*Originally published on CommercialIntegrator.com
Broader use and acceptance of technology and more embracing of working from home are among the long-term benefits of coronavirus
Most of the so-called non-essential U.S. workforce has been conducting business from the comfort of their homes since at least mid-March and most state officials expect their stay-at-home orders to extend for a while longer, although some state leaders are starting to reopen parts of the economy.
And, while the opening of beaches and barber shops doesn’t have much to do with AV technology, what we’ve learned while asked to stay home as much as possible for the past six-plus weeks could have long-term ramifications on what the industry looks like.
For one thing, we’ve seen a much wider adoption of and acceptance of technology as a communication tool for people of all generations. Those with teenagers know that group has been adept with tech for a while now, but it’s becoming more prevalent among those younger and much older too.
I’ve been impressed with how well my fifth-grade daughter has adjusted to distance learning since her school closed. She knows her way around the Google Classroom platform much better than I do and hasn’t really missed a beat in terms of getting assignments done on time during this disruption.
I liked when her school launched the weekly video meetings that allow students to catch up with each other in a way they haven’t been able to do since school closed and give the kids some time to talk to their teachers in case they have questions or just want to talk about what they did last weekend.
Maybe that will mean my daughter or one of her classmates will wonder how it all worked and that will spark an interest in a career in AV when they’re old enough to think about such things.
Perhaps more impressive, though, is how she’s helped her grandparents become more accepting of AV tech such as videoconferencing as a way to stay connected. While there have been glitches along the way, her grandparents are no longer unilaterally afraid of what will happen if they hit THAT button.
More Ways AV Will Be Better
Another somewhat-related long-term benefit for the AV industry that never would have happened without the coronavirus outbreak is more employers now understand that working from home isn’t always as nefarious or troublesome as they once thought.
Sure, there are probably some employees who aren’t working anywhere close to the eight hours a day they’re paid for but most people are likely putting in even more time at “the office” since they’ve been locked in their homes than they ever would have at the actual office.
In fact, it could be that it’s tougher than ever for most people to turn work “off” since there’s no separation between the office and their homes, except a staircase or hallway. I’ve personally tried to avoid checking work emails once I turn my laptop off for the day but it’s not always an easy task.
The benefit for AV of this phenomenon is, of course, that many companies will be exploring whether to adopt work-from-home as a regular course of business when we get the all-clear to return to the office.
We could see much smaller headquarters and more divergent workforces and that means the need for more robust videoconferencing tools and systems. It could mean a lot of smaller jobs rather than the wallpaper-like video walls of the past, but those little jobs could add up to big business overall.
Here’s what could make those small jobs even more profitable and one more way AV has been changed for the better during COVID-19: service contracts. Integrators are understanding now—in large part because they need money—that staying connected with clients means more chances for work.
Monitoring the viability of a system and sharing stats on how much it’s being used means dollars in AV integrators’ pockets and means they’re having more frequent conversations with their customers about their needs both now and in the long-term so they can work together to make them into reality.
One more thing: of course, most people will continue to prefer the in-person interaction that comes with a trade show in a physical location but the emergence of virtual events as an option will be something that will lead to better and more opportunities for more people to participate.
Certainly, our world would be a better place if the coronavirus never existed but there have been a few things that can be cited as benefits. Here’s hoping AV integrators embrace them as such as it helps them in their recovery from the economic struggles they’re encountering today.