Lessons from video conferencingLee Geo-sung
Life has gradually returned to normal in Korea as mandatory social restrictions have been lifted from May 6. The spring has been lost, overwhelmed by Covid-19, which has infected 4.3 million and killed 290,000 people around the world. In a borderless world, people are locked inside while the virus alone roams around without any restrictions. It is the irony of globalization.
Working in a trading company, I witness the impact of Covid-19 across the world every day through communications with clients in other countries. The virus has brought sweeping changes to our everyday lives. People must now show friendless or greetings through fist pumps or elbow touching instead of handshakes. In workplaces, telecommuting has become more normal. There had been experiments with flexible work hours or digitalization to promote creativity and individualism in the past. But remote working still was unfamiliar in Korea before the arrival of Covid-19.
I have arrived to some thoughts through the experience of rotational remote working for a month.
For telecommuting to become established, IT infrastructure and social awareness must change hand in hand. An international trading company seeks business opportunities through connection. Global networking through business trips and meetings defines our competitiveness. Having those connections cut because of the virus pandemic posed a serious challenge to our business.
The company has supplied internal computer system and infrastructure for multilateral teleconferencing and video sharing for remote working. Teleconferencing with overseas buyers from home actually helped overcome the physical and time barriers. Communication became more effective and efficient than it was before the virus outbreak.
Posco was the first Korean corporate name to be listed as a “lighthouse,” referring to a factory that has applied fourth industrial revolution technologies like artificial intelligence and big data for operation in July 2019. Corporate files can be accessed anywhere outside the office. Internal messaging and teleconferencing technology provides the same office environment anywhere. We were awed to see the advances in smart work infrastructure available in our country and company.
Social awareness also must change. A poll by job site Saramin showed that the biggest reasons behind companies being reluctant to adopt remote working were concerns about the quality in work (28.7 percent) and a lack of efficient control over employees (15.7 percent.) Employers still are doubtful about productivity when employees work away from office.
But the concerns stem from natural resistance or fear about the unfamiliar situation. Our company has encouraged all employees to try out new technologies regardless of their rank. In fact, more potential has been discovered through the remote working experience.
Proactive participation and communication has brought about a change in perspectives. They help to make the new system work. There is a saying that “The only thing that never changes is that everything changes.” Companies must evolve by balancing efficiency and liberalism to survive in a fast-changing world.
Covid-19 has brought about an unprecedented crisis. A sage will draw lessons from crisis. A momentum has arrived to explore new kinds of work environments through IT and awareness advances. Large companies should share their smart system know-how with smaller companies to create a more competitive Korean industrial community.
Translation by the Korea JoongAng Daily staff.
JoongAng Ibo, May 14, Page 33