One of the world’s biggest and most highly anticipated tradeshows, Mobile World Congress (MWC), is slated to begin on February 24th in Barcelona. The event is massive, attracting thousands of people and throngs of media, all keen to see what mobile technologies and innovations are around the corner. Most years, MWC is a huge success with multiple, dazzling product launches and 5G presentations.
Sadly, this year may be different. Big-name consumer brands such as South Korea’s LG and China’s ZTE have already announced that they are pulling out. Ericsson – a powerhouse in 5G development and equipment – announced today that it, too, has decided not to send any employees to the 2020 show.
2003 All Over Again
The reason is clear, and completely understandable. The coronavirus – first identified in Wuhan, China – has spread rapidly around the world in little more than a month. Evacuees from the region are being held in quarantine for observation. Cruise ships holding thousands of passengers and crew are docked in Asian cities, being closely monitored by authorities for any cases of the illness. Meanwhile, hospitals around the world are being advised to prepare for a possible influx of patients.
Nobody is surprised that this is having a chilling effect on travel. It makes sense that people should take precautions by avoiding unnecessary trips, relying instead on teleconferencing and other collaboration tools wherever possible.
At NetMotion we’re seeing hints of how this is impacting organizations of every size. Historically, we have been known primarily for our ability to provide network access and security solutions for delivery drivers and utilities workers, law enforcement officers and other remote workers. However, since the outbreak of the coronavirus we’re seeing more and more organizations consider the benefits of remote tools as a way to keep their office employees safe – especially if they are in a city where a travel ban or quarantine may go into effect.
Pressure is mounting on organizations to reduce unnecessary office time. That requires investing in reliable technologies that enable better quality remote working. When it comes to VPN, for example, a handful of our own customers have been upgrading systems to better support office workers as they implement more flexible Work From Home (WFH) policies, especially in large markets such as Hong Kong and Singapore.
Working from home is nothing new, of course. Many people work from home on a regular basis all around the world. And in Japan, the government has been actively encouraging companies since last year to allow more “Telework” as a way to help avoid the inevitable crush of tourists during the upcoming Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
As someone who lived in Asia during the SARS outbreak of 2003, I know that simple precautions can be very effective in stopping the spread of a disease like the coronavirus until an effective treatment becomes available. At that time, face-to-face meetings were abandoned in favor of conference calls. Family vacations were postponed, and big gatherings all but vanished.
This time around is no different, but we have the advantage of better tools to keep us productive no matter where we work. It’s now up to companies to (quickly) rethink their WFH policies, and make sure they’re ready to support the new normal.