The current issue of Time includes a special report on The Future of Work that outlines ten fundamental ways the workplace of the future will be vastly different than it is today. While not discussed, I couldn’t help but see the important role video and telepresence will play in this new work place. This technology will have an even greater impact than it does today, fostering a more flexible, collaborative environment for employees, while reducing costs and providing greater access to experts worldwide.
One of the key management skills of the future is “collaborative decision-making that might involve team members scattered around the world from Beijing to Barcelona to Boston, whom the leader of a project may have never met in person.” While they may have never met “in person,” that is not to say that they would not recognize each other on the street. Moreover, as technology develops, the need to “actually show up at an office …is just going to fade away.” However, the need for face-to-face communication will remain. As the world becomes flatter, and expertise is distributed globally, video will be the catalyst that will bring people together to make the critical decisions that drive business. You might say it will even enable the future workplace.
As of Monday, there were 30 countries reporting more than 4,600 cases of the H1N1 virus – swine flu. While the pandemic seems to be waning, there could be more waves if those who have it infect others.
The World Health Organization cited vigilance and diligence as reasons that world governments were prepared for the first wave of the virus. Their preparations for a possible avian flu pandemic meant they had a system in place to communicate with each other, share data and apprise their publics of the situation.
Is your agency as prepared? Did the first wave of the H1N1 virus motivate your agency to put plans in place if you weren’t?Beyond the human resources and internal communication policies that you should have in place to deal with a possible pandemic that could keep your workers at home, how do you keep your agency running smoothly and seamlessly during a crisis?
According to Robert C. Chandler, PhD, an expert on organizational behavior and communication during human health crises, these types of situations are usually fast-paced, and stressful. Urgent situations demand that critical (sometimes life and death) decisions often have to be made with limited or changing information. That’s what makes clear communications even more important – and difficult – during a health crisis.
But clear communication can be difficult if your audience – employees, partners, or other agencies – is using non-visual communication methods, such as email and phone. Miscues can be a problem — lack of understanding or not realizing that someone does not understand you are all possibilities.
Remembering the value of face-to-face communications is key to success in a crisis, according to Chandler. “By incorporating the face-to-face element into their communication strategies from the outset, planners will find that in the event of a crisis, teams will be able to act more quickly, more accurately, and deliver more effective results.”
One option is video teleconferencing (VTC), which enables people at different locations to communicate as if they were in the same room. VTC not only allows for crisis teams to plan and prepare effectively and efficiently, it can also create a way to keep an agency running smoothly by offering a more realistic and interactive telework environment for employees.
VTC reduces many barriers to telework, as colleagues, managers and support teams can continue to interact with one another face-to-face., maintaining the level of collaboration they had in the office, while increasing their productivity.
Workers can share content/information visually and immediately, and even with base or office changes, can still work as a team. With the swine flu and other pandemic crises, telework enhanced by VTC is rapidly becoming a necessity to maintain business as usual for the government.
According to Timothy Brick, a researcher at the University of VA, a new low-bandwidth, high-frame-rate video conferencing technology may make video conferencing readily and inexpensively available to nearly anyone with small, portable communication devices, possibly within two to three years. If this is true, will anyone communicate via audio three years from now if video communication is readily available? I know I won’t.
The new technology, developed by a team of psychologists and computer programmers to inform psychology research on how people interact during conversation, uses motion parallax, a 3-D simulation created by rotating a 3-D model of a user’s face based on the angle of the person viewing the image.
See how it works:
At next week’s DoDIIS Worldwide Conference, “Empowering Decision Advantage,” in Orlando, attendees will get to experience first-hand Tandberg’s New Way of Working.
With our immersive Telepresence T3 solution shown in Booth #405, participants will see how video teleconferencing (VTC) allows for accelerated decision-making and creates an environment in which real-time sharing of intelligence can take place between constituents in the field with strategy planners and policymakers.
