Video Meetings Are Here to Stay, Despite Return to Office
Shares of video conferencing company Zoom plunged more than 15% the last week of August after the San Francisco-based company reported revenues fell short of expectations. Many took the news as a sign that the market had reached a saturation point and that, as more workers return to the physical workplace, demand for video conferencing tools would continue to weaken.
Even Zoom chief financial officer Kelly Steckelberg addressed the speculation: "We have moved beyond the pandemic buying patterns," Steckelberg said during a conference call with analysts following the earnings release. "And as we believe this customer behavior will persist, we have factored it into our outlook."
Clearly the market is undergoing changes, particularly as companies rethink their capital allocation in the face of economic uncertainty. But video conferencing tools remain popular despite the return to the physical workplace. According to Austin Herrington, VP of product management at Little Rock, Ark.-based Windstream Enterprise, the need for video conferencing isn't going anywhere because it's what has powered the remote and hybrid workforce over the past few years — and what will continue to enable it into the future.
And considering that more than half of workers expect a hybrid work arrangement moving forward, according to a 2022 Gallup poll, businesses must continue to rely on the value of secure access to voice, chat, virtual meetings and content sharing video conferencing technology has been providing them.
In fact, Gartner data also shows that by 2025, 50% of all enterprise virtual events will be held on the video meeting platforms commonly used by organizations today — further proving that video conferencing tools aren't going anywhere anytime soon.
The Impact of the Physical Workplace
The number of companies that have implemented a rigid back-to-the-office mandate with no flexibility is limited to date. Most are instead taking a gradual approach to bringing employees back, affording staff the opportunity to continue working from home one or more days per week.
Under these circumstances, many employees returning to in-person work environments won't be able to do away with virtual engagement platforms like Zoom altogether, even if they wanted to.
Another factor in favor of video conferencing tools is the fact that many companies have already expanded their workforce to include remote, contingent workers. Zoom and the likes will be needed to communicate with these workers still.
The same is true of customers and clients who have either opted to remain remote or hybrid or are located well outside the company's headquarters. Many companies have trimmed business travel budgets, and few intend to go back, seeing the productivity and efficiency gains afforded by video conferencing.
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A Post-pandemic Evolution
In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses, faced with the monumental task of shifting their entire organization to remote operations virtually overnight, leaned hard on video in an effort to keep teams connected and engaged in difficult times. But the industry landscape has changed considerably since then, said Esther Yoon, VP of industry and product marketing at Belmont, Calif.-based RingCentral.
Companies today are actively considering alternatives to video conferencing for ongoing and external communications. While Yoon believes video will likely continue to be an active part of the mix and the go-to platform for tasks like hosting team meetings, she said as companies reassess the most effective ways to collaborate, some conversations may shift to team messaging platforms while others might be best served by a quick phone call.
Employees also want to be able to change modalities and switch seamlessly between multi-functional messaging, video and phone — and they want it all to be integrated seamlessly into their workflow, Yoon said, highlighting the importance for employers to give workers flexibility, both in the tools they use and in the freedom to choose how they communicate.
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“Workers want tools and platforms that are flexible enough to meet their needs as they change day-to-day or even minute-to-minute,” Yoon said.
According to Debra Cancro, SVP for products at Waltham, Mass.-based Bigtincan, when companies evaluate communication and collaboration software options, there will also be increased focus on the quality of the interactions — and whether or not the software proves to be worthwhile.
“It is not uncommon for virtual calls to come with a variety of distractions or increased multitasking,” she said, noting that businesses must be smart about which platforms they use to ensure that they are getting the most out of each meeting. "Businesses can lean on tools that incorporate AI and can provide detailed analytics that show if meeting participants are engaged or not.”
In other words, with the proliferation of options on the market, the case for ROI is heating up.
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No One-Size-Fits-All Approach
No one knows what the future of work will come to be, whether flexible work will become norm or if employers will try to force employees back into the office once the labor market dynamics shift back to pre-pandemic numbers. For the foreseeable future, though, the workplace means different things for different people, and with inconsistent work arrangements across industries, companies and even individual teams, workers need video more than ever.
“After two years of working remotely, people are used to video meetings and asynchronous collaboration and have grown accustomed to the flexibility and productivity it affords them,” said Chris Knowlton chief evangelist of Seattle-based video tech company Panopto.
The challenge for employers right now is fostering true collaboration in a hybrid setting and leveling the playing field between remote and in-person employee experiences — and video technology is key to achieving that.
Lifesize CEO Trent Waterhouse said he believes hybrid meetings or meetings that feature at least one group of in-person attendees connecting virtually with other meeting attendees, are here to stay. So, to encourage collaboration between in-office and remote teams, video meetings will continue to be an essential part of every workplace, regardless of the pressure from some organizations to force employees back into one physical place.
About the Author
Siobhan is the editor in chief of Reworked, the premier publication covering the r/evolution of work published by Simpler Media Group, Inc. Siobhan leads the site's content strategy, with a focus on the transformation of the workplace.