To work from home, or not to work from home: once considered a luxury, or the exception to the workplace rule, today’s employers are realizing the many benefits of working remotely—and online meetings—for the company and for employees.
The findings of a 2017 Gallup poll, cited in an article shared by BlueJeans’ Chief Product Officer Mark Strassman’s on his Twitter feed make a particularly strong case for remote work situations. The study found that employees that work three to four days off-site feel the most engaged with their work, supported by leadership and co-workers alike, and even report higher confidence in their professional growth opportunities. This presents a challenge for both traditional management and office structures which champion in-person presence and on-site oversight as proof of productivity, and to contemporary offices that emphasize open floor plans, hyper-communal work spaces, and conviviality (the proverbial ping pong tables and fully-stocked kitchens—why leave the office?) in the name of unconventional workflows and collaboration-conducive environments.
For BlueJeans CPO Mark Strassman, these insights are hardly surprising; companies that implement remote work opportunities recognize that everyone is different, and therefore require options when it comes to working environments in order to succeed. “BlueJeans honors individuals and that they work in different ways. The BlueJeans web meeting platform is for companies that are driving a transparent, personal, and transformational culture,” states Strassman. “Open office environments are great for extroverts, but introverts can really hate it. There’s constant noise, people around when you need to focus. Some people can tune those distractions out; some people can’t.” Simply put, working remotely using virtual meetings lets people work the way they want.
Why would workplaces want virtual meetings over the typical audio-only conference call? There are many reasons, and a primary one is the increasingly remote workforce. Hiring talent regardless of location necessitates facilitating, and maintaining, an effective, reliable connection between onsite and offsite teams. Web meetings thus play a major role in facilitating virtually that person-to-person engagement that is central to feeling a part of the team, and valued. “Despite distance, virtual meetings allow for this kind of vital presence between locations,” notes Strassman.
BlueJeans cloud-based video platform is at the forefront when it comes to collaboration solutions that further empower remote-work situations. “Dispersed workforces are demanding virtual meetings because they want to feel included. Initially, it was less the individual employee of a company and more that the CEOs didn’t want to commute and fly to meetings every week.” Strassman says that these CEOs, “started to realize, ‘wow, I can see if my team members are actually paying attention to me, raising their eyebrows.’ Since 85% of communication is nonverbal, this feeling of being a part of something, is paramount to any conversation.”
The level of engagement when working remotely—in the car, or while at the airport, for example—can be difficult to maintain. Body language is a significant, if underappreciated, gauge of web meeting engagement. During your next virtual meeting, notice if people are nodding, which can indicate understanding or acknowledgement. Conversely, a confused colleague will likely register that with a facial expression, gesture, or other nonverbal cue. Strassman believes these interactions are not only important, they’re vital to effective exchanges: “If you’re relying solely on audio for your web meeting experience, you are going to miss out on all of that crucial nonverbal communication.
In addition, during an audio-only phone call, the potential for distraction and succumbing to multi-tasking is always present: why not check that email that just arrived in your inbox, since no one can see you? Online meetings can actually play an important role in holding ourselves, and our colleagues, accountable in this regard. For Strassman, this accountability is another essential facet of the virtual meeting experience: “Wanting to be involved and not left out is such a deep part of our psyche. Seeing people, face-to-face, and realizing that you are a part of something is fundamental to who we are—and to holding others accountable.”
“BlueJeans video calling is, at its core, a collaboration technology. You’re connecting with someone,” says Strassman. In fact, BlueJeans offices across the world are able to maintain that presence with each other with virtual meeting water coolers, where colleagues can catch each other with a quick question on a project, or simply check in about how they’re doing.
Organization (read: better, more efficient workflows) is crucial to unlocking creativity, and to informing the design process from ideation, through development, to implementation. “Group creativity is about collaborative communication. Letting people touch, see, and feel things in their own environment is invaluable.” Strassman explains that many of BlueJeans’ main designers are working remotely in many different locations, “sharing artifacts together,” as Strassman puts it. This collaborative approach isn’t limited to the internal team. Once Strassman’s team goes through that process, they ask customers to weigh in and test their innovations. “You’re able to involve so many more participants with a virtual, collaborative design process. The BlueJeans cloud-based, virtual meetings allow that creative collaboration to happen.”