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Is Video the Core of Telework?

A recent report from Cisco identifies that video is at the core of government telework. The report, Video at the Core of Government Telework: Overcome Resistance with Face-to-Face Interaction, has some interesting insights to telework and the impact telework can have in government. Cisco also has a great video on telework:

The report quickly provides an overview of telework today in government. Stating, “The definition of telework has expanded from working at home to working anywhere outside headquarters, including remote offices, co-working facilities, or rural healthcare clinics. Work has become what you do, not where you are.” This was an interesting observation, as in the federal government there has been a proliferation of devices and employees requesting to access information across multiple platforms.

With more devices, and increasing desires to work at home and remotely, there have been numerous challenges for agencies to implement a teleworking strategy and build related processes. The Cisco report cites five challenges for teleworkers. The findings are from a 2010 study performed by Booz Allen Hamilton and the Partnership for Public Service, the barriers listed were:

  • Teleworker Productivity and Accessibility
  • Teleworker Alienation or Disengagement
  • Impede Interactions or Collaboration
  • Data Security
  • Agency Collaboration Tools

The report continues to provide insights to how telepresence can work to avoid the barriers listed above. Cisco reports that telepresence is one strategy that government can use, “Telepresence helps overcome many of the barriers to telework. Enabling employees and managers to interact face-to-face helps to build trust, fosters effective teamwork and collaboration, increases meeting efficiency, and even helps people avoid meeting fatigue.”

Building Trust
The report identifies that trust improves when managers have the ability to visually see an employ, and feel as though they could spontaneously sit down with them. The ability to feel like you can just drop into someones office is critical in a workplace – so telepresence is one way to overcome the distance obstacle. “Telepresence helps bridge the trust gap by enabling managers to meet with remote team members as often as necessary, face–to–face. With modern endpoints, initiating automatically turns on video if both endpoints have the capability,” stated the Cisco report.

Foster Effective Teamwork and Collaboration
“Telepresence also provides the visual cues that help teleworkers accurately gauge other people’s level of agreement or understanding, helping them interact naturally. For example, seeing a remote colleagues raised eyebrow, head shake, or mouth opening to speak, teleworkers can stop to ask what the coworker thinks, contributing to more efficient meetings and better decision making. Conversely, without these visual cues, the teleworker may be perceived as less socially adept.”

Increasing Meeting Efficiency
Similar to building trust, meetings are more efficient if people can see a face and are engaging in a face-to-face conversation. The Cisco report indicates that if people are participating in a meeting via telepresence, they are less likely to multi-task and will focus their attention on the meeting.

Avoiding Phone Fatigue
The Cisco report cites, “Anecdotally, some people report they feel more tired after a voice conference than after an in-person meeting of the same length. Researchers speculate that listener fatigue results from people having to work harder to compensate for the lack of visual cues and for the missing audio frequencies in telephone conversations.”

The goal of telepresence is to have people feel as though the are sitting in the same room, and make their presence feel as natural as possible.

If you are a teleworker, what strategies have you used to make your presence feel as natural as possible?

I sat down with the DorobekINSIDER’s Chris Dorobek to talk more about video telework.

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Corey McCarren

Video definitely helps here when we have someone teleworking. It really doesn’t feel that much different than them being in the physical meeting.

Chris Cairns

Wow, that’s pretty amazing insight if it’s true — it actually takes more effort to listen during a conference than to visualize & listen. I personally think this is true. I’ve been teleworking now for nearly 2 years. Not once have I been in the office. I hate conference calls because I feel it wipes my day out — b/c I’m drained afterwards!

Henry Brown

Spent the majority of my time, working for 3 agencies, over 15 years “teleworking”… Would offer that MAYBE the goal of telepresence could/should be “increase the productivity of everyone”. Would offer that in some cases video-conferencing could be counter productive. (participants perhaps more worried about their apperances than accomplishing goals)

Terrence (Terry) Hill

I am pushing for use of both Microsoft Communicator/LINC and web-conferencing using tools like Adobe Connect. Unfortunately, government laptops don’t include webcams, and many employees are shy, so us of this technology isn’t as pervasive as it should be. Management still is stuck on “face-to-face” meetings and training. It’s too bad, because there is significant time savings in travel to/from meetings and is a much more sustainable solution.