Dan Ness, Principal Analyst, MetaFacts – December 17, 2020
During the pandemic and with many employees working from home, much of communicating with coworkers and managers has shifted online. Employees have many options and are using most of them.
Video and online chats by employer size
Employees working for all company sizes are actively using a range of video calling, video conferencing, and group chats. Employees working for larger employers have a higher share who regularly communicate online than among employees with smaller employers.
These communication methods are more entrenched in the US, with most online employees regularly doing at least one of these activities.
Online employees in the UK are almost as actively communicating as Americans are. In Japan, however, the shares among both larger and smaller employers are lower than in the US, UK, or Germany.
Video calls and meetings by device type and employer size
If a smartphone is first and foremost a phone, isn’t it reasonable to be the preferred communication tool for all kinds of communication? Not necessarily, as large group videos show more participants on the larger screen of a PC or tablet than a smartphone’s screen. Similarly, text-based group chats seem like they would be best enjoyed with a PC, which usually has a more complete keyboard than any smartphone.
However, users continue to reach for what is near to hand, with more of them using smartphones for their various types of communication activities than using a PC or tablet. Also, the pandemic shutdown’s suddenness meant that some employers had not provided their remote employees with work PCs, so many have been relying on their smartphones or their home PCs. More employees are using a work PC than a home PC for their video calls, conferences, and group chats among larger employers in the US. Among mid-size (20-499 employee) firms, many employees are using home PCs as employer-provided PCs.
Work-related communication modes by employer size
Communication modes are not equal. Video group meetings involving many coworkers are different from one-on-one video calls, as are text-based group text discussions.
Employees across the employer size spectrum use a wide range of communication modes and do not rely on a single type. While a higher share of employees with larger employers uses any of the communication modes than employees at smaller organizations, the percentage distribution is relatively the same.
Rapid growth in written group communications platforms
There has been rapid growth in one area – written group chats & discussion platforms, such as Microsoft Teams or Slack. There are positive values to collaborating and communicating in a more organized way than through disjointed emails, calls, or meetings. During the pandemic shutdown, working remotely inspired and encouraged both employees and employers to try new approaches.
Many of the communication modes in use today are new to employees. Remote working restrictions and practices during the pandemic forced employees and employers to find new ways to communicate and collaborate. Although video conferencing has been growing in use for more than a decade, recent usage is the highest ever.
In the coming year, with the expectation that vaccines and better health practices will allow many remote employees to return to their workplaces, the need for video-based calls and conferences will subside. Despite this, the usage rates are not likely to fall below the levels they were before the pandemic.
Work-related written group chats/discussions, facilitated by tools such as Microsoft Teams or Slack, are likely to continue their market penetration growth through the COVID pandemic and afterward may even return to modest expansion.
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