Remote Teams Call for Fewer Video Conferences

Business Insights

Is your day becoming a never-ending series of Virtual Meetings? In the early days of the lockdown, Video-chat gave us a much-needed social lifeline. Now, exhausted parents and demotivated employees admit the technology is the root of much pandemic anxiety.

As the era of enforced virtual work and socialising drags on, teams are calling for reduced hours spent hunched in front of a webcam. Zoom is draining our physical and psychological energy, and now, the Wundamail’s latest research confirms that in truth, virtual meetings waste time and hinder productivity.

Zoom should be a last resort, not the first option.

Video meetings are great for replicating human connection, but overindulging could lead to serious financial consequences. The danger is that video-calling gives the illusion of ‘work-done’, but very little actually gets produced, created or accomplished with six people sitting frozen in front of a webcam. According to Team Management Software, Wundamail, overindulging in pointless chit-chat is costing businesses more than £1000 per employee each month in wasted time.

Videoconferencing imposes cognitive and psychological frictions and aggravates social anxieties. Video calls require putting on a show for others without being able to rely on cues of human interaction- you can’t mimic real eye contact, and the whole experience feels like an extended bout of direct staring. That's exhausting, which is why it's not what actually happens when we meet in person, where we only occasionally look right at one another.

Add young children, barking pets and family interruptions into the mix, and it’s no wonder employees have called for leaders to reduce time on virtual meetings.

Video Calls are Disruptive for Employees

Remote workers reported an immediate need to reduce virtual distraction in their remote set-ups. Wundamail research* showed that over a third of remote workers surveyed felt they were “more productive” after working for a long period of uninterrupted time, as having a continuous stream of virtual distractions on various apps was reported to be deeply distracting. Furthermore, 42% of employees who dial in to video-calls contribute nothing. This is alarming indeed, as a one hour Zoom call with five employees wastes not one, but five hours of company productivity- sometimes completely unnecessarily.

More than half of the remote workers surveyed (58%) wished they spent less time on video-calls altogether, suggesting many teams are excessively using video apps and not achieving their work tasks. And yet, over three quarters (73%) of respondents regarded video-conferencing as getting “work-done”, which suggests that video calls, for some, give a dangerous illusion of productivity - when in reality, very little work is completed or produced.

Chat Evaporates, Written Updates Stick

Ever hang up the call and forget what you’ve been asked to do? The most worrying attribute of video-conferencing is reportedly the “lack of follow-up” after the virtual meeting, to the extent that nearly a third of employees found this to be the biggest communication barrier in their virtual team. People were three times more likely to deliver on actions agreed in writing than video, as they failed to remember key information after hanging up on a video-call. After video-conferencing ended, 42% of remote workers “followed-up” with their updates via written updates and documents, while 30% admitted they required further phone calls and email correspondence to communicate essential information. Teams are doing twice the amount of communication required because video-conferencing simply doesn’t collate essential information.

Using the medium of video solely for conveying important information was ineffective. Individuals reported to further rely on written communication after ending a video-conference, by using automatic check-ins, emails or daily updates, to consolidate and communicate their thoughts to their team.

Video Meetings Pose Multiple Communication Barriers

Technical issues emerged as the most prevalent problem in video meetings as nearly three quarters of respondents reported it was their predominant communication barrier in the remote set-up, followed closely by interruptions and people talking over one another (59%). In addition, 1 in 3 people suffered a lack of focus in video meetings and 11% found it challenging to command attention and illustrate important points. The communication barriers led 30% of people to use alternative platforms to communicate essential updates.

How do Leaders Put this into Practice?

Phil Simmonds, CEO of Wundamail, who has years of experience in managing remote teams, said:

“Businessesnow need to reduce video-chatting and switch to written, automatic team updates.

“I’ve built two successful start-up exits with remote sales teams, which is why I know having good team management software is the key. Leaders need to check-in with their remote employees independent of schedule and therefore boost team productivity levels.

“Automatic check-in software is the way to go for managers who need to keep their finger on the pulse- there are many to choose from that are offering free software in the current climate.”