A short article detailing the business benefits of visual communication between remote and flexible workers.
An old adage states you’ve got twice as many ears as mouths, so it’s better to listen than talk. Well, at Arkadin we say you’ve got twice as many eyes as mouths, too. So maybe you should be looking a lot more.
Towards a visual culture…
Due to the twin trends of higher bandwidth and greater mobility, society and business is becoming increasingly visual. Twitter is full of pictures; Instagram now allows video; SnapChat is on every teen’s phone and families FaceTime as much as friends. The more we see, the more we understand. And that brings people closer together.
In business, if your people feel close to each other, your goals seem a lot closer too.
…both at home and at work
A chart that takes an hour to decipher can be understood in a second as a graph. A product explanation is absorbed faster when it’s a video demonstration. And when people can see each other’s faces – even when separated physically by thousands of miles – they pick up on all the subtle social twists of body language and facial expression that give rise to stronger personal bonds.
All this has a business benefit: speed. Let’s look at four ways going visual gets things done faster.
- Saving time on the daily drive
More than 3m Britons spend over two hours commuting each day. The average American commute is a 75-mile round trip. That’s not good for the planet – but it’s not good for maximising use of time either.
“I’ve spent so many years commuting, I kind of prefer a home office.” – Hillary Clinton
Yet many tasks only take place in the office because people need to see something. Build a presentation, annotate a document, gather round a table for a brainstorming session. With high enough bandwidth and the right software, a great many of these people could connect virtually – not just conferencing calling, but actually sharing documents across the web and working collaboratively on a single project.
So that’s our first big win: put hours back into the day, with connections instead of commutes. What else?
- Reach decisions in double quick time
When was the last time you woke up to an endless email chain, each participant needing something from the other before work could continue? When decisions get chopped up along a timeline, they take longer.
“A good plan executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week” – General George Patton
When everyone’s around a table, decisions can be made in the (virtual) room – particularly when today’s software allows recording of sessions, so there’s an audit trail when verbal decisions need backing up later. Setting a time limit on a meeting is also a great way to speed up the process – so foster a culture of “making decisions NOW”. Or at least set a rule that decisions must be made there in the meeting, not put off until later. The visual nature of videoconferencing is ideal for spot-checking who’s feeling good about decisions and who’s not – face-to-face conveys information not evident in email.
So foster face-to-face in real time, with virtual conferencing. When everyone’s on camera, decisions get made in less time.
- Make remote and flexible working the default option
Software has no value unless it’s used. So our third edict is to always demonstrate its value to your people – how it’ll help them. 37% of US workers telecommuted over the last year; most are more productive, take fewer sick days, and are happier as a result.
“It must be awfully frustrating to get a small raise at work and then have it eaten by a higher cost of commuting.” – Ben Bernanke
So make it known – widely – that your company supports the concept of remote and flexible working. A videoconference is as good as being in the office; a whiteboarding session is as valuable as wielding a Magic Marker at your desk. Don’t just specify the tools in an IT memo; use them yourself, hold training sessions, hold your board meetings and finance proposals virtually.
Lead by example and you’ll see remote working used effectively and enthusiastically. Speeding up decision making across the board.
- Foster a culture of Presence
Presence – showing a “green light” on software applications like Skype to signal you’re working and available – is a tiny visual cue that makes a big difference. Even when your team aren’t sitting next to you, you’ll “feel them around you” if you can see their indicators. So foster Presence.
“The annual cost of presenteeism is ‘twice that of absenteeism” – Prof Cary Cooper
Note: Presence does not mean “always on”. The 24-7 culture is responsible for a great deal of worker ill-health. Presence lets you control your availability. When you’re green, you can answer any question, take part in an impromptu video chat, collaborate on a complex document. When you go red, people know your attention is elsewhere, and are less likely to interrupt you. Yet another time sink duly emptied.
Such policies make workers feel more trusted, and let them fit their work around family. One rule: being effective means being seen. So if it’s between colleagues or non-customer-facing roles, be relaxed about seeing the state of your worker’s kitchen, or the Metallica T-shirt they wear at home. If they’re Present, they’re at work.
Foster the use of real-time video and document sharing for as many remote interactions as possible.
Top tips for virtual collaboration
Whether they’re Skyping from their kitchen or conferencing from the airport lounge, visual communication makes for high-performing teams – chewing through workloads faster, with greater effectiveness for your business. So when you’re looking into remote working options, remember these tips:
- Keep it visual – when people see each other, they reach understanding faster
- Make virtual meetings easy and ad-hoc, not events that need booking
- Make videoconferencing available to everyone – with Presence as the timesaver
- Show employees how remote working helps them perform for the organisation
- Make sure the software beds in firmly – by using it from the Board down!
Intrigued? Arkadin can help you see the big picture.
- Written communication is great, but visual communication is faster
- When people see each other, they trust each other
- Decisions made there in the meeting have greater value than those left for later
- Connect everyone and you enable across-the-board effectiveness
- Don’t just talk, add video and document sharing for the full experience