Zoom has played a starring role in Canadians’ pandemic lives, but after 15 long months of living online, are we ready to break up with Zoom and head back to the office and real life? Despite the talk of Zoom fatigue from days of back-to-back video meetings and seeing our faces distorted through the camera, the videoconferencing platform is one of the clear winners of the pandemic. And is likely here to stay.

The company says it saw lower than expected user churn as vaccination rates climbed, hinting at an appetite among companies and employees for a post-pandemic workplace that will continue to involve some amount of remote working. While it had astronomical growth in its 2021 fiscal year — 326% — the company’s projections suggest a more subdued growth rate in comparison for its 2022 fiscal year, of 50% year-over-year.

Alex Zukin, managing director of software research at Wolfe Research, who covers the company, said Zoom has likely “reached everyone [it] could reach” during the pandemic and he doesn’t expect the company to achieve triple-digit growth anymore, although his firm’s upside model has Zoom growing “north of 30% on a consistent basis.”

He said that’s likely to come from the growing use of the Zoom Rooms solution for conference rooms, Zoom Events platform focused on enterprise customers, and cloud-enabled Zoom Phone, all of which are all targeted at a hybrid model of remote and in-person meetings or events.

Zoom chief executive officer Eric Yuan made clear in his earnings call with analysts that the company is betting on that future. “As part of the world reopens, a few things are clear. First, many customers I talk to are looking to create hybrid solutions as they seek to cautiously reopen some of their offices,” he said. “Second, each industry, company and individual varies in their optimal working mode. Zoom is here to help each customer calibrate their future working model in their own way.”

The pandemic has prompted a rethink in what the office is for, Christopher Dulny, chief innovation officer at PwC Canada, said in an interview. “The office has a new purpose, and that purpose should really be one of collaboration, connection, mentoring, getting together with groups. And if you have a day that you can plan around, ‘Hey I’ve got to put my head down and do some work, and I’m just as effective staying home doing that work,’ then stay home. There’s no reason why you should suffer the commute.”

That flexibility is something Canadian employees seem to want. A May survey of over 2,000 workers by KPMG in Canada found 77% want the ability to split their time between working in the office and working from home, and 71% felt hybrid work should be the standard. A recently published working paper from three business professors in the United States and Mexico suggested working from home will make up roughly 20% of full workdays post-pandemic, a fourfold increase from before March 2020.

The sudden shift to work-from-home forced companies to quickly adapt their privacy practices to the new way of working, something that will continue to serve them post-pandemic, said Sylvia Kingsmill, partner and national leader of privacy, regulatory and information management in KPMG in Canada’s risk consulting practice.

Kingsmill said many companies have adopted specific rules around getting consent to record during video calls, and guidelines for how data is stored and protected, as well as for how long it can be kept. But she urged organizations to ensure employees receive training on those protocols. “That’s where the risk arises, and the human element of it needs to be training and awareness of staff to get used to that reality.”

Beyond addressing the security risks of remote working, Davis said organizations and employees have spent plenty of time and resources on improving their remote working capabilities and at-home setups, investments they’ll be reluctant to discard post-pandemic.

And the technology itself improved in the past year. In a separate paper, published by the American Economic Association, Davis and two co-authors documented a “surge in patent applications” related to remote work technology that started after February 2020. “During the pandemic…people often said, ‘this doesn’t work well,’ or ‘this doesn’t work very well for this purpose,’” he said. “There were commercial incentives to make it work better…and that’ll continue to happen.”

Source: Financial Post