Work-at-Home Software on the Rise Amid COVID-19 Concerns

As more companies ask employees to work from home due to the global spread of the coronavirus, Google, Microsoft and Zoom have responded by providing their workplace software for free. Microsoft’s Teams saw a 500 percent increase in meetings, calls and conference usage in China since the end of January, and demand is rising in the U.S. as work-from-home policies are instituted. Many Microsoft employees have been instructed to work from home and, last week, their Teams chat volume rose 50 percent, with video/audio meetings up 37 percent from a week earlier.

Vox reports that, according to Zoom chief financial officer Kelly Steckelberg, “at the end of January if you took the run rate of our minutes usage at that point, we were on a run rate of a hundred billion annual meeting minutes and that is up pretty significantly since then.”

Although none of the work-software companies would comment, “third-party data supports the reports of spikes in usage of these products.” That includes Productiv, which said that, “Microsoft Teams usage among Productiv clients is up 20 percent in the first week of March compared to the first week of February.” It also reported that Zoom usage up “more than 30 percent since the beginning of February for employers who put restrictions on travel (Zoom usage also increased for those who didn’t impose restrictions).”

In addition to offering its software for free, Zoom “lifted time limits on its video calls for the free versions in China, as well as for schools in Japan, Italy, and the U.S., by request.” The company’s stock rose more than 20 percent in the last month. Microsoft now offers its premium version of Teams “for free for six months and has lifted existing user limits on its free version.”

Likewise, Google stated that, “it would offer its enterprise videoconferencing features … for free to G Suite and G Suite for Education customers through July 1, 2020.” Slack is offering “free webinars with live Q&As, consultations by phone, and information on working-from-home best practices.”

As a result, “Zoom became the most downloaded business app in the U.S. on iOS for the first time this week and it was the top business app in 11 other markets … Teams rose to No. 4 in the App Store, while Hangouts Meet and Slack remained at 10th and 11th place, respectively.” In Italy, “Google’s Hangouts Meet and Classroom were the most downloaded of any category of apps this week.”

According to App Annie, one week in February, “mark[ed] the biggest week for Business app downloads in Italy ever.” Business and education apps also saw “the biggest surge in downloads of an app category” in China. Although “Downdetector has reported recent outages for Zoom, Teams, and Slack … they were not severe enough to indicate that increased usage is causing work-from-home software to suffer.”