It seems that every time I think that I no longer have to discuss the necessity of video calling in today’s work environment (and not just work, btw), I come across a survey such as the one ICT solutions and service provider Damovo UK have just recently released (PDF).
“No Cameras Please: Over One Third Of Workers Too Worried About Their Appearance To Use Video Conferencing For Work” is the provocative title of this survey. In case you missed it, the sub headline says “88% use video services at home to talk to friends and family”. Hmmmm.
Well, in the research in question 39% of the 1,000 people surveyed were indeed “worried about their appearance on camera”. 10% said they were “embarrassed” to talk in front of the camera, as it “feels like public speaking”. 19% felt that their work location – home or on the road – “was not suitable for video conferencing”. Bottom line? 86% of the remote and office workers surveyed said they don’t user video conferencing for work at all.
Now as much as I would like to blame it all on the fact that the British are strange people, I suspect that the cause for all this is indeed cultural, but has nothing to do with the fact that those people live in the UK, but with how they use video conferencing systems.
A few months ago Tsahi wrote about that over at NoJitter. He described how companies, and we’re talking large technology-savvy ones as well as small technophobic ones, use video conferencing as a very exclusive, for-the-top-execs, meeting room-confided experience. The result? Not only people don’t get to use it as often, but video conferencing at work is regarded as a different experience than video calling at home (Skype, Google Talk, etc.).
If you don’t believe me, just look at the sub headline: 88% use video services at home to talk to friends and family. At home they are not worried about appearance, not embarrassed to talk in front of the camera, not worried the location is not suitable. Hell, they don’t think it’s public speaking when they’re home. Where did their inhibitions go, you ask? Well, it’s all about how you position the video calling service in the organization and how you “market” it to your employees.
I totally agree with Alex Donnely from Damovo UK who said:
“There is still a perception that any video, be it multi-party conferencing or one to one, at work has to take place in a special room with technical equipment.”
And this perception is totally awkward as the reality is far from that. But don’t take my word, here’s Alex:
“Video is no longer as expensive as it once was, and should ideally be used as an extension to their existing communication suite”.
And that’s the bottom line – if video conferencing becomes an extension of the personal communication tools every employee has, there will be no fear or feeling of “not suitable”. After all, compared to other online communication tools (such as e-mail or instant messaging) video conferencing is much more natural, and 69% of the folks on the survey agreed with that. 63% even said they are more likely to act on a conversation in a video conference than in an e-mail.
Enter a fancy, expensive, dedicated room to have a video call, and you’ll feel strange. Take a call from your desk, using the same hardware you are using for e-mail or IM, and it will seem natural. Book a telepresence room 2 weeks in advance just to have a 15 minutes call, and you’ll feel you underdressed. Just call the other party and have video at your disposal, and you won’t even bother to think how you look.
As more and more organizations will understand that video calling has got to become a commodity, a communication tool just like any other tool employees are using on a daily basis, employees will learn to use that tool and enjoy it. Then, and only then, just like at home with friends and family, we’ll see the adoption rates go up and video gaining traction.
A video conferencing solution today is affordable, mobile and is everywhere. There should be no reason why, with the merry arrival of 2011, the “No Cameras, Please” approach will finally get abandoned. Hopefully not for “The More, The Merrier”.