By Colin Farquhar, CEO, Exterity.

COVID-19 has had a rapid and far-reaching impact on businesses around the world and will continue to do so with each new phase of the crisis. Despite the significant advancements of communication-based technologies in recent years, many businesses, government departments and other organisations view face-to-face interaction in the office as the cornerstone to work culture – helping foster better communication, collaboration and creativity. 

Yet when the pandemic began, businesses rooted in office-based working were left scrambling to ensure they had the right digital tools in place to communicate with employees when COVID-19 struck. From ensuring a dispersed workforce could receive important company updates, to providing key workers who still need to go into the office with essential information on social distancing and other new rules, many businesses have had to shift their world view on digital tools to help them successfully adapt to the new normal.

The rapid spread of COVID-19 around the world has seen a massive number of employees begin working from home overnight. While this was initially thought to be a temporary measure, it’s likely that those employees who can complete their tasks remotely will be encouraged to do so for the foreseeable future to help minimise the risk of a second wave of infections. Additionally, even as lockdown restrictions start to be eased, it’s unlikely that entire teams will be working in the office for quite a while. 

Many businesses are looking at introducing rotas to ensure office spaces are under capacity and adhering to social distancing guidelines. Looking beyond the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s likely that many businesses will rethink their policy on working remotely. Technology giants Facebook and Twitter have already pledged to their employees that they can work remotely for the foreseeable future, and Facebook is now planning on making up to 50% of its workforce remote within the next five-10 years.   

With remote working taking on a much more significant role in how organisations operate during the pandemic and beyond, it’s crucial employees have the right tools to ensure that they can stay up-to-date with the latest company news and announcements, training and government policies. For businesses trying to keep scattered workforces informed and engaged, video-based technologies, including IPTV and digital signage, will underpin all communications. 

However, there are still a number of workers required to operate from office premises, such as many in government, healthcare, public service, transport, logistics, utilities, telecoms and financial services. It’s therefore crucial that traditional workplaces have the right tools in place to provide employees with real-time updates on social distancing measures and hygiene policies to help keep everyone safe. 

People will be looking for extra guidance on things that once seemed trivial – like how deliveries are handled, cleaning schedules, visitor management, security at on-site entrances – and employers need to find ways to easily and safely keep everyone up to speed. In office spaces still open during the pandemic, digital signage throughout premises can be an important source of information on social distancing, hygiene measures and other safety protocols. An added benefit of digital signage is that it can be updated remotely in real-time, which helps reduce the number of employees on-site.  

Finding ways to ensure other information reaches teams is crucial too. For example, banking and finance has been significantly impacted by COVID-19 due to interest rates being slashed, fluctuating markets, and new government policies on mortgage holidays, business rates relief and tax breaks. 

Businesses in this sector need to be able to quickly brief employees on business situations which seemingly change every hour and to deliver news, corporate announcements, staff briefings, customer seminars and other communications direct to the desktop or via office signage screens.

Such technologies were already employed by many businesses in the banking and finance sector even before the pandemic. For instance, the Bank of China implemented an IP video solution to facilitate the live streaming of business channels in HD, allowing employees to stream financial feeds to their desks so they could evaluate transaction risks and keep track of the latest trends and regulations in real-time. 

This type of rapid, individualised information-sharing is more critical than ever. Providing employees with IP video technologies through which they can access company communications – whether at home or through installations in the offices that are still open – is also crucial to keeping things as close to business as usual.

Similarly, IP-based technologies are invaluable to the healthcare sector – especially in the current circumstances. During the pandemic, the eyes of the world have been watching this industry as it works tirelessly to control its spread, treat its victims and find a vaccine.

It is now more important than ever that healthcare workers have easy access to training and information about the latest developments – everything from government guidelines, to updates on potential treatments, to how they can protect themselves from COVID-19. IP video technologies can play a significant role in keeping people connected and updated on the situation as it continues to develop at a rapid pace. 

French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi, which is involved in the development of vaccines and innovative drugs, offers a good example of how IP video technologies are used in the healthcare sector. Sanofi deployed an IPTV system to provide staff across its Paris offices with quick and easy access to internal communications, as well as news from French and international medical, business and news channels to keep everyone abreast of the latest healthcare situations and developments. 

Deploying an IP video system means that it can easily distribute information in real time from sources around the world, directly improving the company’s response rate, the quality of its research and its recommendations for pharmacies. Such technologies play an important role in informing healthcare workers on medical breakthroughs and updates on COVID-19, helping ensure both local and global efforts to combat it are as aligned as possible. 

COVID-19 has resulted in a huge amount of uncertainty. It has been felt by businesses in almost every sector. During this time, employees will be expecting more frequent communication from their employers, including everything from company townhall meetings, updated training and new policies, to relevant breaking news and notifications on which building entrances to use if they have to go into their workplace. 

If people have no choice but to go to the workplace because they work in hospitals, banks, warehouses, government, pharmacies, education establishments or any other essential institution, digital signage and IPTV are key tools in keeping those working there and visitors informed on safety measures. 

For teams plugging in remotely, using secure IP-based communications that they can easily access, regardless of their location or device, will help keep teams united and engaged so they can continue to do their job to the highest standard. While the COVID-19 pandemic may have spurred businesses to employ these technologies, they will continue to be essential for life beyond the pandemic and the next new normal it brings.  

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