What was previously a niche market and considered a perk in the workplace quickly became a necessity after COVID-19 swiftly shifted into a pandemic. Remote work and online collaboration tech like Zoom, G Suite and desktop as a service were like glue connecting employers with employees, schools with students and people with each other digitally during social distancing and lockdown mandates around the world.
These technologies are reshaping expectations for how work gets done. Even though many technologies like video chat, virtual events and virtual desktop infrastructure have been around for years, they become mainstream. Remote work tech that was once seen as a fad changed from nice-to-have to go-to tools for doing business.
For the last 10 years, Forbes tracked the most promising entrepreneurs under 30. Many on the recent list are involved with remote work technologies. Because these technologies helped organizations overcome sudden challenges brought on by the pandemic, many businesses learned first hand that remote work technologies and services need to be part of their future.
Demand for Remote Tech Drove Up Stock Prices
Tech stocks helped the Nasdaq mature by more than 4% in 2020, due to so many previously hesitant organizations that now rely on remote work technologies. The solutions companies had to implement quickly are now part of the normal tech stacks deployed in most of the world’s organizations.
New players emerged in 2020, but familiar names like Snap, Twitter, and Teladoc Health all shot up in price. Specifically, Snap’s revenues grew by 64% year-on-year in the last quarter of 2020. Remote tech like streaming services, telehealth systems, and semiconductor manufacturers all benefited during the pandemic.
The sudden change in remote work culture has catapulted some companies like Zoom during one of the most challenging business climates in decades.
Holograms in Offices and Holoportation
Microsoft’s 2021 Ignite conference focused a lot of attention on remote work technologies. While many organizations are experimenting with virtual or augmented reality systems, the latest demo from the tech giant provided a glimpse into the future of work. While the system isn’t just intended to assist with work arrangements, it does provide an alternative to in-person interactions that is similar to a physical meeting or engagement.
Mesh is the new vision from Microsoft for online work and education solutions. It uses the Azure platform and can run on a range of different devices, including the Hololens headset, VR goggles, or mobile phones. To provide immersive experiences, Mesh has a combination of exciting features including eye-tracking, facial monitoring, and AR/VR systems that enable users with something Microsoft is calling “holoportation”.
With this technology, Microsoft hopes to usher in a new era of virtual collaboration.
Remote Work Tech Breathes New Life into Smart Glasses
Augmented reality has remained a niche tech, but remote work is reviving the applications for smart glasses and receiving new investment from technology speculators.
Qualcomm released a new reference design for smart glasses to help accelerate the development of AR gadgets. It uses the Snapdragon XR1 platform with Qualcomm’s AR Smart Viewer to help developers create immersive, remote-based experiences. The new reference design has a 0.71-inch display and provides a 90 Hz refresh rate while supporting six-degrees of motion tracking.
Lenovo already uses the new reference design to support enterprise products like the Think Reality A3 headset. Hunching over a laptop to perform remote work may soon be an outdated approach.
Changes in Geography on the Horizon
Changing locations while still having unfettered access to all business systems is expected by the majority of workers today. Employees are realizing benefits from moving to smaller, less populated towns and environments, affecting infrastructure requirements and property values.
The impact of remote work technologies is already changing market and public infrastructure considerations for local governments and municipalities. Even San Mateo County, connected to the heart of Silicon Valley, is building on it’s modernized IT infrastructure and teaming up with service providers to deliver public WiFi to students and residents in rural or underserved areas.
But even in the early days of the pandemic, the idea of going to the office wasn’t buried for good. Physical office spaces won’t become a thing of the past, said Mark Bowker, a senior analyst with Enterprise Strategy Group and leader of the organization’s digital workspace practice.
In an interview with The Forecast, Bowker said there’s a notion that companies will reduce from three floors inside an office building down to two floors, or even one, as the world moves beyond COVID-19.
“That may happen here and there, and I’m sure we’ll see those things in the news, but I don’t think most places are going to make that drastic of a move,” he said.
Interpersonal relationships remain vitally important in many industries. And for many workers, the office serves as the hub of their social lives, Bowker said.
“Remote work will increase, but this idea of a trend where half of companies reduce their office real estate by 75 percent…you won’t see anything like that.”
Michael Brenner is a keynote speaker, author, and CEO of Marketing Insider Group. Michael has written hundreds of articles on sites such as Forbes, Entrepreneur Magazine, and The Guardian. He speaks at dozens of leadership conferences each year, covering topics such as marketing, leadership, technology, and business strategy. Follow him on Twitter @BrennerMichael.
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