When organizations planned for 2020, it’s unlikely they accounted for the biggest challenge most companies would face this year: how to facilitate collaboration when teams are all remote.
COVID-19 forced companies to rethink all aspects of business as usual; and with teams sent home and required to work remotely with little or no notice, supporting interpersonal communication and collaboration while in isolation became a top imperative.
Remote work ended in-person contact
Whether it’s brainstorming fresh ideas or walking through the steps of a new initiative, organizations have always relied on face-to-face contact as a primary enabler of teamwork.
The office made it easy—whether it was an impromptu watercooler chat or a scheduled meeting, workplaces are rife with opportunities for face time with coworkers, both formal and informal.
Working from home upended the easy contact employees have long taken for granted. Though there are many aspects of WFH that enabled better work, collaboration wasn’t naturally one of them.
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In one survey on the remote work experience in 2020, workers reported a 26% decrease in satisfaction with activities related to collaboration and teamwork compared to before the pandemic.
Most businesses flocked to cloud communications to solve such pain points and connect employees. And while unified communications solutions include all the essential tools workers need—team messaging, voice calling, and video conferencing—people tend to use these functions interchangeably, often with little thought to the optimal medium for the task at hand.
Why video rules (sometimes)
Messaging is great for quick, urgent chats that are non-ambiguous in content. However, most can agree that deeper conversations are better suited to the phone or a video chat.
The problem is, many people use phone and video interchangeably, with little consideration for the qualities video can add to a conversation—and when these advantages might be particularly useful.
Think about it: how many times this year have you joined a meeting where half the team has their cameras on while the other half doesn’t? Maybe it’s a bad hair day, or maybe they’re just not in the mood to use video. After all, attendance is what matters right?
In many situations, video offers some major advantages over the phone:
- 93% of communication is non-verbal, meaning teams that turn on their cameras can better impart meaning and nuance to their conversations—and reduce the risk of miscommunicating
- 87% say they feel more connected to their teams when using video, suggesting that video can be an important tool for regaining some of the sense of camaraderie that existed when people shared physical office space
Sometimes a phone call is enough to get the job done. But other times, the inherent advantages of video meetings make turning on the webcam the way to go.
5 scenarios where video meetings are better
1. Small or medium group discussions
One-on-one, the phone can be a breeze. But add a couple more participants to the meeting, and suddenly your call can feel more chaotic than collaborative. Without being able to see who is talking, it can be hard to keep track of who said what, or to know when someone is finished speaking.
Between accidentally talking over each other and trying to figure out whose voice is whose, there’s a risk of losing both time and meaning.
2. Complex discussions
Some work conversations and check-ins are quick and simple. Others, such as reviewing the steps of a rollout or planning a new initiative, can be a little more involved, with greater opportunity for misunderstandings, whether inconsequential or critical.
Just seven percent of the meaning imparted during a conversation comes from the words people speak. The vast majority of our understanding comes from people’s tone and body language.
In business, misunderstandings can lead to all sorts of bad outcomes, from having to redo a task to an altogether failed initiative. When it comes to more complicated and detailed conversations, teams can ward off some of the risk by opting for video over phone.
3. One-on-one chats
Humans may not actually wear their hearts on their sleeves, but they often do on their faces, which is why face-to-face communication can be such an important way to connect.
Facial expressions, vocal tone, and body language can all be powerful ways to express how you’re feeling—and that’s why, in the absence of physical contact, video is such a strong emotional connector. For one-on-one conversations—whether a casual watercooler conversation or performance review between manager and employee—video can help inject some empathy and human connection.
4. Meetings with clients
The need to connect doesn’t only exist between managers, employees, and members of work teams. A personal touch with clients is often a key to winning and maintaining business—which is why the client lunch has long been such a mainstay.
That connection imperative hasn’t gone anywhere in 2020. If anything, as businesses try to weather the economic uncertainties of this year, winning clients over the competition has become more important than ever.
As such, when it comes to client relations, the emotional and connective benefits of video as just as important as they are for maintaining internal connections—maybe even more.
Despite the economic downturn, many companies are still hiring. But finding the right fit can be tricky when you can’t meet with candidates face to face.
The challenges of remote hiring won’t go anywhere after coronavirus either. With remote work likely to become permanent for many businesses, there are many scenarios where an organization might hire and onboard a worker sight unseen. And even if the job isn’t remote, it can be a big investment to meet with a lot of candidates in person, especially if travel is involved.
The good news is that two-thirds of candidates want to use video as part of the hiring process.
Improving the ease of video
Video might not be necessary for every single meeting in an employee’s calendar, but there are situations where it can be a key enabler of deeper collaboration. To make people want to turn on their cameras and reap these benefits, however, video solutions must be effortless to use.
Standalone apps don’t fit this bill because they are disconnected from everything else an employee is likely doing. Whether it’s a casual chat or planned meeting, using a video-only app means having to send out a complicated invite, coordinate links and passwords, and jump through other hoops.
Meanwhile, a unified solution that integrates message, video, and phone allows employees to choose which communication they want to use for any situation—so they can unleash better collaboration and connections with just a click.
Originally published Nov 03, 2020, updated Jan 18, 2023