Video Conferencing Usage in the U.S. is on a Rise

February 25, 2015 Updated: April 23, 2016

The days of tight budgets are here to stay as companies from small to Fortune 500 contemplate a global business environment that demands a faster response than traditional meeting formats can provide. Certainly the number of meeting that professionals need to attend has exploded along with the globalization of supply chains and the advent of far-flung teams in offices from New York to New Delhi, and everywhere in between. Even in the US, one of the biggest players in the frequent flyer stakes, video conferencing is streamlining operations and making meetings easy for busy professionals to attend.

The Hard Facts and Soft Costs

If someone popped up and said that you are going to spend 3.7 hours of every 10 hour work day in meetings, you’d think you’d been cursed. Be honest. How many times have you gone to a meeting and felt your eyes glazing over? Or played Candy Crush under the table on your phone or iPad? Or have you even dozed off, staring at a talking head on a screen while a PowerPoint slide show played overhead? You’ve almost certainly fretted about the work piling up in your office, whether you’re down the hall or across the state. With travel, there’s always the concerns for family and pets piled on top of workplace concerns, and if the meeting is unproductive, there’s frustration piled on top of worry. When your staff is stressed out, frustrated, and overloaded, they’re going to do what over 70 percent of American workers do according to a Gallup poll – disengage.

Worse, these workers are the most highly educated and experienced staff – ranging in age from 30 to 64, with college and professional degrees under their belts. At a point where they need to be engaged in their projects and processes, they’re the ones in their third meeting of the day, wondering if they’re going to make their plane or propped in the corner with their eyes glazing over from jet lag. When they’re back at the office, they race to catch up with work, meet family commitments, and still have time to keep up with developments in their projects and departments. In a recent study by Verizon, these busy professionals admit to worry about family obligations going unmet, and office workflow backing up while they’re gone.

These “soft costs” like stress, morale, and job satisfaction have a bigger impact on your bottom line than you might imagine. Over time, it can cost more as workers leave or retire, leaving critical knowledge and experience gaps in your organization. The expense of finding, interviewing, and then training replacements is also a much overlooked soft cost, as is the impact of high turnover on overall morale.

The Good News

Over 90 percent of professionals when asked actually love and value meetings with coworkers and teams. The experience of face time is incredibly valuable in terms of creating professional relationships, opening the flow of information, and enabling people to feel that they are being heard while contributing productively. Making meetings count is the key factor in reengaging your disengaged and burned out workers, and making them feel like a part of the process instead of another slack-jawed body in a chair. Video meetings using cloud based software, once expensive proprietary systems, took off during the Recession, and have been evolving and changing how work works ever since. Providers like Blue Jeans brought video conferencing out of the board room and into the coffee shop, desktop, airport waiting area, and small-budget start up. With being able to have all of a meetings functions on one application, hosting and joining virtual meetings changed the exhausting and expensive meeting schedule that many professionals burned out on. With the ability to “facetime” on multiple devices from mobile phones to entire rooms, the meeting is where you are.

Save the Travel Budget

There are some meetings that have to be done on location, that are just so incredibly important that an iPad can’t cover it. You’re going to know which meetings need to be conducted in real time and which routine meetings can be handled virtually, whether it’s a large symposium, a sales training demonstration, or a small meeting of department heads for a 30-minute catch-up session on Monday mornings. Still, the ease of calling and conducting meetings might tempt some to excess, and just as it’s up to you when to bust out the travel budget, it’s also a good idea to set meeting standards and practices so that your staff remains enthusiastic about using the application, and come to view using video conferencing as a method of enhancing their workflow and productivity, instead of feeling burdened by it. Use it creatively, and allow your staff plenty of input as it’s deployed and tested.