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With 2020 behind us, we can safely say that almost every aspect of life has been impacted by the ongoing pandemic, and work-life is no exception. Thanks to the technology available however (96% of UK households having access to the internet for example), we have been able to shift almost effortlessly to a new normal. For most office-based workers, working from home has been mandatory, with video calls replacing meeting rooms.

But like most things in life, there are pros and cons and, for many, this adapted way of working was an alien concept.

 

What are the benefits of video calling?

As is the way with any element of change, some adapt much quicker than others. But fortunately, the overriding feeling of ’we’re all in this together’ has helped to get everyone up to speed. Although there are many different platforms for video calling, all provide the closest thing to human interaction possible during a global pandemic. The technology has allowed us to continue having catch-ups on a one-to-one basis or sitting in a meeting with over 10 people. And one of the perks of joining a meeting from your own screen is being able to clearly see presentations or documents without the awkwardness of squinting across a boardroom.

At Space & Time, it has encouraged great internal communication across our five offices. We are collaborating better between our offices all around the country by simply jumping on a video call instead of relying on conversations which may have only happened on the odd visit to another office. And the lack of commuting time means speaking to more people is a realistic endeavour. This collaboration has been essential for managing workloads and maintaining regular contact with colleagues.

 

What are we missing out on by using video calling as an alternative practice?

The most obvious disadvantages of video calling are the lack of genuine human interaction and the unavoidable technical difficulties that come with relying on technology. There is something to be said for a physical conversation where you can read body language and social cues – something we often take for granted. This is especially evident while on a call with multiple people, where it can be difficult finding the correct moment to jump in to speak and ultimately ends up with people talking over each other by accident.

Time management can also be a challenge; although there are efficiencies to be found in the reduction in commuting time, the increased availability to meetings risks impacting on workloads. This can lead to some people finding themselves inundated with meetings, preventing them from getting through their normal workloads, having an obvious impact on productivity. Striking the right balance here has been key throughout 2020.

Ultimately, as we expect things to reach a new normal, we must take our learnings from this disruptive year and use them to build a better future. Home working and virtual meetings are much more effective than previously believed, when implemented in the right way. So going forwards, we must try to find a healthy balance between digital and physical interactions to get the most out of everyone involved. Video calls offer a more interactive, warmer and more engaging option than phone calls, and it’s likely that they will play a significant part in all our comms moving forwards. But once it’s possible to get whole marketing teams and partner agencies around a table once more, the value of face-to-face engagement and the joys of not having to cope with anybody’s poor broadband will likely be unmatched by anything the digital age can offer. 

 

Nathan Walker, senior account executive at Google: Insights Team.