Matt Brunk
Matt Brunk has worked in past roles as director of IT for a multisite health care firm; president of Telecomworx,...
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Matt Brunk | July 01, 2013 |


Reshaping Work by Video

Reshaping Work by Video A survey reveals that video conferencing is spilling outside the normal work day. That's both bad and good.

A survey reveals that video conferencing is spilling outside the normal work day. That's both bad and good.

According to BlueJeans Network, technology is reshaping meetings, and in their recent study, "State of the Modern Meeting," based on more than 1 million hosted video teleconferences, here's what they found:

* An average business meeting lasts 45 minutes and has 4.3 participants
* Women are "Leaning In" to meetings, attending 11% more meetings than men
* Running a company can mean running late, as CEOs, CTOs and Founders are most often late to meetings
* Early morning meetings and 9-5 days are no longer the norm, with 49% of meetings taking place between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. and most workdays concluding by 10 pm
* 1 in 10 meetings are held on weekends, and Wednesdays and Thursdays are the most popular meeting days
* People still take time for lunch, with a 20% decline in meetings from noon to 1 p.m.
* Less than half (49%) of meetings start on time, with meetings in the Midwest more likely to start on time than meetings on the East or West coasts
* Most common device usage: Laptops or desktops (77 percent of the time), conference rooms (56 percent of the time), telephones (30 percent of the time) and video-enabled mobile devices (30 percent of the time)

While the information from the study is interesting, it also confirms some concerns and yields praises for video teleconferencing technology.

My immediate attention focuses on the finding that most workdays conclude by 10 pm. For some years, the invisible barrier between personal and work life has been eroding. Always-on and always-available communications has driven an expectancy that people will respond at all hours--and they do, while interrupting their private lives.

The recent study revealing that over 64% of American workers respond to work emails while on vacation is just one more indicator that work is on the brain. Then, to add to this: Americans seemingly work too much and don't take enough down time (vacation), because according to the Center for Economic and Policy Research report on, "No-Vacation Nation Revisited:"

"The United States is the only advanced economy in the world that does not guarantee its workers paid vacation. In the absence of government standards, almost one in four Americans has no paid vacation (23 percent) and no paid holidays (23 percent). According to government survey data, the average worker in the private sector in the United States receives only about ten days of paid vacation and about six paid holidays per year: less than the minimum legal standard set in the rest of world's rich economies excluding Japan (which guarantees only 10 paid vacation days and requires no paid holidays)."

Reshaping our work must include reasonable blocks of time off the job, and I do believe that other indicators (health, well-being, happiness) describing Americans (in general) are indicative of not having enough time off. Instead of spending hours traveling to the airport or train station to spend more hours traveling to reach our destination, or shuffling about by car, we need to increase our collaboration efforts. Hence, videoconferencing allows firms to establish potentially better communications than audio-only, and to do it cost-effectively, saving time on or off the job.

Still, there's another significant positive. Considering that 1 in 10 of the 1 million meetings that BlueJeans hosted occurred on weekends; there's something good to say here. When a meeting is necessary, which is worse: meeting virtually or going into the office? Then, because meetings are held in the evening hours, it's often because of necessity in either availability of key personnel or time zone differences. These aren't excuses for interrupting personal time, but are simply the realities of work within some organizations.

Companies may need to rethink how they manage their key assets (people), and change the old work style (not work ethic), and promote reasonable blocks of time off from the job. Then, in lieu of travel, businesses need to examine whether or not travel or videoconference is the most effective choice. Road warriors and executives, I think are likely to continue with travel, citing face-to-face meetings as more important. This I think will be contentious because with HD video, seeing the other guy sweat is possible.

Now on the positive side of collaboration, the BlueJeans study shows 1 billion miles of travel and $600 million in travel expenses avoided through the use of video conferencing on the BlueJeans Network; this is a major attention grabber.

I asked Josh Dulberger, Data Scientist over at BlueJeans, "How much time was saved by not traveling?" Josh told me that, "The time Saved: 2.2 Million person-hours (or 92k days or 251 years). That is just the fly-time saved, but we all know that the travel to and from airports is a highly variable headache."

Understand that both negative effects and positive benefits of collaboration contain the element of time. While my/your personal time is interrupted on a weekend or after hours during the week, the videoconference solves problems, and we do this from home, on the road or simply on-the-fly. Time isn't a commodity to be taken for granted and it's not replaceable--as depicted in the movie, "In Time." Benjamin Franklin wrote: "Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that is the stuff life is made of."

While the BlueJeans study reveals interesting factoids, it also shows how work is being reshaped. We need to strike a favorable balance between work and personal life, and because collaboration by video does drive costs down, we can learn to drive our health, well-being and happiness up.

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