In the next six months, perhaps for the next few years, hybrid working will become the norm. Even as Covid vaccines roll out and we anticipate the return of shops, sports venues and travel a growing number of employees, and employers, have recognised that the daily commute to a central workplace is no longer necessary.
But whatever the future holds, Chief Technology Officers now know that video collaboration tools are mission-critical to the success of any workplace. TrustRadius has reported a 500% increase in buyer activity in the web and video conferencing category since the Covid-19 outbreak.
Before the pandemic, video meeting tools were a nice-to-have, but as most meetings were still in person they were usually an afterthought, a quick fix. Anyone who joined remotely was a de facto second class citizen. Now these same tools are business critical, in the same way as cloud storage, security and networking have always been.
In the first instance, this puts a huge new pressure on CIOs and IT teams. We saw this at first hand when we connected 7,000 NHS workers in the Newcastle-upon-Tyne Hospitals NHS Trust in just one week last March.
We’ve also experienced it in Paris where the Department of Information and Digital Systems (DSIN) in the Seine-et-Marne Department had to transfer 50 to 1,500 full-time working employees to remote work in just one week. In just 24 hours, the local authority adapted its IT systems, creating groups of 300 users who could work in half-day shifts.
A peak of 600,000 video minutes was reached within just one month of transferring this team online and the rapid transition meant that council employees were able to continue their work with minimal disruption and help the residents of Seine-et-Marne with the other problems the pandemic was creating.
With that pressure still in memory, CIOs and CTOs are more motivated than ever before to make sure that people have the right tools to be productive and to enjoy their job again. One survey in November 2020, found that 74% of business users were frustrated by the complexity of their video collaboration platform. Other criticisms levelled at platforms include privacy problems, weak encryption, and unplanned downtime causing major disruption.
If businesses are to successfully transition to hybrid working, video collaboration should be a core part of the IT stack, if it is not already.
Robust and rock solid video collaboration is required. Security and confidentiality are priorities for most organisations, but in particular for organisations operating in sectors with sensitive data and significant security requirements, for example healthcare, legal and public sector. These organisations’ IT teams and CTOs will be looking for secure and cost-effective ways to get the most out of video calls, when their teams are spread across the globe.
The CIO must choose a video collaboration platform in the same way that they would choose an Enterprise Resource Planning tool or a Customer Relationship Management tool. Like these, video tools are now a fundamental building block of the IT architecture, requiring the same focus on security and resilience. Video tools also need to be built into business continuity planning, with appropriate budgets.
Video makes it possible to do the job when you can’t physically reach the office, but it also helps teams to function better and for individuals to progress in a workplace. A 2019 paper from the University of California, Santa Barbara, showed that being observed by others while at work resulted in positive outcomes for employees “because it is a strong signal of their commitment to their job, their team and their organisation”.
In future CIOs must also recognise that they play a critical role in keeping employees happy, as well as productive. To make sure remote employees can feel plugged into the office, video conferencing technology needs to be ingrained and intuitive, embedded in workflows without the need for passwords, waiting rooms and time restrictions.
This way employees can feel just as empowered, productive and connected as they would when they were in the office. At the same time, managers can feel more connected to their remote employees – reducing the risk of presenteeism sneaking back in.
Implementing technology that staff like and can use easily is one of the first steps on the road to improving workplace productivity, engagement and effectiveness. It will allow managers to put their doubts about remote working to rest finally and just get on with hitting targets.
During the pandemic businesses were largely forced to use video calling, this time they will be choosing to.
Sam Jansen, CTO of StarLeaf