Could Video Solve the Lack of Face-to-Face Problem for Remote Workers?
< 10 July 2020 >
Today, nearly every desked worker is a remote worker.
The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed a massive portion of the global populace to work from home, eliminating face-to-face interactions. While this is essential for maintaining social distancing, it does have a negative impact on our ability to communicate.
Without face-to-face conversations, you can’t:
- React in real-time to a person’s response to your statements
- Analyze body language to gauge meaning more accurately
- Ensure quick response to queries, via impromptu chats
- Build relationships through informal, watercooler conversations
In fact, face-to-face communication is integral to a sense of community in the workplace – which speeds up problem-solving on one hand and fosters engagement on the other.
In the absence of any possibility of connecting in person, professionals around the globe are now turning to video-based communication. Video communication as a Service (VCaaS) makes this technology easily accessible, with zero download or installation hassles. It is no surprise, therefore, that VCaaS company, PGi saw a 19X surge in sign-ups since January and Zoom has added more users this year so far than it did in all of 2019.
Video does help to overcome the challenges of traditional digital communication to some level.
To begin with, most traditional channels like email or chat is asynchronous. You send a message, but there is no guarantee of real-time response. With video conferencing, you can raise questions in an impromptu format and receive a reply/reaction almost as if you were there in person. As you can see, video also addresses the body language issue in digital communication to an extent.
But it also comes with its own challenges.
There is a risk of making video conferences too formal, outline a strict agenda, timelines, and even dress-code. This type of narrowly structured communication cannot replace face-to-face chats. It is advisable for companies to distinctly define formal and informal sessions – for instance, limiting pre-scheduled video meetings to four or more participants. Any less, and you can hold an impromptu video call.
Video can also struggle to achieve face-to-face levels of impact in external communications. If you are talking to a customer, in-person is almost always better than digital. Companies could address this by leveraging other digital capabilities – bolstering a customer video call with engaging sales may=terials, virtual walkthroughs, etc.
For the time being, it appears that video must mandatorily replace face-to-face interactions – which is why companies need to strengthen their infrastructure. Studies reveal that video quality is 26% more challenging for remote workers than it for on-site employees. And usage varies from country to country. Microsoft recently found that people in India (22%) and South Africa (36%) use video during their calls far lesser than their counterparts in Scandanavian countries (60%), Australia (57%), and Italy (53%). Locational infrastructure, too, clearly requires improvements.
Good video technology can be a compelling placeholder for in-person communication during the pandemic. The key is to institutionalize it via tech adoption policies, even as you informalize your usage patterns.
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