End the face-to-face meetings, go digital instead

This is the time to put the communications, social media and automation technologies in full-steam mode.
This is the time to put the communications, social media and automation technologies in full-steam mode.

THE Covid-19 outbreak has caused major disruptions. Numerous local, as well as international, events, meetings, exhibitions and tournaments were cancelled to prevent the virus from spreading. Some countries even implemented a total lockdown to flatten the curve.

Some international companies have opted for virtual events. Apple, Huawei, Snapchat, Google and Microsoft announced that their annual events would be done via live-streaming to minimise the virus outbreak.

Health professionals have said the spread of the virus can be slowed if we practise social distancing, by not going to public places and limiting movement. One of the best ways is to start working from home and temporarily stop schooling, maybe from two weeks to one month.

This is the time to put the communications, social media and automation technologies in full-steam mode. Everyone has a smartphone today and broadband coverage is more than adequate for group chats in WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Telegram, FaceTime, Skype and Google Classroom.

We’ve been using these apps to share thoughts and for chitchatting, and they work well. So it’s time the daily face-to-face morning meetings, afternoon reports and evening updates were replaced with online group meetings. This can easily be done because almost all these apps are available for free on all platforms.

For example, Telegram is fast, simple and free, and with it, you can send messages, photos, videos and files of any type (doc, zip, mp3, etc), as well as create groups for up to 200,000 people or channels for broadcasting to unlimited audiences. WhatsApp allows users to have group communications of up to 256 people and a video call of up to four people.

If you and your colleagues are on iOS, use Group FaceTime as it makes it easy to chat with many people simultaneously. There are also paid collaboration tools like Google G Suite, which comprises Gmail, Hangouts, Calendar, and Currents for communication; Drive for storage; and Docs, Sheets, Slides, Keep, Forms and Sites for productivity and collaboration.

Many organisations already have them for collaborating with colleagues at different locations. It’s time to use them to replace internal face-to-face meetings.

Besides the communication apps, there are also productivity apps, mostly free, that can help you with collaborative work, away from your desk; apps like Quip, Slack, Trello and Evernote. Quip creates living documents combining chat, documents, slides, and spreadsheets, making collaboration fast and easy. You can skip the endless emails, meetings and document versions.

The Slack app brings team communication and collaboration into one place, so you can get more work done, whether a large enterprise or a small business. It’s available on all platforms, so you can find and access your team and your work whether you’re at your desk or away.

The fact that these apps are available and people are already using them prove that they are reliable and can be used for work. This is also an opportunity for companies to prove that some work can be done online without staff having to come to the office.

However, for this measure to be implemented effectively, a change of mindset and discipline is a must as we are going to work away from our desk, and there needs to be one person that monitors or manages the group just like a manager in the office.

This challenging period is also a good time for telco companies to lend a hand by offering discounted rates for data so that people who work remotely will not be burdened with higher bills.

This is being done by carriers in the US, such as AT&T, Comcast, Verizon and T-Mobile. They offer unlimited data for all mobile plans for 60 days, waiving fees for going over data caps, etc. Productivity may be affected a bit because of this pandemic, but at least we can keep things going albeit not meeting each other literally.

It’s time for us to work together on a national scale. This may help reduce the spread of the virus and reduce the challenges faced by doctors, nurses and other health personnel who work 24/7 dealing with this pandemic.

The writer is Tech Editor of The the New Straits Times with 25 years of experience covering and writing technology stuff in the consumer, enterprise, telecommunications and emerging technology space.

By Izwan Ismail.

Read more @ https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2020/03/575937/end-face-face-meetings-go-digital-instead

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