Are you working from home yet? The isolation practices enforced in Italy and Spain, and now France and parts of the US, could be with us in the UK very soon, and it’s up to us to be prepared.
The good news is that many of us are prepared. Though remote working was traditionally an exceptional practice, in more recent years its popularity has increased. Driven by behavioural change and marketplace competition, and enabled by technology, remote working’s growth in various sectors has exposed us to the opportunities it creates and has trained us for the challenges it raises.
The UK’s recent economic past has been nothing if not turbulent. The events we’ve watched unfolding over the last few weeks have added to our uncertainty. We’ve witnessed a variety of responses, in different parts of the globe, and our national authorities are now addressing the conditions literally on a day-to-day basis.
As we begin to take stronger precautionary measures, our physical presence is greatly affected. At this point, remote working is a responsible option that can help us maintain productivity and keep us connected through the disruption. While it will be an adjustment for some people when it comes to work, many of us have already been connecting, creating and collaborating remotely in our private lives for some time. The question of ‘why shouldn’t this apply to our work lives too?’ has been hovering for a while. Our current situation could address that.
Embracing the change
By the end of last year, 83% of UK companies offered some degree of remote working, and 17% of companies allowed more than half of their staff to work remotely. The adoption of technology, however, suggested that businesses weren’t taking the remote working option very seriously. Companies have still been relying on traditional modes of communication for both internal and external purposes, with email and phone calls being practically ubiquitous among all sizes of business.
However, today’s technology enables workers to connect in more versatile and meaningful ways, as tools become more sophisticated and bandwidth allows data packets to be delivered en masse. One of the big factors in this shift is the role of video.
Right now, a lot of face-to-face communication must be replaced by real time video conferencing. Meeting solutions have always been an important component in keeping the workplace connected, and at this critical point they are playing a bigger role than ever. Video meetings empower the modern workforce to maintain productivity without needing to share the same office space.
Video can offer an unbeatable level of engagement while working remotely, mimicking the face-to-face conversations we’re used to in traditional workplace collaboration. Three of the most prominent benefits of using video conferencing to enable remote working are:
- Connecting a disparate workforce: Whether a workforce is mobile or simply contributing from disparate locations, video allows employees to collaborate efficiently and instantly from wherever they are.
- An extra dimension of communication: Beyond voice and text, video brings a visual element to communication, including body language as part of an exchange. As network bandwidths increase, the nuances of microexpressions further enhance video communication.
- Overcoming travel restrictions: Video conferencing allows virtual delegations to interact without actually travelling. As countries close borders, quarantine visitors and implement travel bans, video provides a way to reach colleagues and clients without transgressing safety measures.
Supporting a New Culture for Digital-First Employees
Video meeting software paves the way for a more collaborative environment in an organisation, allowing everyone to feel they’re an essential part of the team, regardless of their physical location. This feeling of contribution is an important component in creating an attractive employee experience (EX).
As millennials and members of ‘Generation Z’ form a larger proportion of the current workforce, their expectations related to the flexibility, mobility and constant connection that technology affords are helping to drive change. Some members of older generations have been slower to adopt modern tools, including video conferencing, while younger team members are more accustomed to having a camera in their hands, being constantly connected, and sharing greater levels of information on a more frequent basis.
The workforce of today and tomorrow has grown up with access to Facetime, WhatsApp and countless other features that normalise the use of video in everyday conversation. This familiarity is then taken into the work environment, driving the adoption of video conferencing tools along with other functionalities in visual communication such as GIFs and the use of emojis in text-based exchanges.
The common thread in the introduction of such functionality is that of enhancing the communication experience. The visual element adds expression to text and audio communication, helping to more accurately convey tone and nuance, enriching professional communication and increasing employees’ capacity to collaborate effectively when dispersed across multiple locations. As remote working is now more enforced than voluntarily adopted, remote employees need reliable ways of maintaining human connections and collaborating effectively in real time.
From Voice to Video and Beyond
Discussions among team members can escalate rapidly from messages to calls and video meetings, all with a couple of clicks. Thanks to improvements in the quality of video conferencing services, along with increased internet bandwidth and the provision of unified communications solutions, today’s team members can choose the communication strategy that appeals most to them, all while using the same application.
When your employees can access all the various modes of communication they prefer within a single app, they spend less time jumping between tools trying to get a response to their queries or overcome common problems. This highly flexible meeting environment leads to a more productive experience for everyone – no matter where they are.
As video continues to evolve, with higher-quality broadcasts and picture resolutions making their way into the marketplace, there’s no doubt that this medium will remain a crucial part of the business landscape. Businesses that remain competitive will be those that create the most suitable processes for enabling a mobile workforce to remain productive and collaborate efficiently regardless of location. As flexibility, mobility, access to cutting edge technology and creating an ideal work/life balance are factors attracting talent into the modern workforce, businesses offering these conditions will be more competitive in the recruitment marketplace, leading to stronger teams and better long-term prospects.
We’ve got more advice on making the adjustment to remote working, including guides to productivity and managing remote teams, right here on the blog. If your business is facing remote working for the first time, it’s good to start at the beginning. Our remote work resources section helps you do just that.
Originally published Mar 17, 2020, updated Jan 17, 2023