As the world continues to tackle the effects of COVID19, businesses are rapidly trying to come up with solutions to both perform and keep their employees safe.  As a result, the video conferencing industry has experienced a surge in uptake and it is likely to remain this way for some time paving the way to the “virtual workplace”. In order to facilitate this demand and support this transition, it is more important than ever that these technologies become as accessible as possible.

While it might now feel like decades ago, in reality only a few short months ago the idea of working from home might have seemed like a dream and, in contrast, the notion of conducting meetings only through video tools a nightmare. Not least for logistical difficulties such as small children with their own codes of conduct. Enter Coronavirus and these seemingly whimsical notions have become the new norm.

Video conferencing was, of course, on the rise pre-COVID. Those ahead of the curve utilised this technology to meet their needs, cutting out unnecessary commutes and office spaces. And with advancements in technologies and the increasing environmental threat, the push towards the virtual workplace was inevitable. The pandemic, however, has accelerated this process. Those who might have been perceived as “technophobes” have had to adapt. The notion that video conferencing is an elitist platform reserved for techies and jet setters has been firmly dispelled and placed in the homes of thousands of employees.

As governments, healthcare organizations and non-profits from around the world continue to focus their efforts on tracking and containing the spread of COVID-19, one of the most instrumental policies has been remote working.  We have observed how government guidance can vary from country to country. Somewhat ambiguous advice such as “You should work from home unless it is impossible for you to do so” leaves the onus on employers to determine if this is possible or not. Hesitation on the part of employers is understandable. One negative experience in the past – a faulty connection or poor quality – or complete inexperience drives reservations. StarLeaf, a leader in video communications, believes that it is the responsibility of employers to act:

“Organizations that don’t offer remote work options will have to rethink that approach and need the right policies and processes, underpinned by the right technology.”

With that rests a level of responsibility in video conferencing platforms to ensure they create a user experience that is both seamless and intuitive. If a technology designed to enable effective communication does not allow you to effectively communicate or requires so much effort that it discourages communication it simply isn’t working.

“…the technology itself should effectively be invisible”

states Anne Marie Ginn, senior category manager at Logitech VC. A participant should only have to focus on the meeting itself without worrying about the platform behind it.

In addition, a video conferencing platform should require no training for staff; they should be able to come into a meeting room – or in many cases now, their kitchen – and know intuitively how to use the system. This will of course require the willingness of employees to embrace the technology and learn to understand basic functions, video call issues and troubleshooting tips.

Given that the home environment will now be the centre of business activity for many, BlueJeans founder Alaju Periyanna recognises the importance of accessibility. Mobile devices, browsers and PCs will need to be able to provide the communications service —not just video conference rooms systems. Providers also need to be able to “monitor the situation to optimise services, add capacity, and make adjustments as needed to ensure organizations are able to keep their employees safe while keeping their enterprises running.”

As the COVID crisis continues, an increase in video conferencing is also likely to continue. This technology can play an integral role in allowing employees to work remotely and in, turn, reduce the rate of infection. This is a powerful tool that should be availed of where possible. Unfounded fears such as “I can’t use that” or “I don’t do technology” need to be challenged. This will require continued efforts from video conferencing applications to make their platforms as user friendly as possible and also an acceptance of employers and employees that the virtual work space might just be the best way forward.

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June 5th, 2020