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Headshot of Bob Patience.

Bob Patience     |     
VP, Head of New York Life Business Solutions

With their brick-and-mortar locations closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many companies today need to find new ways to do business remotely—either online or with mobile devices.

Supervising work-from-home employees may be the most obvious need for new solutions, but other challenges may also exist in appointment scheduling, team collaboration, customer service, human resources, and many other activities.

There's no shortage of solutions. The challenge is to identify a company's needs and choose the best solutions to use.

Getting things done remotely

Email and phone calls work well for many purposes but may prove inadequate to meet the full range of challenges in a remote, or "distributed," workplace.1

Technology can help. Indeed, it's tech that makes virtual work possible. But not all tech is right for every company or every team.2

Dividing popular solutions into four categories may help to clarify their functionality.

(Some services are competitive in more than one category)

Group chat/messaging

Group messaging services, such as Slack and Twist, offer an alternative to email for teams or groups whose members need to interact frequently and informally. Rather than generating dozens of "Reply All" email messages to the same recipients, a group chat or messaging service functions more like a shared social media communication post that everyone can see.

Online conferencing

Online conferencing services, like Google Meet, Google Hangouts, Zoom, Webex, and Skype, facilitate remote face-to-face conversations for two or more people. Setting up and joining conferences may take more time and effort than sending email or making phone calls, but email does not offer immediacy, nor do emails or phone calls enable people to see one another's facial expressions. That may explain why the use of Zoom and Skype reportedly spiked after workers were sent home due to the novel coronavirus.2

Project management

Project management services, such as Trello, Jira and Asana, are designed to help teams list, organize, prioritize, and track projects with multiple steps. Unlike documents, spreadsheets, calendars or white boards, project management systems have built-in functions that allow users to set up and share tasks in categories like "To Do," "Doing," "In Progress," or "Done."

Appointment scheduling

Scheduling services, like Calendly and Doodle, facilitate scheduling appointments and meetings. Rather than exchange multiple back-and-forth email or voicemail messages to find mutually agreeable times, these services enable users to set and show (or hide) their availability and request or book appointments on one another's schedules.

All these services generally can be used online or with mobile devices. Many offer a free trial period so prospective users can do a test drive before they commit to an enterprise-level plan.

Beyond the work-from-home world.

While supervision and collaboration may be the primary uses of these technologies, these services may also prove beneficial for other business needs while in-person interactions may be limited. Social activities for employees, training seminars, customer appreciation events, telemedicine consultations for medical providers, and all sorts of conferences, webinars, and networking events may benefit from remote office technology.

Rather than struggle to adapt office-bound ways of doing business to remote locations, many companies can use technology to address the challenges of remote workers and build strong, collaborative, agile teams and successful operations.

About the author

Bob Patience is Vice President of Business Solutions at New York Life.  Bob oversees our employee benefits business, including our payroll deducted individual life products and our group life and disability offerings.  In Bob’s four years with New York Life, we launched our group offerings, re-priced and redesigned our individual products and re-positioned the business to support our agents by focusing on the financial needs of small businesses, their owners and their employees.  In addition to his oversight of Business Solutions, Bob is also leading a number of work streams related to NYL’s pending acquisition of Cigna Group Insurance.  Before coming to New York Life, Bob spent 30 years with Prudential, where he held a variety of product, underwriting, segment head, and technology leadership positions.  Immediately before coming to NY Life, he was the P&L owner of Prudential’s $3 billion block of group life and voluntary benefits business.  Bob has a BA from Colby College in Maine and a Masters in Business Administration from New Jersey’s Montclair State University.

This article is provided only for general informational purposes and is not directed toward any particular business or location. Business owners should consult with legal counsel or other knowledgeable advisors on governmental requirements and best practices before taking any action regarding this material.


1Barbara Z. Larson, "Guide to Managing Your (Newly) Remote Workers," Harvard Business Review, March 18, 2020, newly-remote-workers

2"Challenges to Managing Virtual Teams and How to Overcome Them," Harvard Extension School, (undated), development/blog/challenges-managing-virtual-teams-and-how-overcome-them

3Emily Bary, "Zoom, Microsoft Teams usage are rocketing during coronavirus pandemic, new data show," MarketWatch, April 1, 2020, coronavirus-pandemic-new-data-show-2020-03-30

This material is provided for informational purposes only. New York Life Insurance Company, its agents and employees may not provide legal, tax or accounting advice. Individuals should consult their own professional advisors before implementing any planning strategies. © 2020 New York Life Insurance Company.