With the rise of hybrid working, tools that help us to come together online are booming.
Now that hybrid working has become mainstream, virtual collaboration will play a vital role in every business. As workers divide their time between home, a local workspace and a head office, shared online platforms such as virtual whiteboard Miro to workflow platform Monday are needed to help professionals be more creative and communicative from wherever they happen to be.
For video-conferencing platforms, the pandemic has proved a source of explosive growth. In December 2019, Zoom was seeing around ten million meeting participants each day. By May 2020, as worldwide lockdowns took hold, this figure had risen to 200 million. A month later, it was 300 million. With Microsoft Teams, it was a similar story, with daily active users increasing by 40 million to 115 million between February and October 2020. In July 2021, it hit 250 million.
“According to our research, about 98% of meetings will have at least one remote participant in the hybrid world,” says Chintan Patel, Chief Technologist at Cisco UK&I. “And that means technology will play a crucial role in making sure that there’s a level playing field in terms of people feeling engaged and being part of the discussion, even if there are many more people present in person. So there’s an onus on organisations to put in the digital infrastructure to help employees securely communicate and collaborate from home – and that’s going to have to be a little more thought out than just a webcam on a laptop.”
Cisco has developed dedicated home devices with HD video and audio aimed at offering the same high quality as office screens. And it’s also incorporated various new features into its WebEx video-conferencing platform to try and give all meeting participants an equal voice. One, called Roundtable, allows hosts to assign a speaking order for all attendees, and mutes others until it’s their turn.
The metaverse is coming
Big tech companies Microsoft and Meta (formerly Facebook), as well as others, are currently promoting the transformative concept of a ‘metaverse’. Over the coming years, they believe that, rather than spending our lives looking at our screens, we will instead spend time effectively inside those screens, working, playing or just hanging out in an alternative universe via virtual reality headsets and augmented reality glasses.
This means the traditional Zoom video conference could ultimately be replaced by something far more immersive. Microsoft, in particular, is pushing a work-centred vision of the metaverse, which integrates the company’s Mesh VR platform with its Teams business communications platform. Virtual meetings become a very different experience, allowing our personal avatars to meet and interact in whatever setting we think is appropriate.
The widespread roll-out of 5G will help to power this shift. By 2025, mobile network industry organisation GSMA says that 5G is likely to be available to a third of the world’s population. When this is the case, mobile virtual collaboration – and entry to the metaverse – will be seamless and high quality with no lag.
The rise of virtual collaboration is one of ten trends identified in IWG’s white paper, The Future of Work: a trends forecast for 2022. You can download it here.