COVID-19 ushered in a lot of changes at a record pace.
According to some estimates, developed nations embraced more than 3 years' worth of technological advances in the latter half of 2020 alone.
One of COVID-19's biggest impacts was the mass closure of shared office space. This saw millions of workers eschew their former daily commutes and set up shop from home.
The work from home trend, in fact, grew so quickly and prevalent that it gained its own acronym, 'WFH'.
For investors, this rapid sea change in the way people worked (along with shopped and socialised) presented a unique opportunity to pick up technology shares that could help people through the transition.
We look at 5 of those shares, and their potential outlook, below.
Three tech shares connecting workers during COVID-19 restrictions
Employees of all levels accustomed to chatting face to face and signing documents in person found those basic activities banned following COVID-19 office closures.
To keep their businesses running and staff productive, management had little choice but to turn to technology. While many tech shares have done well since the onset of the pandemic, some have done better than others.
Josh Gilbert, market analyst at global online investment platform eToro, told The Motley Fool that, "Companies that have been able to help businesses run smoothly from home have benefited as they've seen their customer bases swell."
He points to Atlassian Corporation PLC (NASDAQ: TEAM), Zoom Video Communications Inc (NASDAQ: ZM), and Docusign Inc (NASDAQ: DOCU) as three companies "which have explicitly benefited from the work from home (WFH) lifestyle".
Gilbert said, "Zoom's share price grew by around 400% last year, as most companies around the world moved to remote working and turned to online video conferencing to solve their communication issues".
Then there's Australian software company Atlassian, "that builds collaboration and remote working tools to help teams connect and increase productivity". Atlassian's share price is up 127% in the last year.
Docusign's software, among other things, enables organisations to manage electronic agreements in the Cloud with eSignatures. Docusign's share price gained around 200% in 2020.
Two tech shares protecting WFH data
The WFH shift driven by COVID-19 didn't just require better ways to communicate and exchange documents remotely. It also meant helping secure data that was now held on servers outside the head office.
As Gilbert told The Motley Fool, "An area most investors have overlooked is cybersecurity. With more staff than ever working outside of the office, internal cybersecurity procedures are being prioritised."
He said Crowdstrike Holdings Inc (NASDAQ: CRWD) "the popular cybersecurity firm, set a record number of new customers in Q2 2021 at 1,660, with 81% growth year-over-year. Shares are also up 120% in the last year."
Then there's newly listed cybersecurity share SentinelOne Inc (NYSE: S), which went public in June.
According to Gilbert:
SentinelOne has already seen its share price jump around 60% in just a few months. In April 2021, Sentinel announced it had 4,700 customers, which grew by 74% from a year earlier. These numbers show a clear indication that businesses are spending more cash to protect their systems internally.
What's next for these COVID-19 outperformers?
With COVID-19 having helped drive these tech stocks' huge share price gains, forward looking investors are wondering how they'll fare once the impacts of the pandemic begin to fade.
Gilbert acknowledges that, "The stocks that have benefited the most, such as Zoom, will see a natural slow down when businesses begin to return to offices."
But he doesn't anticipate workers will simply revert to the way things were in 2019:
It's anticipated that the WFH lifestyle isn't likely to completely disappear. Businesses have learnt that employees can work successfully at home, so they are less likely to be sending staff on worldwide or national trips, unless completely necessary.
Gilbert adds, "Fundamentally, stocks such as Zoom and DocuSign have built great bases, and we can expect M&A activity from both businesses and further innovation from their product lines moving forward."