Remote control meetings, the flip side - GulfToday

Remote control meetings, the flip side


Illustrative image.

As some nations relax coronavirus restrictions, certain offices too are checking controls over anti-virus measures, allowing in-person attendance for instance.

In late August , 30,000 masked attendees gathered in Las Vegas for ASD Market Week, a retail trade show. In Chicago, the Black Women’s Expo recently held the largest event in its history, with 432 vendors and thousands of masked attendees.

“People are cautious, but they’re glad to be able to get out and network with other people,” said Dr. Barbara Hall, whose company, JBlendz Communications, was among the exhibitors at the expo.  However, the return to face-to-face interaction has been marked by a heightened sense of caution. It could be several years before conferences attract the crowds they did before the pandemic. Many countries and businesses are still restricting travel, pinching attendance at big events like the Canton Trade Fair in China, which required 26,000 vendors to pitch their wares virtually.

Health concerns also remain. The industry is keen to avoid another black eye like the Biogen leadership conference, a February 2020 event in Boston that was eventually linked to 300,000 COVID cases.

The New York Auto Show, which regularly attracts more than 1 million people, was cancelled two weeks before its August start date because of concerns about the Delta variant.

Experts say one of the big lessons of 2020 is that much of what happens at conferences and trade shows can happen virtually, lessening the need for big in-person events. However, there are certain issues linked to remote working. Jaiprit Virdi, an assistant professor at the University of Delaware, said moving events online made them more accessible to the differently-abled and those who can’t afford to travel. Virdi, who is deaf, said she’s relieved that in-person conferences are requiring masks for safety. But masks create serious barriers for her, since she relies on lip-reading.

More than two years since COVID-19 began disrupting office life around the world, crucial changes are needed to safeguard health while teleworking, two UN agencies said on Wednesday. In a new technical brief on healthy and safe teleworking, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) outlined the health benefits and risks of remote work arrangements along with the measures needed to accommodate both the shift, and the ongoing digital transformation.

“The pandemic has led to a surge of teleworking, effectively changing the nature of work practically overnight for many workers,” said Maria Neira, WHO Director, Department of Environment, Climate Change and Health.

Among the benefits, the report says, are an improved work-life balance; opportunities for flexible working hours and more physical activity; reduced traffic and commuting time; and a decrease in air pollution across urban areas.

These can all improve physical and mental health, and social wellbeing. Moreover, teleworking can also lead to higher productivity and lower operating costs for many companies.

However, the report warns that without proper planning, organisation and health and safety support, teleworking can lead to feelings of isolation, burnout, depression, eye strain, increased alcohol consumption and unhealthy weight gain. Occupational health services should provide ergonomic, mental health and psychosocial support to teleworkers using digital telehealth technologies, the report says.

It also offers practical recommendations for the organisation of telework that meet the needs of both workers and businesses, such as developing individual work plans with clear priorities, timelines and expected results.

In pre-COVID times, business events – from small academic conferences to giant trade shows like CES – routinely attracted more than a billion participants each year. The pandemic brought those global gatherings to a sudden halt, emptying convention centres and shuttering hotels.

Related articles