With over half of business people saying they can’t concentrate for more than half an hour on a video call, how can we truly engage those with whom we are speaking and break down the digital barrier?
There is no doubt that flexible working offers many benefits for companies and employees alike. While businesses can save money on office space, employees are finding a new level of flexibility within their work, and in most cases enjoying the benefits of working from home, at least a few days a week. But this can lead to challenges too – not least a lack of engagement in online meetings and the lowering of standards in the office itself.
After such a long period in which digital meetings were the only option, businesses across industries are realising the time-saving, efficiency benefits video calls can offer as a permanent solution. Why travel an hour each way for a one-hour meeting, when you can simply ‘log on’ for the call itself, and use the remaining two hours for more valuable work – or personal priorities?
But undoubtedly, as we get further into this digital experiment, the cons of working from home – as well as the pros – are becoming more apparent. We recently conducted new research amongst workers for the Showpad State of Selling report, which highlighted significant issues in ensuring colleagues, clients eand prospects are fully engaged in video calls.
The research found that eight in ten employees say they are more easily distracted in virtual meetings. Meanwhile three quarters admit that they turn webcams off during meetings to hide what they are doing – invariably they are multitasking. Over half (57%) admit that they turn off the screen to ‘play on their phones’ whilst 48% admit making food or drinks in the background.
Most of us have been on calls where cameras are turned off abruptly – and the research demonstrates that when this does happen, chances are, the colleague on the other end is not listening to what you’re saying. At the more worrying end of the scale, 12% say they’ve even slept during a virtual work meeting, and 7% have even consumed alcohol.
There are consequences to all of this for workers – many admit to having accidentally said something regrettable when they thought their microphone was muted, or to having done something embarrassing because they forgot the webcam was on. Indeed, 4% say they have actually lost a job as a result of a virtual call-related faux pas.
Becoming accustomed to virtual calls also has ramifications for in-office behaviour. About three quarters (74%) say they’ve observed that standards of behaviour in the office are slipping – most notably due to staff looking at phones in meetings, not being well presented, reduced attention spans, and compromised presentation skills.
But it could also be impacting a business’s bottom line, and raises big questions about how to engage those to whom you are speaking and what can be done to improve the quality of digital interactions. Whilst technology is partly to blame for the issues mentioned, the reality is that the digital transformation is happening at pace and, as such, technology could help provide a solution.
Asynchronous selling, for example, can offer strong benefits. Rather than lengthy meetings, employees can communicate internally or to prospects and clients by sending video messages. It allows them to record the message at a time which suits, encourages brevity, and allows for a re-watch – and a re-record – to fine-tune and ensure content is engaging (key in the world of selling). Recipients can then view and respond at a time that’s most convenient, and re-watch if they find their mind wandering on first viewing. This can lead to fewer distractions, and increases efficiency and the speed of information delivery.
If businesses can nail digital interactions, the benefits will follow – as it is what buyers now demand. Indeed, 87% of buyers have also told us that they now prefer to be sold to virtually. Clearly it’s just a case of ensuring the content of such interactions is engaging. And this applies whether a business is an SME or enterprise level, with 85% of those responsible for more than £10m in purchases a year saying there is now no need for the traditional ‘face-to-face’ meetings with sales reps.
There’s no silver bullet here – but as the compromises of working from home become more apparent, businesses need to get ahead of the curve to keep engagement high and provide the sort of digital experience their employees, clients and prospects will value.