Is your day becoming a never-ending series of Virtual Meetings? These should be a last resort, not the first option. The fact is, videoconferencing has sprung to fame due to the rapid, global spread of Covid-19. The third week of March showed that videoconferencing apps had gained a whopping 62 million downloads due to the unprecedented worldwide lockdown.

Videoconferencing; on apps such as Zoom, Skype, Hangouts, serves a purpose in replicating that desired need for face-to-face communication which we currently lack. It’s perfect for many facets of our lives, but when it comes to implementing a successful remote working strategy for managing teams, videoconferencing is overused and time-consuming. It’s productive qualities for business must be differentiated from the way videoconferencing is used for leisure time.

Businesses are pivoting to virtual meetings at the cost of productivity, and because of this, videoconferencing needs to be monitored and reduced.

Video-calling gives the illusion of collaboration, but Wundamail’s latest research reveals overindulging in pointless chit-chat is costing businesses more than £1000 per employee each month in wasted time.

Excessive videoconferencing is hindering productivity. Leaders must rethink their remote strategy fast, or we could be heading for a global productivity dive.

Wundamail’s Coronavirus Business 2020 Report investigates the economic and social challenges facing businesses in the current global pandemic. It examines productivity levels, workflow, and communication,  and aims to give managers and employees an insight into remote team management during the spread of Covid-19.

The 20,000 remote workers surveyed were representative by ethnic background, socio-economic status, gender, and region (across the UK and US). The respondents worked for teams of three or more, across a range of blue-chip enterprises, large companies and SMEs. All were using videoconferencing software to work from home as a result of the ongoing global pandemic. Wundamail collected all data between 06/04/20 and 07/04/20.

What is the Most Popular Medium for Productivity?

Out of 20,000 respondents, 45% said that videoconferencing was their preferred method of communication for maintaining productivity in the virtual transition. 32% of respondents claimed to prefer using written updates, such as daily check-ins and structured team briefs, to manage their remote teams, while 13% preferred to use texting or messaging. Only 9% of respondents used phone calls.

Teams Prefer Uninterrupted Time

Remote workers reported an immediate need to reduce virtual distraction in their remote set-ups.  The research showed that 42% of remote workers surveyed felt they were “more productive” after working for a long period of uninterrupted time, as having a continuous stream of virtual distractions on various apps was reported to be deeply distracting. This was further highlighted by the number of people (42%) who frequently dialled in on a virtual meeting yet contributed nothing, demonstrating how virtual meetings are sometimes insignificant or trivial for the majority of team members.

Despite how videoconferencing was reported to be the most productive medium for remote working, more than half of the remote workers surveyed (58%) wished they spent less time on video-calls altogether, suggesting many teams are excessively using video apps and not achieving their work tasks. Yet, 73% of respondents regarded videoconferencing as getting “work-done”, which suggests that video calls, for some, give a dangerous illusion of productivity – when in reality, very little work is completed or produced.

Based on this evidence, teams seem to benefit from limited virtual meetings and time away from their colleagues by taking advantage of the long stretches of uninterrupted time which the remote environment offers.

In this case, why are remote teams spending all their time videoconferencing if telecommuting is meant to abolish traditional office distraction?

Less Chat, More Action

Verbal communication evaporates, but write-ups stick. 

Do you ever hang up and forget what you’ve been asked to do? The most worrying attribute of videoconferencing for teams is reportedly the “lack of follow-up” after the virtual meeting, to the extent that 27% of employees found this to be the biggest communication barrier for their virtual team. People were three times more likely to deliver on actions agreed in writing than video, as they failed to remember key information after hanging up on a video-call. After videoconferencing ended, 42% of remote workers  “followed-up” with their updates via written updates and documents, while 30% admitted they required further phone calls and email correspondence to communicate essential information. Teams are doing twice the amount of communication required because videoconferencing simply doesn’t collate essential information.

The statistics confirm that using videoconferencing solely for conveying important information was ineffective. Individuals reported to further rely on written communication after ending a videoconference, by using automatic check-ins, emails or daily updates, to communicate their thoughts to their team.

Video Meetings Have Many Communication Barriers 

From bandwidth issues to faulty equipment, technical issues emerged as the most prevalent problem in video meetings as 73% of respondents reported it was their predominant communication barrier in the remote set-up, followed closely by interruptions and people talking over one another (59%).

In addition, 1 in 3 people suffered a lack of focus in video meetings and 11% found it challenging to command attention and illustrate important points. The communication barriers led 30% of people to use alternative platforms to communicate essential updates.

Videoconferencing Needs Reducing

While videoconferencing remains a popular channel for maintaining communication in the remote set-up, the Coronavirus Business Report 2020 highlights that more than half of respondents wished to limit their time on virtual meetings as they preferred long stretches of uninterrupted time to achieve their tasks. Videoconferencing will continue to be used for replicating face-to-face interaction, but teams are relying on written communication, such as daily updates and emails, to chase important updates.

It’s time to listen to what works for your team, and adapt accordingly to achieve maximum productivity.

Amy Sharpe is Behavioural Science Writer for Diskette Ideas. She is an expert on change mechanisms, and how software can drive human action and make life easier. Her research is published in reports such as the Figala Crisis Report 2020, and has been covered in media outlets such as Global Banking and Finance and Small Business UK. Her focus is on behavioural change with long-term implications for well-being, organizations, and management. The researched is conducted by Wundamail (twitter: @Wundamail)

Videoconference stock photo by New Africa/Shutterstock