The Top Pains and Potential of Video Conferencing
Video conferencing is shifting from a workplace novelty to a collaboration essential, but social barriers and a lack of training have left many workers still preferring audio calls. Even as video conferencing and webcast technology become more accessible, it seems organizations aren't taking steps to help their workers learn about and acclimate to these resources.
Despite end users' hesitations, video conferencing and webcasts yield multiple advantages in terms of productivity, flexibility and engagement. To bridge the gap between video conferencing fears and functionality, West Unified Communications Services surveyed more than 230 full-time U.S. employees about their video conferencing habits, what drives video call anxiety, and how (with the right support) the technology stands to benefit workers and organizations around the world.
Video Conferencing Moves into the Mainstream
Today, 54 percent of employees regularly participate in video conferences, and many do so using free, consumer-grade technology. Only 23 percent of workers report using paid, enterprise services, while 70 percent use free tools like Skype or FaceTime – suggesting a lack of company standardization or policies.
Based on respondents' feedback, organizations are more likely to choose video conferencing for internal communication than external.
Short and Long-Term Benefits of Video Conferencing
Previous InterCall research revealed just how much employees love to multitask and otherwise disengage during meetings. With video conferencing, however, workers are more likely to tune in meaningfully.
Seventy-three percent of workers admit to being more attentive and engaged in video conference calls than audio-only calls, and 82 percent make an effort to prepare more for video calls. Gender also plays a role in how employees respond to video conferencing technology, with 77 percent of men and 92 percent of women making more of an effort to prepare for video calls than audio conferences.
Like gender, age affects employees' video conferencing habits as well. Younger workers are more likely to attend video conferences regularly, but older workers are more likely to feel engaged during them. Sixty-one percent of Millennials (18 to 34 year-olds) frequently use video, compared to 44 percent of Generation X (35 to 50 year-olds) and 47 percent of Baby Boomers (51 to 69 year-olds). Ironically, Millennials are least likely to report increased attentiveness on video calls (68%), followed by Generation X workers (78%) and Baby Boomers (92%).
Camera Shyness and Public Speaking Key Culprits for Video Conferencing Nerves
Of workers who are uncomfortable during video calls, 86 percent attribute those nerves to being on camera and public speaking. Seemingly minor but common issues such as poor Internet connections (reported by 58 percent of workers) and how lighting affects appearance (42 percent) add to employees' unease. Women, in particular, tend to worry more about how they're physically perceived on camera than men.
Employees' video comfort level also varies depending on their age and the context of the call. Job interviews, meetings with clients or supervisors, and sales calls contribute most to employee anxiety. Millennials are twice as likely to be uneasy about video sales meetings than Baby Boomers (17% vs. 8%); however, Boomers are more likely to be uneasy about video job interviews than Millennials (61.5% vs. 49%).
Whether or not they feel occasional video conferencing jitters, employees report a number of disturbances that may turn them off from the technology. With only 23 percent of workers receiving video etiquette training, most aren't equipped to participate productively.
More Than Two-Thirds of Employees Have Attended a Webcast
Webcasting shares many of the same engagement benefits as video conferencing, but presents its own set of opportunities and concerns. A large majority of employees (71%) have attended a webcast; of this group, 76 percent felt more engaged because they could see the speaker. In contrast, relatively few employees (17%) have hosted a webcast, and most of those who have (59%) were apprehensive about doing so.
Interestingly, employees’ experiences with webcasting are clearly delineated by gender. Nineteen percent of men have hosted or presented during a webcast, and less than 13 percent of women have done the same. Of those who presented, half of men worried about difficulties using the technology itself, compared to only 25 percent of women. Meanwhile, 75 percent of presenting women worried about public speaking, compared to only 45 percent of men.
This points to the need for both technical and soft-skills training. Employers should seek webcasting solutions that automate or minimize the amount of troubleshooting necessary to host events. Inexperience with webcasting may be part of the issue; simply giving workers more opportunities to present (even internally) can help employees develop their confidence organically.
Building a Stronger Foundation for Video Conferencing
Webcasting and video conferencing are quickly becoming workplace staples, but many employees still prefer the familiarity (or multitasking freedom) audio calls provide. It’s possible that workers actually dislike the increased engagement inherent in video calls, hinting at many organizations' tendency to schedule too many unnecessary meetings, leaving staff with little time to get real work done.
To realize the benefits video conferencing brings, employers should:
- Help staff overcome their fears associated with video calls by providing basic etiquette and procedural training
- Offer employer-sanctioned video conferencing apps (in place of FaceTime and Google Hangouts) to standardize employees’ experiences and provide more reliable functionality
Similar to trends around mobile conferencing, video is quickly becoming a must-have resource – whether workers and their employers are ready or not. Organizations that fail to fully support video-based solutions from an IT and broader change management perspective are leaving untapped productivity on the table.