Can Video Really Recreate Face-to-Face Experiences for Remote Teams?

Written by Ian Walker
November 26, 2013

Are face-to-face conversations overrated? Jason Fried of 37signals fame and co-author of Remote, says work colleagues don’t have to be in the same room to be innovative brainstormers. We agree… to a point. Many remote teams and workers have the talent and motivation to be successful and creative, even if they’re not based in HQ. But, it’s the relationship building that happens between colleagues (which can sometimes lead to creative breakthroughs) that’s difficult to foster when you’re not working in the same space.

And, good relationships with co-workers are important. Really important. A recent study that took place within a branch of the Swedish Postal Service concluded that,

“social relations between colleagues are at the root of employee willingness to take on responsibilities beyond their formal job description.”

In other words, the better employees get along with one another, the harder they work.

Foosball Office

How Far Can Video Take Us?

When your teams are distributed, can video really recreate the face-to-face experiences that build employee relationships?

We Were Promised More

It’s easy to tap a colleague on the shoulder to ask her a question. But how do you recreate that interaction with video? Foursquare is just one company that’s installed an always-on video portal between offices. With the portal, employees get a real-time, always-on view into remote offices and don’t have to pre scheduled meetings. Let’s face it, scheduled calls often turn into formal status updates, not relationship builders.

The Foursquare Portal

We had high hopes when Skype and video conferencing went mainstream a decade ago that video would foster better relationships and spread the love between employees. But, it’s still early days for recreating face-to-face experiences we enjoy when we’re in the same room. It’s not because relationship building via video isn’t possible, but perhaps it’s because up until now we’ve been doing it wrong.

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