Months into the Covid-19 pandemic, 81% of businesses are using business chat apps such as Slack and Microsoft Teams in 2020, a significant increase from 67% in 2019.

This is among the findings of a Spiceworks Ziff Davis research study, Workplace Communications Trends in 2020, which tracks shifts in the use of business communications tools as remote work becomes the new normal. The study analyses business adoption and usage trends before and during the Covid-19 pandemic, comparing data from similar surveys of more than 750 IT professionals fielded one year apart.

Additionally, with more people working from home than ever before due to COVID-19, communications preferences shifted: 37% of IT decision-makers reported workers preferred to use business chat apps over email – up significantly from 31% in 2019.

“As the pandemic and work-from-home policies drove co-workers apart, digital communication tools were vital for bringing people together despite physical distance,” says Peter Tsai, senior technology analyst at SWZD. “Over the past few years, business chat apps and web conferencing use were already on a steady growth path. The recent shift to a remote work normal has further accelerated the upward trajectory of these modern tools, often at the expense of legacy technologies.”

With fewer in-person meetings taking place, adoption of web conferencing apps was up significantly year-over-year, growing from 69% of businesses in 2019 to 79% in 2020. Business adopters also reported that the frequency of using web conferencing tools went up by more than 10 percentage points for both internal and external communications.

These tools are clearly useful, with 75% of IT decision-makers believing communications effectively meet business demands in 2020. However, there is certainly room for improvement. Nearly a third of IT support professionals reported users regularly experience technical difficulties with web conferencing.

According to the recent 2021 State of IT report, more than half of companies are planning to have flexible work policies in place even after the Covid-19 crisis is over. As this “work from anywhere” model proliferates, geographically dispersed teams will become more common.

As company-owned devices and data move outside of firewalls, security will be a top concern. The workplace communications study found an additional 11% of businesses plan to adopt secure communications solutions platforms by 2022, making this the biggest growth area among communications technologies.

Additionally, while businesses use an average of five communications solutions today, some businesses will look to reduce complexity by consolidating tools. The research indicated an additional 10% of organizations plan to adopt unified communications solutions within two years. This suggests a shift from “silos to platforms,” which might help organizations keep data and communications workflows within a single unified stack.