MOSCOW, Russia — Nothing has disrupted our modern lives the same way the COVID-19 pandemic did. In an instant, almost everyone has to take shelter at home and avoid crowds to stop the spread of virus.
We have not seen family and friends and co-workers for months. And if we did, we kept a healthy distance, avoided touch and wore a mask. For the first time ever, almost all companies worldwide have to implement their work-from-home setup to keep business running. To say our social lives have been turned upside down is an understatement.
Working for Viber, even in just a couple of months so far, has instilled in me how humans are inherently social beings. As one of the trusted communication apps by many millions, Viber understands our need to keep conversations going, to stay connected especially with those who matter most.
We are wired to a desire for human interaction. Despite the lockdowns all over the world, we are able to keep connected with our loved ones — thanks to technology. And connect, we did. We have exhausted all the tools and found ways we can keep in touch.
To put things in perspective, one of the biggest challenges that Viber faced during the pandemic was the unprecedented surge in usage worldwide.
Let me pull out some numbers to emphasize this point. Our latest data says that group messages sent over Viber increased by 134 percent and the number of group calls received by an average user soared by 370 percent worldwide.
Not only that. The average number of community engagement has also risen by 78 percent, while the number of daily active Viber users and new users registering in the app daily increased by 18 percent and 25 percent, respectively. Viber users are also making longer calls and sending more videos.
“ What do these numbers tell us? In the middle of a pandemic, people are indeed reaching out online. We want to talk. We want to have conversations. We are joining communities that matter to us now. ”
In the Philippines, messages sent increased by 120 percent and the number of calls received by an average Viber user rose by 85 percent in the past weeks. The average number of community engagement has risen by 120 percent.
The number of daily active Viber users also increased by 40 percent, while the number of new users registering in the app daily is 55 percent higher compared to the average.
What do these numbers tell us? In the middle of a pandemic, people are indeed reaching out online. We want to talk. We want to have conversations. We are joining communities that matter to us now.
Thanks to apps like Viber, we’ve also managed to keep in touch with our officemates, making sure our work gets done. I can personally tell you how working remotely is not really a big of a challenge at Viber. Our teams have adapted quickly, and many have thrived in this setup as it saves them time and effort on commute, giving them more extra hours of sleep or pursuing hobbies.
However, a survey conducted by Blind — an anonymous community app for the workplace — showed that 53 percent of the respondents said they feel lonely working remotely.
Of course, our industry is just one part of the spectrum. The numbers on a global scale may even be worse. Even before the pandemic, surveys have shown that loneliness was on the rise. How much more in this time of social distancing? Viber is recognizing this problem and addressing it head-on. We take loneliness seriously.
Various studies have shown that social isolation and loneliness can be a serious health risk. Loneliness can affect our physical, mental and cognitive well-being. It can lead to sleep disturbances and reduced physical activities. It can also increase the levels of cortisol in our body, making us at more risk of depression, heart disease and stroke.
To make sure our users stay securely connected with those important to them, Viber increased its capacity and introduced new initiatives. The app has boosted the number of participants in group audio from five to 20 people at a time and has launched a new feature — video group calls up to 20 people fighting the isolation and loneliness frustration. And that’s just the start, as our teams are working harder to expand and enhance these features further to accommodate all students and teachers, coworkers and partners, friends and families who are in constant contact with each other every single day.
I’m proud of the work we do at Viber to ensure our users won’t feel disconnected from their social circle. But I’m even happier to say that we’re also doing our best to support our own tribe.
At Viber, we’re also keeping each other company by organizing activities that make us feel less lonely at home. For instance, we do team competitions, exchange news, and discuss topics that are not related to work at our Viber catch-ups — like we used to do when we were on break in the office.
“ I know I’m not alone in saying that I do miss sharing laughter with friends over drinks. I miss having dinner with my family. The truth is: nothing can replace human connection. ”
We also do regular Viber group video calls with each region to catch up and connect with each other. These calls are actually mostly non-work-related (we're encouraged to have our favorite drink with us, whether it's coffee or beer), and we end up chatting as friends and colleagues. Connection is — literally and figuratively — important to us at Viber.
I have been working in digital for over 10 years. And I’ve always thought that, especially in recent years, all the work in our industry could be done remotely — yes even in Viber, where I lead people in offices all over the world. But the quarantine has made me take a step back and reassess this idea.
I know I’m not alone in saying that I do miss sharing laughter with friends over drinks. I miss having dinner with my family. The truth is: nothing can replace human connection.
No matter how effective remote work is, I still miss seeing my teams at our workspaces, hearing their ideas out loud, and telling them personally they’ve done a great job. Nothing can replace even the smallest of gestures like a handshake or a pat on the back.
Until it is safe to go out again or whenever we simply can’t meet face-to-face, the best we can do is to make the most out of our screens and embrace the wonders of today’s technology in filling the void of isolation and distance one message, one call at a time.
Edited by Janvic Mateo