Last Wednesday, more than 340,000 people the world over got on their phones and tablets and desktops to download the video conferencing app Zoom. For context, the same day in January netted the company 90,000 new downloads (Forbes). That staggering growth has visited an assortment of tech companies these last few months, due in each case to the same factor: COVID-19.
The World Health Organization and CDC have recommended social distancing, self-quarantine, and general isolation to combat the spread of the worst pandemic of this century. The economic effects have compounded the biological ones, as many businesses struggle to adapt to an emptied world they simply aren’t built for. But, as Zoom, Dropbox, and Amazon have found out, the physical economy is not the whole picture.
Since the novel-Coronavirus has made working from home more and more necessary, the digital economy has increasingly become the real economy. Amazon is hiring a six figure number of employees to cope with the surge in demand, Zoom saw that >370% increase in daily downloads in just two months, and comparable tech firms like Everbridge are rising to the moment, helping a confused world adapt to its new reality.
In fact, these tech companies are cushioning the World’s economy against the additional economic fallout that would have accompanied the massive human toll, had this pandemic struck 20 or 30 years ago. Laudably, corporate leaders, like Zoom’s Eric Yuan, are modeling superior corporate citizenship by extending services, scaling to meet the problem, and even removing usage caps for thousands of cancelled K-12 classes and regions affected by the virus (Forbes).
These adaptations are made possible not only by the lighter overhead and more agile nature of tech-based firms but the cultures they foster. This can be seen in the way these firms act as global citizens rather than using the crisis as an, “…opportunity for money…”, as Yuan put it (Forbes). Such stellar examples may extend the changes to work culture that we’ve seen, far beyond the actual crisis.