Coronavirus Pushes Once-Hesitant Employers to Embrace Remote Technology

Empty Office

The coronavirus is forcing more employers to accommodate remote work as families scramble to juggle working from home while schools are closed and older relatives need attention. Already, the HR tech world is seeing changes.

Across the U.S., state and local governments declared states of emergency, closed public gathering places and urged residents to remain home in an effort to curtail the virus’s spread. LinkedIn, Oracle, Workday and iCIMS are among the HR technology vendors that have encouraged staff to work remotely and avoid traveling. They join companies across industries in taking such precautions.

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The necessity of asking more employees to work remotely could impact the way work gets done, and so affect the product strategies of businesses that provide workforce technology. Although the proportion of remote workers has been steadily increasing in recent years, it still represents less than a third of the workforce, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In 2017-2018, just 24.8 percent of U.S. workers did their jobs from home, the BLS said.

Will remote work will benefit from this flood tide of necessity-driven acceptance? Technology companies like Apple, Google and Microsoft have, so far, adjusted comfortably to having more work done off-site. However, security and privacy have caused some roadblocks, and many corporate networks are struggling to cope with unexpected levels of activity.

Now Remote Work’s Necessary

Companies that offer communications and collaboration solutions, such as Slack, Zoom, Google and Microsoft, have benefitted from increased visibility or strengthened stock prices as organizations take advantage of their platforms to stay in touch. Many have offered services for free as a way to introduce themselves to suddenly needing customers.

Recruiting tools that facilitate virtual interviews and simplify online connections have also gotten more attention. Talview CEO Sanjoe Jose told VentureBeat that his company has seen “a significant increase in inquiries,” and a rise in the number of customers conducting almost all of their hiring activities online.

“While moving remote was the immediate response, customers are also keen to explore how to be more efficient, as many are running short of people or struggling to [cope] with the change,” Jose said. 

Meanwhile, learning technology firm Docebo said inbound calls rose 36 percent on Friday. “While we are cautious about the current coronavirus environment … it is also bringing more opportunities for us,” said CEO Claudio Erba during the company’s earnings call.

Some solutions providers and HR leaders believe the pandemic may cause a shift in how businesses approach their recruiting and operations. Many of the employers turning to advanced technology in recruiting and screening will be hard-pressed to go back to old ways of doing things, they say.

Plus, many employees who are getting a taste of what it’s like to work without being tied to a particular desk may not want to give up the flexibility. “Millions of people will get the chance to experience days without long commutes, or the harsh inflexibility of not being able to stay close to home when a family member is sick,” wrote Matt Mullenweg, CEO of WordPress parent Automattic.

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