolutely necessary. The public is opting to avoid shopping in-person and standing in lines. They’re turning to Uber Eats, Seamless and WOLT and additional delivery services to fulfill their food needs and opting to purchase household items online.

eCommerce is projected to grow by 20% in 2020, according to TechCrunch. The pandemic is estimated to have accelerated the shift to eCommerce by five years. Businesses with eCommerce arms are well suited to handle this shift and new players are entering the game to accommodate consumers’ evolving needs as they turn to online ordering during this crisis.

Transforming business communication

In order to keep communication clear among employees internally, as well as clients and consumers externally, more companies are also shifting to remote communications tools. Video conferencing software and tools are quickly becoming the norm for meetings, a trend which is likely to continue post-pandemic as well.

With less time spent commuting to work and meetings, and more time spent on the meetings themselves, businesses have been able to accomplish more tasks. They’re also cutting back on travel and client entertaining costs, which are fruitful for their bottom lines.

While Zoom and other web conferencing tools are creating opportunities for businesses to keep communication continuous and clear during a time of uncertainty, ‘Zoom fatigue’ is also presenting professionals with a real challenge.

From unreliable Wi-Fi connections to zoning out and missing what was said, business leadership needs to also consider the fatigue that comes with having their employees stare at screens all day long. People miss face-to-face interactions and Zoom can ‘cut it’ but not always.

More businesses are creating integrations with Zoom and other tools to help account for this reality. For example, Verbit launched its Live Room application over the summer to help embed live captions and transcription into Zoom calls.

Verbit’s tools help employees with note taking by providing word-for-word transcripts of what was said after calls, as well as an additional visual aid to help keep them engaged.

Having an accurate, reliable transcript after each meeting also allows team members the opportunity to decide who really needs to be on each call. To avoid Zoom fatigue, they can designate certain individuals to participate live and share important notes with others after the fact. Fewer Zoom calls will only make for happier employees, especially when they aren’t forced to attend meetings they don’t need to be involved in live.

Transforming in-person business events & trainings

Business leaders are also faced with accounting for events and occurrences which are generally thought of as more well suited for in-person environments, but are unable to be conducted as such during these times of crisis.

For example, onboarding of new employees, including introducing them to colleagues, welcoming them to a new office environment and getting them properly up to speed is rarely a process that a business would conduct remotely prior. Now, with the need to do so virtually, businesses are recording training videos and hosting live Zooms to onboard these new individuals to help them get acclimated. While these tools are working for the most part, some considerations should be made.

HR and other leaders also need to ensure the specific learning needs and disabilities of all employees are being accounted for while they work remotely. They therefore need to ensure all of their materials, training and otherwise, are accessible for these professionals with different needs. This is where further technologies, like those of Verbit, can again be considered. Adding captions to these training videos for example and offering word-for-word transcripts of onboarding calls can prime these new employees to succeed, while also accounting for various disability needs such as hearing loss.

Events are also being transformed into webinars and virtual summits, with functionalities for breakout rooms now available within Zoom to allow for smaller, more personalized interactions.

Technologies, such as virtual conferencing tools, are providing professionals with the next best thing to face-to-face interactions.

Transforming executive ‘buy-in’ for new technologies

COVID-19 has also lent itself to a shift in the mentalities of senior executives in the need to invest and utilize technologies further. For example, senior leadership from industries which are not innately tech-oriented are now seeing the value of technologies in their businesses. Accounting firm owners and retail store operators who may not have ever been on a Zoom call prior to the pandemic, are now experiencing the benefits of these platforms and becoming well-versed in their capabilities.

IT department and marketing department professionals who may have been struggling to elucidate the needs for improved technologies at their companies prior, are in different positions to demonstrate clear use cases during these times.

Regardless of industry and industry-specific needs, one point is clear. The implementation of more technologies are helping all business leaders get through this pandemic and are mitigating the effects of the crisis by allowing them to continue to communicate effectively while operating remotely. It’s likely that many businesses will adopt a hybrid approach to work, with some days spent in the office and some spent remotely, now that they’ve been able to see the great benefits and flexibility that new processes and technologies can offer to them.