Among the many things that were turned on their head during 2020, first place in the ‘pandemic list of business changes’ most probably goes to a combination of remote working and video conferencing. And, of course, the two go hand in hand.
In 2019, only 30% of the UK workforce experienced remote working during the year. By April 2020, the figure was almost 47%. And, before the arrival of COVID-19, how many of us had attended a meeting by video? A few, it would seem, but it was still very much the preserve of multinationals or those keen on a digital transformation. In December 2019, well-known video conferencing app Zoom had 10 million daily global meeting participants. By the end of March 2020, that had shot up to 200 million, and by the end of April 2020 to 300 million. And that’s just Zoom.
In October 2020, Microsoft Teams reported 115 million active daily users. Despite the teething issues many of us have experienced when faced with a screen instead of a human being, there’s no denying the fact that video conferencing, in combination with remote or hybrid working, has become part of our daily work lives.
So, what does the future hold?
One thing is certain. The workplace has fundamentally changed. While some offices will return full time when all restrictions have eased, many more will not. One recent report found that 89% of surveyed UK businesses expected hybrid working to become permanent, and this means that video conferencing will become an essential, embedded part of everyday business culture.
4 reasons why video conferencing is a must-have
To enable this new landscape, business leaders will need to invest in the right technology, and this includes being sure that every worker – no matter where they are based – has access to video and is able and happy to use it. Beyond the logistics though, there are several solid business reasons why employees and employers alike need to embrace video conferencing. Here’s our top four reasons why it’s a must-have for hybrid workforces:
- One of the biggest challenges facing those managing a hybrid workforce is facilitating collaboration and connection between remote and office workers. The use of video provides a crucial counterbalance to the loss of camaraderie and company ethos that can come with limited face-to-face contact. By bridging the gap between the two work locations, video helps build and support a stronger sense of community.
- It’s easy to forget how important non-verbal cues can be to a discussion, and without voice or facial expressions to take into account (when using email or the phone), the overall tone of a conversation can be lost. Video prevents these issues. In addition, some video conferencing apps now include live reactions so that smiles and nods are easier to catch in larger online meetings, as well as allowing for additional tools to be accessed, such as digital whiteboards and content sharing capabilities for presentations and documents. This all adds up to a high level of understanding and team collaboration.
- With more context comes fewer misunderstandings. Much as could happen after a face-to-face meeting, it’s possible for participants to get together in the video version of a breakout room to discuss things that may have been difficult to understand during the larger video meeting. With the right technology, companies can also set up speaker attribution, live captions and transcripts. For those employees with hearing difficulties, or interacting with staff overseas, these intelligent tools instantly bridge communication gaps that may well have existed before, even when physically face-to-face. Video allows the entire team to understand context, content and outcomes.
- Employee wellbeing is key to business success and is, rightly so, fast becoming a vital part of business strategy. Video is a key element here. It provides an important lifeline for hybrid workers, connecting them to their team and supporting them, whilst at the same time allowing employers to get a true sense of any concerns or issues, or any additional help that may be needed.
Ensuring a level playing field
To work successfully, employees don’t just need access to video conferencing platforms like Microsoft Teams. They also need access to good quality audio visual equipment including cameras, mics and headsets to ensure that wherever they are working, they get the best possible experience.
This not only enables them to do their jobs, it also ensures everyone has an equal experience. For example, if half your sales team is working from home and the other half are in the office, those working remotely should not be at a disadvantage. They need an equal experience to their colleagues in the office in order to deliver presentations, take online meetings and sell effectively. This means upgrading from webcams and phone earbuds and providing them AV equipment to use from home.
As companies and organisations implement hybrid work strategies, many are providing employees with these tools, which in turn is helping them to be competitive in challenging conditions.
If you would like to learn more about video conferencing technology and how to optimise platforms like Teams for your organisation, please get in touch.