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Is ‘Video First’ The Be All And End All Of Working From Anywhere?

It’s fair to say that a lot changed in 2020. Not only did the pandemic catapult us into uncharted waters, it has also had an enormous impact on  the way in which we work.

We were all advised to stay at home, protect lives and save the NHS. This meant that working from home was no longer a ‘nice to have’ but a necessity that brought many challenges with it.

For most of our working lives we’ve believed, rightly or wrongly, that working from a central hub, or an office is the only way in which we can work effectively and productively to deliver results to customers or clients.

The work from anywhere evolution has moved, through necessity,  from  a slow ‘only if absolutely essential and reluctantly’  to a far more progressive  ‘flexibility around the workplace  works and is a sensible strategy. ‘

The internet has allowed us to work and trade with other countries, other organisations and other individuals 24/7. Our geographical location is no longer a factor in the type of business that we can do, or the types of talent available to us.

a webcam used to spy and micromanage on remote workers to ensure they are not slacking off

Software systems such as Google Meet, Google Hangout and Zoom allow us to connect with people all over the world and chat as  if they were sat in the same room as us.

But herein lies the problem.

When we’re relying on this type of software to connect, communicate and collaborate with colleagues, suppliers and third parties, have we accidentally created a ‘camera always on’ culture?

Do individuals now feel as though they have no privacy in their own homes, as the freedom to work from anywhere has been taken away from us?

Are there bigger mental health implications involved with our cameras always having to be ‘on’ to prove that we are indeed working, and not watching This Morning on the sofa?

Fear and anxiety will always play a part in a pandemic that we have no control over, but are employers exasperating this by putting pressure on employees to always ‘be on’? 

A remote worker that has suffered the adverse effects of micromanaging

Are there other ways that we can engage and interact with one another to get the message across or get the job done?

Last week (15-21 March) was Neurodiversity Celebration Week, a time for us to understand neurodiversity, what it is, who it affects people and the number of people it affects.

It gives us a chance to reflect on how diverse we are, and reflect on how understanding we are as individuals, as colleagues and as employers. 

What may seem easy and simple for the majority, could be a huge stumbling block in how effectively neurodiverse people communicate, or how they can be affected by the tools that we’re using that allow us all to be more collaborative at work.

Then of course we’re all feeling the affects of ‘Zoom fatigue’ a phrase coined to describe how tired we’re all feeling because not only are we working at a computer screen all day, but we’re communicating through it too; not just through words, but verbal and visual communication too.

When we’re meeting people face to face, we’re not incessantly staring them in the eye for the duration of the conversation or the meeting, if we did it would be a really intense situation and would probably make both parties feel a little awkward.

Yet with video conferencing platforms, this is exactly what we’re expected to do – spend our time staring intensely down the lens (which is usually a tiny dot at the top of our screens), rather than looking at the person or people we’re speaking to. 

Researchers at Stanford University have even looked at the four common causes of Zoom fatigue. Click here to read their research findings and comment below to let me know if you can resonate with any of them. I know I can!

And here’s the thing, you may be thinking that this blog seems a little contradictory, considering I’ve helped to develop and launch a platform that integrates video conferencing into the heart of its functionality, BUT, Wurkr isn’t just another tele-conferencing platform. It’s so much more than that.

It has been designed to be inclusive, so that every single user, wherever they’re based and wherever they work, can feel like they’re working as part of a team. They can see who else is in the office, who’s available for a quick chat and who you can bounce ideas off of. 

It’s designed to be fun and puts the social back into the working environment. One of the biggest perks of working in an office is the ability to bump into someone in the kitchen, or walk over to someone’s desk to ask a question. An office provides a social setting as much as it does a working environment, and I think it’s that that people are missing the most right now.

With Wurkr, we’ve designed a platform that allows you to interact with others in a fun and sociable way, as well as a more serious, work-focused way. There are pop-up text chats, you can have video calls, you can change your avatar and your status update.The Wurkr chat feature which enables remote workers to catch up and check in without the intrusion of micromanagement

We’ve tried really hard to bring the brilliant elements of social media into a work environment, to really mimic the ‘in office’ experience.

Our ethos has always been about enabling organisations to foster a ‘work from wherever works for you, in a way that works for you’ mentality, not about creating a Big Brother experience where you feel like you’re constantly being watched and monitored, to check that you are actually doing your job properly.  

We aim for Wurkr to be one of the tools that enable flexible working with a feeling of being present with your colleagues with the camera being just one part of that .   

Feeling present and not alone can be simply seeing colleague emojis, speech bubbles and text chat too.  

Live Activity !

So perhaps don’t be a slave to ‘ camera always on’  but it’s great to have it a click away for when you do want it. 

I’d love to know what you think about the balance of Camera on / camera off and indeed the whole area of how best to avoid ‘Zoom fatigue’.