Recently, the CEO of Zoom, a leader in video conferencing during the pandemic, made the decision to call employees back into the office.
Everyone quickly wanted to know…why???
Eric used to be known as the man who conducted all of his most important meetings over video. This month, he stated that his employees are struggling to build trust and get to know one another over the same channel. That the video channel is enabling too much ‘friendliness’ and not enough ‘debate over new ideas’.
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Seems like there may be some contradictions going on here.
It is not uncommon for companies to have a knee-jerk reaction to call employees back into the office as a catch-all solution to a variety of concerns. From lower close rates to perceived issues with culture, somehow the remote approach to work is getting the bulk of the blame.
This is flawed reasoning for a variety for reasons including:
- Before the pandemic and workforce disruption, economic downturns such as the one we have been experiencing since late 2022 have always been met with a slow down in sales and close rates.
- Developing a strong company culture has always been a very real challenge, even when we were in the office 5 days a week.
- Research (both peer reviewed and empirical) has shown that trust can very well be built through video.
- There are a number of remote-first companies that have existed long before the pandemic, and that continue to thrive now. Their remoteness is viewed as an asset and a value-add. Not an undermining issue.
In late 2022, Nature came out with a fascinating study that demonstrated scenarios under which video was just as effective as in-person, with the added benefit of flexibility and convenience, and when video was not as effective.
In smaller scale meetings, either team based or with clients, video excelled. It was an ideal platform over which to build trust and rapport. To have intimate conversations and make important decisions.
In dynamic, larger scale meetings where brainstorming was required, video conferencing as it is currently available, presented more of a challenge to the breeding of new ideas.
When you combine this article with the experiences of companies over the past 3-4 years closing huge deals via exclusively virtual channels, or of powerful coaching, therapy and mentoring connections being forged exclusively through video or telehealth, these statements about being unable to build trust and rapport over video, simply do not hold up.
At Virtual Sapiens, we see specific behaviors on video and ways of interacting with video as being the more significant factor in building trust. The way we show up to video meetings can either signal respect and care for those we are meeting with, or the opposite. The way we use video strategically as one channel among others to communicate sets the tone for a dynamic ways to reach out and connect.
Video and remote work have unfortunately become a scapegoat for the challenges of working in the 21st century.
The real solution lies not in arbitrarily calling everyone back into the office and undermining the very tools we should be investing more in, but rather, pushing the innovative agenda forward. Video as a tool for personal and professional communication continues to be in its infancy.
We look forward to being a part of the conversation around how we can continue to evolve human, AI and video interactions to create the most dynamic and creative work experience possible.