Teleconferencing software could become a post-COVID normal

Isabelle Hajek, Staff Writer

Zoom and similar teleconferencing software have been popularized in various industries because of COVID-19 pandemic policies. Businesses, medical practices and entertainment, among other industries, have found their way to using such technology as a method to bridge the gap in contact that the pandemic has brought.

Zoom experienced a 67% increase in use from January to March 2020, in response to pandemic social distancing policies. This is a common trend for most conferencing software that had been available before COVID-19 as it became a necessity during the pandemic. However, over a year in the pandemic has passed, begging the question: where does this technology fit into the new normal?

One may turn to economic theory. Russian economist and mathematician Nikolai Kondratieff proposed the now widely accepted theory of the Kondratieff Wave. In the theory, he says that when new technology is introduced into the market, the economy experiences significant growth, followed by a crisis that causes a significant decrease that will recover only when the next iteration of new technology is introduced. According to this model, the U.S. along with the majority of the world is in the fifth cycle, marked by increased access to information and telecommunications. Under this theory, teleconferencing software is going to remain normal in life.

Although video conferencing has been used in business prior to COVID-19, University of New Haven Dean of the Pompea College of Business and economist, Brian Kench, said that the pandemic has made it acceptable in business and other industries. Teleconferencing software has allowed individuals to become more accessible to their employers without residing near the company. This decentralization of industry creates a more diverse job market.

“Increase the flexibility and you’ll see self-selection into those industries,” said Kench, “where they wouldn’t have observed those particular individuals, based on a variety of demographics. But it’s no secret that the finance industry, as an example, is White and male and so by transforming the infrastructure you’re likely to decrease that category and increase the others.”

Kench views the acceptance of teleconferencing software as a positive in many industries, but he acknowledges the barriers it faces. He said that society will need to address concerns regarding access to technology.

“Access is critical, there’s no doubt about that,” he said, “and there are certainly groups that still don’t have access, so that’s something to work on.”

Mediating this lack of access may prove difficult as Kench said, “there are always people left behind so I think you’re not going to solve it… It’s really about on the margin, can you move it more in the direction that is productive?”

As competition for positions increases, wages may also decrease and the increased access to employees could cause labor laws and company policies to more explicitly dictate the role of technology in employment.

Students have voiced similar and additional concerns regarding the presence of teleconferencing software in education and the workforce. In a survey from the Charger Bulletin, 93.8 percent of respondents report attending more meetings now than prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and 37.5 percent of students attend multiple virtual meetings at once.

Regarding access, freshman engineering student Laila Soliman said, “[Zoom] has made me realize that the requirement is innately classist…Some people do not have the access to that technology.”

Other students have said that a virtual format is not conducive to learning. Junior psychology major Jocelyn Daly said, “It can be harder to focus on the lecture and fully absorb the content.”

Junior criminal justice major Amiel Perez-Wilson said that he does not, “feel engaged or motivated. There is no desire to go and learn when you have to do it through Zoom”

As the majority of people in the U.S. are expected to be vaccinated by the end of summer 2021, a new normal that integrates technology with industries’ previous models awaits, along with the growths and challenges it will produce.