If your small business is anything like ours, you have employees strewn all over the country and in a variety of office settings. Thanks to the wonder of technology, we can effectively communicate via phone, email, chat, SMS and social media. I am often reminded however, that there is no real substitute for face to face conversation. When in-person communication isn’t possible, the only other option is video chat.
Just today we were having a party in our Poway office and wanted to connect with our awesome supervisor and Communicate Better Blog co-founder, Jenny Dempsey in New York. Our solution was to place a television on a desk, configure it as a second monitor, connect a USB webcam and initiate a Google+ Hangout. The goal was to have a desk where people could sit down and have a conversation with her.
The experiment lasted about twenty minutes and no real work was completed. While it was nice to connect everyone with Jenny, I’m not sure the experiment sustainably connected our two offices. As I am mulling over the next steps, I think there are a few potential solutions to improve connectedness using video chat:
- Use video chat to get real work done- Getting in the habit of video chatting for meetings can be a great way to stay connected with your colleagues. Accomplishing something together during that time will enrich the experience. Be sure to give employees notice in advance if you plan to use video. If they are telecommuting this gives them a chance to make themselves presentable. GoToMeeting and Google+ Hangouts are both viable options for video chat.
- Consider a more long-term solution- We have talked about mounting an iPad or a Dropcam on the wall in each office with a video chat open so people can get a live look at the other office at all times. By doing this you can keep the video on for longer periods of time.
- Surprise people with video calls- Our customer service staff talks all of the time about how you can hear a smile through the phone. Have you ever initiated a video call with a colleague to show them your smile instead? Try it sometime and see if it makes a difference. Some instant messenger programs will allow you to initiate video chats with your buddies if a webcam is detected.