Writer: Joey Garrand
3 min read May 2021 — Although New Jersey is lifting its mask mandates in line with the CDC’s updated guidelines, there is no doubt that a permanent shift regarding virtual interactions has occurred across all industries.
“We saw a roughly 700% increase in customer VPN connections in the first few weeks of the pandemic due to businesses shifting to a work-from-home environment,” Joseph Divis, interim president of AT&T New Jersey, told Invest:. He added that this trend already existed but was accelerated by the pandemic. “The growth of mobile network traffic that we experienced in 2020 has accelerated an existing trend — since 2007 and through 2019, our national wireless network saw a 661,000% increase in data traffic.”
It’s hard to imagine a 661,000 percentage increase in your nearby town’s daily road traffic, but that’s the reality of the digital trend that was occurring even before everyone was forced to stay indoors. According to Divis, there has been $1.8 trillion of private investment in America’s communication networks over the past decade to support this growth, which AT&T forecasts will continue to multiply. “We expect consumers to use around 4.6 terabytes per month in 2025, roughly five times more data than they do today.”
The increasing role of remote work that has impacted data use is also reflected in the housing market, according to Stephen Schoch, managing principal of Kitchen & Associates. “A lot of people are looking for housing, whether it be multifamily housing or even single-family houses, in locations farther away from their workplace as commuting becomes less of a factor.” Even the layouts of homes themselves are accounting for an increasingly digital world, “Every single project is rethinking things like unit square footage, and whether to have that extra area for the home office so it doesn’t feel like you’re working on the kitchen table anymore.”
Across nearly all interviews with Invest:, this trend of an increasingly digital environment is verified.
“As of now, I would say 80% of our meetings are virtual and 20% are in person,” Eileen Muskett, managing partner of the Atlantic City office for Fox Rothschild, stated in an interview with Invest:, going on to explain that more in-person meetings are slowly returning.
“Because of the virtual, remote environment, with Zoom and FaceTime or similar virtual meetings, we have gained clients around the country more than we would have ever thought. In the past, we’ve had clients from around the country that were based in South Jersey, but now our market has expanded because they’ve gotten very comfortable with representations that are virtual,” stated Reynold Cicalese, managing shareholder of Alloy Silverstein.
“Since the beginning of COVID-19, March 2020 through April 2021, we have had 178,464 telehealth visits,” said Amy Mansue, president and CEO of Inspira Health Network, going on to further detail the significance of telehealth moving forward: “We know there will be a nursing shortage in the next five years based on the numbers going out and coming in, growth in the outpatient areas, and our need for higher levels of care. We’re seeing the same on the physician side, so we are really trying to take advantage of telemedicine to make our resources go further.”
Of course, while most leaders and businesses have made a permanent shift toward remote work, they also acknowledge the consequences of operating in a digital environment, mainly the lack of organic collaboration and interactions. This element, many say, will ensure a physical presence in some form across most industries.
One good example is education. Ali Houshmand, president of Rowan University, explained why a digital landscape will never be able to completely overtake the education sector. “For a 17- or 18-year-old leaving the safety of home and their parents, the college campus serves as a safe environment to grow and learn to make decisions. That’s the role of a college campus, and it’s one thing that should remain unchanged and never go away. There is no way you can replace that with virtual environments because at some point you have to get out into the world.”
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