You can probably release most of your office space – and equip your remote workers for success.
In March 2020, offices around the world abruptly shuttered. Workers grabbed their laptops and left en masse, not realising that in some cases they would never return.
Most businesses weren’t ready. Stressed out IT and HR staff had to quickly mobilise, shipping critical equipment (more laptops, video cameras and ergonomic chairs) out to homebound employees, trying their best to recreate secure office environments in spare bedrooms and kitchens.
18 months later, we’ve learned a lot.
We’ve learned that people can be quite productive in those spare bedrooms, if properly equipped. That most of that expensive office space is not really needed. And that video can be a good substitute for almost any kind of in-person interaction.
Videoconferencing has become the primary venue for work interactions
Even now, with Covid-related restrictions easing in many parts of the world, many companies are choosing to stay remote or at least offer employees the choice of remote or in-office work. This means videoconferencing remains the primary choice for work interactions. Companies are moving from equipping employees for videoconferencing to focusing on boosting engagement for video interactions, such as:
Encourage visibility: When everyone (or most of a team) is remote, visibility is crucial – people need to see each other. Phone, email or chat are great for quick questions, but longer conversations are best held via video conference, so people can see each other and feel more connected.
Focus on developing bonds within teams: In a remote-work world, people won’t run into each other in the corridor or canteen – you have to be deliberate about facilitating those bonds. Develop rituals, such as a Thursday afternoon office Happy Hour or Tuesday morning stand-up meeting, to help build and maintain relationships.
Keep management aligned: Pre-Covid, most companies organised periodic management offsites to discuss strategy. Now, companies are holding those sessions online, using video conferencing as a means to discuss and collaborate. It’s crucial to keep these going and maybe hold them more often than before (at Livestorm, we do it monthly), to ensure managers feel connected to and aligned with the company’s direction.
Keep people accountable: Keeping tabs on people when they are remote is definitely a challenge, and those who previously practised ‘management by walking around’ need a new approach. Task management apps such as Trello are becoming more important, as are product management apps that allow people to collaborate on product development from multiple locations. This technology enables managers (and teams) to focus on the same KPIs and gives visibility into progress.
Embrace asynchronous communications: When people are working remotely, and from different time zones, asynchronous communications are inevitable. While this isn’t new, it may be exacerbated right now, when many of your employees – freed to work from anywhere – have departed for new locales. Be sure to record live video conferencing sessions and make them available for later viewing in one space, available at all times and easily searchable – whether they are internal meetings or external ones such as product training, case studies or demos.
Look for ways to boost engagement for virtual events: In the past 15 months, we’ve seen almost every type of gathering move online, from sporting events to meetings and conventions. However, keeping virtual participants engaged is a challenge. In a Livestorm survey conducted in April 2021, 40 per cent of respondents reported experiencing attention and concentration difficulties when using video communication tools (with many admitting they tended to work on other things during video conferences). Increasingly, companies are starting to transition from video conferencing to video engagement platforms that have special features designed to boost engagement during their internal and external events, such as social sharing tools, polls, chats and emojis.
Do companies still need physical offices at all?
Many companies ask: do we still need our physical offices? Even if the answer is yes, your space could likely be reduced or change shape. At Livestorm, we currently have about 150 employees. Our headquarters has space for 30, and with most of our employees working remotely with occasional visits to the office, that is enough space for us. Rather than assigning desks, employees use an online calendar to reserve a spot for the day, and we have more lounge-type meeting and collaboration spaces than before, since most people who do come into the office are doing so for face time with team members. It feels more like a co-working space than a traditional office.
Because most of the staff are remote, and Livestorm has technology such as video conferencing and Slack in place, we are constantly connected – possibly more so than when we worked in individual cubicles and offices at our headquarters location, sometimes going hours or even the whole day without physical interaction with anyone else.
Before 2020, the Livestorm team was building software mostly targeted at marketers. We would help them organise their online events faster and boost engagement. But now, video has become an enabler to change the way we work – it is not the sole prerogative of marketers anymore. Whether it’s a board meeting, virtual selling or remote onboarding, the use cases for video engagement platforms have significantly increased. With the growing prevalence of remote or hybrid work environments, we’re now in a place where video engagement can provide value anywhere in the enterprise.
To explore this topic further, read Livestorm’s 2021 US Video Conferencing Trends Report
By Gilles Bertaux, Co-Founder and CEO, Livestorm