COVID-19 has transformed the way we live our lives, including the way we work. Remote working – once a luxury perk offered by employers, has now become commonplace within organisations across the world and, despite the easing of lockdown, it’s a practice likely to remain.
Research has revealed only one in four UK office workers wants to go back into the office full time once permitted to. We are also seeing companies, including the likes of Facebook, Twitter and Slack, deploying long term and permanent remote working policies, reinforcing the critical role of video conferencing in what is now coined as the ‘new-normal’. As we look ahead, we see a number of areas where we believe video meetings will make a significant impact to business operations.
A flexible approach to working
In light of so few office workers wanting to return full time to the office as lockdown eases, employers are examining ways to see how they can better support staff in a home working environment using a range of remote access options.
Working from home has many obvious advantages such as better work/life balance, removal of tedious commutes as well as cost savings associated with work travel. This can trigger greater employee engagement and staff retention. But remote working isn’t suited for everyone. Challenges exist relating to communication and social interaction.
Video conferencing can, however, address some of these issues. Face-to-face video calls for example, allow you to see a person’s reaction to a particular conversation, enabling you to form a more tailored response. It enables you to build more personal relationships with customers and wider stakeholders through webinars. Additionally, as we saw during lockdown, it was a way to engage with colleagues on a human level. It’s a chance to chat about topics outside of the workplace, enabling you to feel happier and more connected.
At time when employee wellbeing and wellness has never been more critical, providing staff with a more flexible way to work will help to ease any anxieties or concerns they may face about returning to the office.
Cutting down the cost
All businesses seek ways to save money; video conferencing is now recognized as contributing to essential cost-savings. Expensive shared office spaces, non-essential business travel and other surplus costs are going to be reviewed much more closely by businesses in the post-COVID landscape.
Traditionally, businesses located within busy, metropolitan areas such as London, have paid a heavy premium for office space, for example, the cost of London office space is the highest in Europe, with average rent per square foot in the West End costing £112.
Organisations with leases coming to an end within the next 18 months will be actively looking at their footprint and questioning their space requirements, as more and more staff work from home more regularly. Additionally, with restrictions being placed on international and domestic travel, video meetings are a much more practical (and cost effective) way for employees to engage with customers and suppliers without losing that personal touch.
Championing your green credentials
The rise of influential environmentalists like Greta Thunberg, and events like the Extinction Rebellion protests, have put environmental practices onto the agenda of the C-suite. Because of this, organisations are choosing to become more sustainable, with some pledging to become carbon negative by the end of the decade. Modern-day video conferencing solutions could significantly contribute to businesses meeting their ambitious environmental targets.
The biggest problem organisations have historically faced when trying to reduce their carbon footprint has been travel. Business travel is one of the largest sources of carbon emission, with a flight from London to Perth emitting over 3000kg of CO2 per passenger. The post COVID-19 landscape will undoubtably have an impact on the environment (likely for the better). As we come out the other side, the hope is organisations will continue to opt for video meetings, which are a more viable, environmentally friendly alternative.
Tackling skills shortages
The post-pandemic landscape could also see fundamental changes to the way we employ staff. In recent weeks we’ve seen the first signs of recovery as job vacancies begin to increase. Video meetings will be used to interview candidates when filling these roles.
The positive behind this is that firms are now not limited by geography when hiring, as was typically the case pre-crisis. Organisations can now employ a candidate who is perfectly suited to the job description, rather than how close they might live. This will allow businesses to access a much wider talent pool, as well as providing more flexibility during their recruitment process.
A simple and effective approach towards technology
As we’ve seen, there are a number of factors which continue to drive adoption and popularity of video within organisations throughout the year ahead. The coronavirus outbreak and resulting lockdowns have only served to reinforce the value of this business-critical tool, but organisations must choose the right solution.
There is no point encouraging employees to use a solution that loses connection or is time-consuming for IT teams to set up and manage. This will lead to frustration for staff, customers and suppliers, and could end up costing the business in the longer term. Keep things simple. It’s vital businesses have a reliable, secure and easy-to-use video solution in place.
- William MacDonald is the chief technology officer at Starleaf.
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William MacDonald is the chief technology officer at Starleaf. With a well-founded reputation as a major industry influencer and visionary, MacDonald's primary role is to set the strategic direction for StarLeaf. He likes nothing more than pushing the boundaries of new technology and is always mindful to evaluate emerging trends to understand their true potential from both a disruptive and business use-case point of view. Before founding StarLeaf, he was a founder and the General Manager of the Americas for Codian. When Tandberg acquired Codian in 2007, MacDonald was appointed Chief Strategy Officer, which allowed him to help set the strategic vision and direction on a global basis, prior to Cisco acquiring Tandberg in 2010.