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Coronavirus: Soaring collaboration app uptake sees home workers clock on for longer hours

Number of people online during working day more than doubles since end of January and growth in demand for business apps reaches record levels, fuelled by conferencing applications

That the Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak would generate a marked increase in the use of collaboration apps might not be much of a surprise, but as teleworking has become the new norm globally what perhaps is more surprising is the marked increase in working hours that has been observed.

Data from smart home intelligent Wi-Fi services platform provider Plume and mobile app monitoring service AppAnnie has revealed a more than doubling of people online during the working day in the US, with near triple-digit increases in the major cities, along with record growth in demand for business apps fuelled by conferencing applications.

Between 14 and 21 March 2020, AppAnnie found record levels of consumers demanding work connectivity and accessibility from their mobiles as the Covid-19 pandemic intensified in Europe and the US. Data showed that business apps topped 62 million downloads across iOS and Google Play worldwide – its biggest week ever. This was up by 45% from the week prior – the highest growth among any category across the app stores combined that week – and up by 90% from the weekly average of business app downloads in 2019.

Uptake was driven by Google opening up its premium paid features of Hangouts Meet for free, Zoom offering K-12 students free access, and Microsoft offering free six-month subscriptions to Microsoft Teams in response to the increase in remote working.

As more employees work from home globally, AppAnnie said it was seeing strong demand for tools that enable people to feel connected and foster collaboration. It noted that given their free tiers, these apps could also be good tools for businesses that haven’t ordinarily paid for these services.

As an example, it quoted research showing that Zoom Cloud Meetings topped download charts globally throughout February and March, and that the product continued to see elevated downloads through the US, UK and Europe. It found that during the week of 15-21 March, Zoom Cloud Meetings was downloaded 14 times more than the weekly average during fourth quarter of 2019 in the US, 20 times more in the UK, 22 times more in France, 17 times more in Germany, 27 times more in Spain and an impressive 55 times more in Italy.

During the same timeframe, Hangouts Meet saw particularly strong growth in downloads in the UK, US, Spain and Italy at 24, 30, 64 and 140 times the average weekly downloads in the fourth quarter of 2019, respectively. Microsoft Teams also saw notable growth in Spain, France and Italy at 15, 16 and 30 times the weekly level of downloads seen on average in the last quarter of 2019, respectively.

For its part, Plume’s now weekly analysis of online usage in the US, Canada and Europe – including real-time insights on computer, smartphone and entertainment devices (set-top boxes, smart TVs and gaming consoles) usage during the workday, at night and over the weekend – found that by the end of the period from 29 January to 26 March, 46.2 million people in the 14 main metro areas in the US were active online during the working day. At the beginning of this period, 22.6 million people were active online.

Of all the standout findings, perhaps the two most surprising were that people are now working longer hours than ever, with PC usage up by 41% after 6.00pm, and entertainment device usage up 53% during working hours from 6.00am to 6.00pm.

Computer-based online usage in this time period amounted to 5.4 hours from 23-27 March, compared with just 2.6 hours from 2-6 March. The equivalent figure for smartphones in these times were four hours and 2.3 hours, respectively. Yet looking at figures outside traditional working hours, the survey also showed that online usage was significantly up. From 6.00pm to 6.00am the following day, computer-based online usage rose from 1.69 hours between 2 and 6 March to 2.6 hours between 23 and 27 March. The same patterns were shown for Saturdays.

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