Workplace technology has progressed leaps and bounds in recent years. However, the attitudes governing how readily these new technologies are being adopted have not been moving forward at quite the same pace.
Until now, that is.
Being stuck at home, protecting ourselves from coronavirus, has forced us to adapt to new ways of working almost overnight. The technologies available have made this transition possible and considerably more effortless and rewarding than many could have imagined.
The rise and rise of Microsoft Teams
The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the widespread adoption of digital collaboration platforms, like Microsoft Teams, and the full range of Microsoft 365 services. Recent figures show that Teams recently enjoyed a new record of 2.7 billion meeting minutes in one day across the globe. That’s an eyebrow-raising 200% increase in a matter of weeks.
As a result, you could say our transition to the future of work is upon us considerably faster than anyone could have predicted - even as little as six months ago.
Microsoft is working hard to keep its recent converts to Teams engaged with an intriguing suite of new video conferencing features. Meeting delegates can now spruce things up by using a choice of custom backgrounds that will apparently locate them anywhere from a sun-kissed desert island to the ruins of the Death Star. Then there’s the ‘raise hand’ feature that lets everyone know when someone has got something to say - another addition that helps to keep big online meetings running smoothly.
Later in the year, Microsoft will also be introducing real-time noise suppression, using AI to reduce distracting background noise such as screaming babies and ringing mobiles.
Extending the power of Teams
One of the features that sets MS Teams apart as a digital collaboration platform is its versatility. It’s so easy to add powerful extra functionality designed to drive your business forward.
Take Buzzeasy Contact Center for Teams, for example. This is a suite of tools that allows you to do away with a stand-alone VOIP contact center and separate social media messaging tools, live chat tools and bot creation tools, integrating everything into a single Microsoft UC architecture.
With your call center staff working on the same platform as the wider business, even when they’re stuck at home in lockdown, organizations have been able to benefit from a truly collaborative environment, with front line agents enjoying access to back office support.
If you decide to use Microsoft Teams for customer interactions as well as internal communications, you’ll need to consider the compliance implications.
Geomant’s Microsoft Teams Recording is one of the first solutions in the market to address recording and compliance for Microsoft Teams. It enables users to stay compliant by recording any type of Teams communications, including voice, video, meetings and chat conversations.
Change for the better
Thanks to products such as Buzzeasy, some companies have found that employees have even become MORE productive since they started working from home, not less as they might have expected.
It’s apparent that this new style of more flexible working is suiting morning people and night owls alike. Data from a recent survey by Microsoft reveals that working from home allows everyone to put the hours in when they feel most productive.
During March, the average time between a person’s first and last use of Teams each day increased by over an hour. That’s not to say people are grafting harder than before, simply that they are breaking up their working day to suit their personal preferences and to fit in with their other daily commitments.
No turning back
The big question is, will everything just go back to the way it was before, when the health crisis is finally behind us?
At Geomant, we believe the new technologies are here to stay with many now reliant on the compelling benefits they bring. The future of work will continue to become more and more intertwined with technology, as organizations start to take for granted all the recent improvements – and then look for more.
‘Working from home’ will no longer be a euphemism for skiving. Instead, it will be viewed as a huge step towards a better work-life balance. As well as an excellent way to avoid the time-wasting frustrations of rush hour commuting and the polluting exhaust fumes that go with it.
With enlightened employers embracing the progressive new ways of working, employee engagement is likely to soar. Better still, the technologies will give employers access to talent that may previously have been beyond them. The lockdown has demonstrated the benefits of remote working and has opened up the possibility of employing staff living hundreds of miles away.
More clients within your range
Why stop there? If new technologies give you access to a wider talent pool, with no restrictions on catchment area and travel, it follows that you could also attract and service new clients in different parts of the world, even in places where you don’t have a presence.
Who wouldn’t want to embrace user-friendly technologies that enable you to push the geographical boundaries to help you win more clients and take your business to the next level?
What does the future hold?
No one can say, for sure, how things will pan out when this pandemic is behind us and everything returns to relative normality. However, there are early indications emerging from China, the country at the forefront of the global COVID-19 outbreak, that suggest there will be no turning back. 
Even though many Chinese workers have already returned to their jobs, the stats are suggesting that, far from abandoning technologies like Microsoft Teams, people are embracing them in even greater numbers. In fact, active Teams users in China continues to grow from each week to the next.
Increasing use of video
As the number of users increases, so too will the popularity of video in Teams meetings. Video is already being used twice as often as it was before lockdown, largely because it enriches the meeting experience. 
We’re not the only ones mulling over how working practices are set to evolve in the coming years due to the adoption of new technologies. Harvard Business Review Analytic Services asked over 600 global business and IT decision makers to outline the changes they expect to see between now and 2040.
New jobs created
Contrary to widely-held concerns that automated systems will lead to increasing unemployment, most of these survey respondents believe that advancing technologies will create lots of new, different jobs.
In their view, technologies will stimulate the work environment - supporting people as they collaborate with one another and move easily between different tasks. This will reduce stress, create efficiencies, and allow workers to switch their attention away from mundane admin to more creative and strategic undertakings. 
The winning Teams
One thing is for certain: accelerated by the successful uptake of digital collaboration tools such as Microsoft Teams during lockdown, our working practices will continue to dovetail with advancing technologies going forward.
Even the technophobes and late adopters among us have grudgingly come to realise, over the past dramatic few weeks, that new technologies really are our friend.