As tighter measures are being put in place to curb COVID-19, your business is most likely resorting to Work From Home (WFH) arrangements. With working remotely comes new challenges such as finding the right communication channels as well as platforms to deliver work. We’ve seen the rise of using video conferencing as well as different platforms, but which one is most effective for you and your business? In this article, we explore the history of telecommuting, the different platforms as well as some tips to help manage your office communications.
Rise of Telecommuting
In an era where the proliferation of the Internet has saturated the market, telecommuting has become a norm. In a study conducted by Zug, they found that 70% of people globally work remotely at least once a week. We see a similar trend in Singapore where more companies are beginning to offer more flexibility in work arrangements and these include part-time work, staggering start hours, and telecommuting. Telecommunications is clearly catching on but how did it all begin?
The term “telecommuting” was first coined in 1972 by Jack Nilles. Nilles was working remotely on a complex NASA communication system. He told people what he was doing was “Telecommuting”, and the phrase was born. From there, the phrase and idea of working remotely took off and widespread use of video conferencing began with the computer revolution of the 1980s. By 2012, telecommuting became a widely accepted practice and is now what it is today.
Telecommuting has been proven to be beneficial, in fact, according to studies by scholars at Penn State University, when managed right, telecommuting actually boosts productivity, performance, job satisfaction and overall life satisfaction. Your employees have increased control over their work and also more time for themselves and for family. Consider making telecommuting a standard practice for your employees.
Platforms for Telecommuting
Of course, with the rise of telecommuting, more video conferencing platforms have popped up. In fact, the video conferencing market is growing everyday with more platforms emerging. With so many out there on the market, which one should your business consider using? To begin with, discussing what works best for you and your team is always a good start but if you’re stumped between choosing, here are 3 well-known platforms you can consider using.
Founded in 2003, Skype is one of the oldest and most highly rated video conferencing platforms in the world. Acquired by Microsoft in 2011, Skype now has 2 versions: one for business and one for personal use. Skype for Business lets you add up to 250 people to online meetings, provides enterprise-grade security, allows you to manage employee accounts, and is integrated into your Microsoft Office apps. Skype also allows for easy file sharing where you can drag and drop files of all kinds, up to 300 MB, into your call window. You also have unlimited call time and this can prove to be beneficial for long video conferences.
Zoom has noticeably been rising quickly in popularity and usage in 2020. Launched in 2011, Zoom is a cloud-based video conferencing, online meeting, and group messaging platform. It can support video conferences with up to 1000 video participants and 49 videos on screen. Zoom is perfect for collaborative work with many useful tools, for example several participants are able share their screens at the same time, polling and much more. Zoom has four pricing levels beginning with Basic (Free), Pro, Business and Enterprise. With basic membership, you have unlimited 1 to 1 call time but for group meetings with 3 or more participants, there is a time limit of 40 minutes.
3. Google Meet
A successor of the Google Hangouts, Meet is the business-oriented version of Google's Hangouts platform and is suitable for businesses of all sizes. Meet comes together with G Suite and allows users to make video calls with up to 30 users. With most things from Google, the interface is easy to use and integrates well with the Google ecosystem if your business uses G Suite. Meet also has intelligent voice dictation which provides almost accurate live captions during calls. If you don’t use G Suite, Google Hangouts is also another option which is free to use.
Useful Tips for Video Conferencing
With all that said, how can you better manage your business’s communications when doing video conferencing? To start with, making sure you have the right tools is essential for a smooth calling experience. Here is a checklist for things you should go check and go through before a video call.
- Microphone - Ensure that your microphone is working well and there is no static or background noise. Check your audio input and volume level in your computer’s sound system to see if there is any background noise or echo that may be distracting during a call. Sometimes your built-in computer microphone just won’t cut it so prepare an earpiece with a good microphone to have on hand as well.
- Camera - Check your camera and ensure that your face is not obscured from being viewed. If your built-in camera is not working well, consider getting a good webcam as a replacement. It is also important to check your background and surroundings before a call so that you can look professional during a call.
- Environment - Do try to find a spot wherever you are calling from that is not echoey in order to minimise audio issues during your call. Finding a spot that is also well-lit is also good to ensure you are visible. Ensure that no one disturbs or accidentally walks in during your call.
Telecommuting has helped make working remotely much easier and especially in times now where it is necessary to work from home. It’s clear that video conferencing will continue to grow and advance as the years go by as more companies are likely to adopt more flexible work arrangements. We hope everyone has a smooth telecommuting experience, happy video calling everyone!