by Declan McNiff, Managing Director at realTime
When lockdown first came into effect across most of the world earlier in the year, we had to quickly adapt to a new way of life. You may not realise it, but technology has been pivotal in that change and it continues to make our lives easier as we are again back in lockdown.
We start with the obvious one. Without technology, working from home just wouldn’t be possible.
Video conferencing tools have seen record levels of usage, with Microsoft Teams seeing a 500% increase. Slack, another communication application has seen a 40% increase in paid subscribers. These tools allow us to stay connected to our teams and are a cornerstone of effective teamwork. Project Management Platforms such as Trello have made it simple to keep track of team projects easily.
Thanks to the huge rise in video streaming and online gaming in recent years, internet service providers have created an infrastructure that can support the entire country working from home.
Will work ever be the same again?
The last 7 months have been a huge experiment into the feasibility of mass remote working. Companies who were reluctant to take the step have been forced into it. Once it comes time for everyone to return to the office again, will companies start to realise that it’s possible to be productive without constantly being in the office? Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey emailed employees telling them that they’d be allowed to work from home permanently, even after the coronavirus pandemic lockdown passes.
It looks like we may see many more companies adapt to a more flexible working environment facilitating a better work-life balance.
As mentioned above, there are several technologies making it easy to stay connected to your professional team, but it’s equally important to stay connected with friends and family.
If you check the top 10 app charts anywhere in the world, you’re going to find several of them are dedicated to staying connected. From Zoom and Microsoft Teams to Whatsapp and Snapchat.
The proliferation of these apps has made virtual pub quizzes and weekend drinks the new norm – a great stopgap until the real thing returns.
Since the first lockdown started, people have more time on their hands. This has presented the opportunity to use this time productively and gain extra skills for career progression. Online learning is easier and more accessible than ever with endless websites and apps offering courses in just about everything.
Udemy is one popular example and offers a wealth of knowledge on everything you can think of, from in-depth technical learning to basic skills such as the Microsoft Office suite. Webinars are another great way to gain the insight of industry experts. There have never been so many webinars available as there are during lockdown, so take advantage.
The education industry had already seen a change with fast growth already apparent pre-COVID-19. The online education sector is predicted to reach $350 billion globally by 2035. Research suggests that online learning allows for increased information retention and takes up less time, hinting that this previous prediction could be given a boost as many more adapt to learning online and see the benefits.
Gyms are closed so many will find it difficult to maintain their fitness routines. However, tech has allowed staying fit and healthy easier and more convenient than ever. Lockdown may be hastening the transition from traditional gym use to home based fitness. It has been reported that some operators expect as little as 25-30% of people to go back to in-person classes, with the remainder opting to continue home workouts via video.
Peloton, the home-based workout service has seen it’s share price double since the start of the pandemic. They are offering a 90-day free trial so are confident that a large number are going to continue after this time.
Mental wellness is another aspect of health that can get overlooked but people are seeing the benefits of it now more than ever. Meditation and mindfulness apps, which make taking time out easy and accessible, have jumped up app rankings.
Headspace, the guided meditation app, had offered healthcare professionals their premium subscription for free.
The ecommerce sector has made it possible to continue shopping for things that we need when physical shops have been closed.
Amazon have seen their share price grow by nearly 30% since the start of April, which could send their market cap above that of Apple, Microsoft and Alphabet (Google) to make them as the most valuable company in the USA. This shows that the desire for purchasing has not gone down but has simply been redirected online.
For those who like to read, there are various ways to access virtual material. There are several eBook stores to choose from and Amazon has cut the membership price of its audiobook store, Audible, to just 99p for three months. Traditional physical literature has also performed well however, with Waterstones online arm seeing a 400% rise in sales.
Technology has been fundamental to our way of life for a long time and it’s becoming more important by the day. Even before lockdown, the technology industry was seeing huge growth and almost religious followings for several large tech brands.
Lockdown has shown the ability of technology to make life easier and get us through tough times. It’s hard to imagine how the lockdown would play out without instant access to endless media, online shops, fitness programmes and much more. It will be interesting to see how the world has changed as a result of lockdown, what will return to normal and what has changed for good. These changes may have been coming but have been accelerated by the convenience of technology.