In today’s increasingly global environment, that accelerated decision-making and real-time sharing of intelligence are key to the success of every mission. Here are some considerations you should discuss with your VTC provider to ensure your system will meet your needs today and tomorrow:
Interoperability — a great videoconferencing system is only as great as its ability to connect you with whom you need to connect– if your technology doesn’t work with the person you need to communicate with, then what’s the point? Make sure your VTC system is standards-based so that you can connect with anyone, anytime, and in any way. Don’t let disparate networks, multi-vendor systems, inconsistent quality and functional complexity keep your agency from completing its mission.
Scalability — big problems can require large groups of people to solve them. Make sure your VTC provider has an offering that can scale to accommodate multiple participants, so you can take high-definition or standard video systems into large interconnected conferences with a call from a desk system, to a PC, to a mobile device, to an immersive room-system for a true-to-life experience.
Ease of Use/Manageability — once you’ve installed a VTC system, you need to make sure that you understand how to use and manage it to ensure that you get the full benefit of your investment. Choosing a vendor includes picking a company that will support you from installation through deployment and can supply continued support. Don’t get left with a system that you can’t use effectively and easily.
Visit TANDBERG at DoDIIS (Booth #405) to see how close VTC can be to “real life.”
An obvious benefit of an agency’s use of video teleconferencing (VTC) is the opportunity to provide “face-to-face communication” with colleagues, managers and support teams wherever they may be. That can be crucial, according to the Journal of Business Research, which reports that people who work apart often have increased conflict and reduced trust. A Roper study shows that VTC can build trust among colleagues and reduce the confusion/misunderstandings that come from communicating without the value of non-verbal clues.
There are even more benefits of VTC for an agency, particularly with all that we face today. From a World Health Organization call for restricted travel as they attempt to curb the H1N1/swine flu outbreak, to an aging workforce that could potentially leave your agency with a dearth of institutional knowledge and cuts in funding, agency leaders have a myriad of concerns to weigh when making everyday decisions.
Consider the following benefits VTC can create for an agency that must be successful in its mission on an ever-scrutinized budget:
Institutional knowledge – Instead of allowing a knowledge vacuum to be created when your expert resources retire, an agency can instead utilize VTC to have them share their years of experience with younger or newer agency workers.
Dispersed knowledge – Has your agency ever wanted to access knowledge of experts who live and work in dispersed locations? What about wanting to hire an expert who doesn’t want to relocate? VTC allows you to tap into that knowledge – and possibly attract that expert hire – easily and effectively without incurring travel and relocation expenses or other hiring fees.
Workforce incentives – VTC creates a desirable workplace by showing a tech-savvy workforce that your agency employs cutting edge technology and is environmentally conscious. It also allows your agency to offer incentives, such as telework and being part of a green organization, which are increasingly attractive to those who want a better work-life balance. An article produced by the Telework Coalition states that the positive effect of teleworking on an organization’s bottom line includes reduced real estate requirements, increased employee productivity, and reduced absenteeism.
Training/distance learning – When your workforce needs to keep up with certifications or advancements in science and technology, or your employees want to advance their careers, it often requires training that can be difficult to schedule or even fund. VTC allows training and distance learning opportunities that overcome funding issues by eliminating travel and hotel expenses, etc. It also creates an important opportunity by allowing for increased student attendance – where an-person class might only accommodate 100 attendees, a VTC class enables a virtual classroom environment limited only by bandwidth and student interest in attending.
Real-time Collaboration with the Field – Imagine that some of your workforce needs to travel to other countries for everything from supporting the warfighter to attending high-level government conferences. The opportunity to share not only voice, but also visual information, during these types of events could exponentially increase your agency’s effectiveness. For example, an agency supports the care of vehicles in the field, but can’t send an engineer to address a problem in a timely manner. Visually exchange critical information with remote engineering or home office support to assess and resolve issues in real time. Reduce downtime and equipment failure, survey construction sites and report critical medical information directly from the scene.
What benefits is your agency experiencing from the use of VTC? Share your best practices with us.