When the COVID-19 pandemic began in the early months of this year, it was hard to tell what lifestyle changes it would bring with it. As businesses and organizations around the world closed their doors, sending employees, managers, CEOs and everyone in between to adjust to a new work from home lifestyle, few could have predicted the degree that the future of workplace communication was changing right in front of us.

Advances in remote communication technology and virtual collaboration tools, historically paper-heavy and on-site industries making the switch to remote tech, and a new generation of students succeeding at distance learning all beg the question: Will we ever go back to the way we communicated before? And offers up possibly an even more appropriate question: Should we?

According to the Owl Labs State of Remote Work 2020report, now that modern employees have gotten a taste for remote virtual-heavy workplace communication, they are hesitant to return to the workplace communication standards of yesterday.

The Rise in Video Conferencing

Before COVID-19 turned virtual meetings into the only option for remote employees to meet face to face with their coworkers and teammates, video conferencing software was typically used in most offices during first or second round interviews to determine if the candidate in question was viable enough to come in for an in-person interview or for organizations with widely scattered employees or clients to connect with one another face to face.

The Owl Labs State of Remote Work Report found that this rise in video conferencing is a drastic one with people reporting that they are using video meetings 50% more than they were pre-COVID-19.

Full time employees report having video meetings 50% more now than before COVID-19. 

Owl Labs State of Remote Work: Covid Edition Report 2020 [Click to Tweet]

Video conferencing isn’t simply more popular either, but more favored by many as well—the report showed that 79% of people think video conferencing is at the same level or more productive than in-person meetings and 30% think video conferencing calls are more enjoyable than in-person.

Zoom Meetings

For many, the rise in video conferencing primarily looked like a rise in Zoom meetings. This popular video conferencing platform was at times synonymous with virtual meetings. Zoom reported that it deployed millions of licenses for new customers in its first quarter this year, and in the early months of the pandemic experienced explosive growth, peaking at 547% of its base usage.

But why did this particular platform gain so much popularity so quickly? Many believe that its user-friendly interface and free conference calls for meetings with less than 100 attendees did the trick. During the pandemic, hundreds of organizations transitioned to remote work for the first time. Those employees were looking for an easy to learn system that got the job done quickly and provided high quality audio and video (without lag), and Zoom was right there waiting for them to join.


Just behind Zoom in platform usage during the first two months of the COVID-19 pandemic is GoToMeeting, with a 442% increase. For GoToMeeting users, this spike will come as no surprise. Due to their surplus of features, including chat and a meeting transcription service, GoToMeeting has been a popular choice for businesses both big and small.

Skype for Business

While Skype for Business had a lower overall growth rate compared to their competition, with 166% growth in users, the platform boasted the highest share of usage by a wide margin. This is by and large thanks to the enterprise power behind Skype for Business. Enterprises shifting to remote work were slow to adopt a new web conferencing tool like Zoom or GoToMeeting, and instead stuck to the name they knew: Microsoft.

Work from Home Productivity + Tools

One of the most prominent myths surrounding work from home culture is that it is less productive to work remotely than it is to work from an office. COVID-19 busted this myth— 75% of people are the same or more productive during COVID-19 while working from home than they were before COVID-19.

One of the lessons COVID-19 has taught us is that working from the office doesn’t equal productivity, because with the right tools and support, people can work from anywhere. While  video conferencing technology has become the standard form of communication with 60% of respondents using video more than before COVID-19, remote productivity isn’t reliant on video conferencing tools alone.

Top Work From Home Tools

In addition to your organization’s chosen video conferencing platform, here are the other top work from home tools that have helped millions of employees stay productive while working remotely during COVID-19:

Meeting Free Days

A new factor of working remotely that many employees agree with is the implementation of meeting free days.80% of State of Remote Work survey respondents agree or strongly agree with the following statement: “I think there should be one day a week with no meetings at all.”

While the desire for meeting free days may have existed long before COVID-19—who wouldn’t want an uninterrupted work day in the middle of the week?—this idea grew in prominence when those employees working from home alongside their families and roommates found scheduling meetings around their cohabitors to be a pain point. Additionally, meeting free days allow employees the opportunity to really dive deep into their projects, without having to pause their flow in the middle of the day to attend a meeting.

Research from UC Irvine showed that it takes about 23 minutes to get back on track after a distraction or interruption

Flexible Working Hours + Core Hours

Even in 2019, remote workers were twice as likely than in-office workers to want schedule flexibility, hinting at the desire for core hours when working from home. Incorporating flexible work hours that include core hours means that during your “core hours” you are available to attend meetings and communicate with your team, and during the rest of your work day you are free to work on your own schedule without the obligation of participating in synchronous communication with your team.

74% of those surveyed agree or strongly agree with this statement: “I think we should have core hours, for example, four hours a day where we're available to colleagues and work on our own schedule the rest of the time.” This shows that the desire for more flexible working hours is shared by many remote workers, across industries.

If COVID-19 has shown us anything about the ethos of the modern workplace, it’s that the future of work is flexible. For more about the future of the workplace, here is Owl Labs’ State of Remote Work 2020: Covid Edition report.

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