For effective team collaboration, turn your video on (the data says so)
Summary: A key component of any successful business, team collaboration is the act of working together with others to achieve a shared goal and to accomplish more than you could on your own. Recent data suggests that turning your video on during virtual meetings is an essential ingredient for effective collaboration. In this post, we’ll explore team collaboration, why video makes a difference, and how your company can cultivate a healthy, video-first culture.
- The case for video—do you really need it during virtual meetings?
- What is team collaboration?
- What does effective team collaboration look like?
- What skills are important for team collaboration?
- Why is video conferencing important for effective team collaboration?
- The current state of video use in virtual meetings
- Let’s talk about video fatigue
- Do you have the right collaboration technology?
- Building a healthy, video-first culture
The case for video—do you really need it during virtual meetings?
Your office is a mess. You haven’t done your makeup. You’re running late. You really don’t want to take off that cozy sweatshirt. Your cat’s having one of those days.
We can all think of a thousand reasons to leave our video off during a virtual meeting.
And sometimes that’s exactly the right choice.
However, whenever possible, the research says you should turn your camera on.
When it comes to team collaboration, recent data suggests that video is an essential ingredient for success when you’re working remotely or with a hybrid team.
People who consistently use video are over 2x more likely to find it easier to collaborate and nearly 1.5x more likely to say it’s easier to connect with colleagues.
Let’s take a deep dive into team collaboration and why video is so important for effective virtual teamwork. We’ll also cover how your team can create a healthy video-first culture.
What is team collaboration?
Team collaboration is the the act of working together with others to achieve a shared goal and to accomplish more than you could on your own. In a business context, this includes intra-team collaboration (e.g., people within the engineering department collaborating) and inter-team collaboration (e.g., the engineering and marketing departments collaborating). Additionally, it might also include collaboration with partners outside your company. This teamwork can happen in person or virtually, mediated by team collaboration technology (email, team messaging, video conferencing, etc.).
While many definitions for collaboration exist, the one above encapsulates several core themes covered in the scholarly literature on the topic. As I surveyed the collaboration research, I especially liked this explanation below, which comes from Michael Schrage’s book Shared Minds: The New Technologies of Collaboration. It is summarized nicely in this paper by Linda Peters and Charles Manz of the University of Massachusetts:
“Collaboration is a far richer process than communication or straightforward teamwork. It involves the creation of value beyond that which could be created with traditional communication or teamwork (Schrage, 1990). It is only when team members realize that they cannot do it all by themselves and begin to accept and respect the insights, questions, and ideas from others that collaboration begins to occur. According to Schrage (1990), the success of collaborative effort can be measured by its results. In other words, it is widely believed that teams that collaborate effectively are more innovative, productive, and satisfied than teams that do not collaborate.”
This definition offers an inspiring reminder of the power of collaboration done right—the ability to create something greater than you could on your own.
However, it also flags the challenges of collaboration and just how hard it can be to do it well.
Let’s further explore what effective collaboration looks like and what skills you need to collaborate successfully.
What does effective team collaboration look like?
As Peters and Manz note, teams that collaborate effectively are more innovative, get more done, and are more satisfied than teams that don’t collaborate—or don’t collaborate well, we might add. But aside from positive results, what characterizes successful team collaboration?
Peters and Manz highlight the following three factors that may influence whether your team’s collaboration is effective or not, with a particular eye to virtual collaboration:
- Trust: Teams that collaborate well trust everyone in the group to act in the team’s best interests. They know they can rely on each other. They don’t fear that a team member will make a choice that benefits the individual but hurts the team and inhibits their ability to reach their goal. To build this trust, virtual (or hybrid) teams need to engage in meaningful dialogue, thoughtfully leveraging collaboration technology to enable them to do so.
- Shared understanding: Everyone on the team understands and accepts their shared goal, the team’s strategic direction, the skills each person brings to the team, and how they can work together to achieve their objectives. People are aware of more than just their individual contribution and this broader perspective motivates them to work together toward their goal.
- Depth of relationships: Research (including this classic piece) has shown that successful virtual teams invest regular time building relationships with each other. Additionally, deeper relationships can help increase trust and shared understanding. Peters and Manz encourage putting concerted effort into building relationships as close to the start of the project or initiative as possible.
What skills are important for team collaboration?
Now that we’ve covered what effective collaboration looks like, let’s focus for a moment on what skills you need to achieve collaboration excellence.
I’ve briefly summarized nine core collaboration skills below, pulling insight from the 2014 paper Creating a Collaborative Organizational Culture from the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School (for a more detailed discussion see this blog post).
Strong collaborators are well versed in:
- How to embrace change
- How to ask for input from others
- How to share information with others
- How to listen for understanding
- How to provide constructive feedback
- How to use negotiation skills
- How to recognize and reward others
- How to improve self-awareness
- How to reach consensus
A common thread that runs through the majority of these skills is the need to communicate well.
And in our world of virtual and hybrid work, communication has become much more complicated.
Rather than working together face-to-face in the same physical space, teams connect via any number of collaboration technologies—from video conferencing and cloud calling to messaging and email.
While much great work can get done over direct messages or phone calls, seeing the people you’re talking to can enhance the communication experience. Research emphasizes the importance of nonverbal communication: For example, in their chapter in the Handbook of Communication and Social Interaction Skills, the University of Arizona’s Judee Burgoon and Aaron Bacue cite evidence that a significant portion of communication is indeed nonverbal. Being able to collaborate face-to-face helps make sure these nonverbal cues aren’t lost and you can communicate as clearly as possible—something that’s essential for successful collaboration.
And that brings us back to video conferencing.
Why is video conferencing important for effective team collaboration?
Video conferencing allows you to see your colleagues “face-to-face” even though you’re miles apart. When you turn your video on, you ensure you don’t miss any important nonverbal cues and can hopefully connect with people more deeply.
By giving yourself the best possible chance to understand and be understood by others, you set yourself up to excel at the various skills needed for effective collaboration, including negotiating, reaching consensus, providing constructive feedback, and listening for understanding.
This all sounds pretty good, but what does the data say? Does virtual face-to-face communication really help facilitate effective collaboration?
People who regularly use video are:
- 2.4x more likely to say it’s easier to collaborate.
- 2.6x more likely to say they’ve experienced increased empathy from colleagues.
- 1.5x more likely to say it’s easier to connect with colleagues in any location.
In contrast, those who rarely use video are:
- 2.7x less likely to feel connected to company strategy.
- 3.2x more likely to say they’re unhappy with their current company.
Note: For even more insight, here’s a fuller list of video conferencing statistics.
In addition to giving you access to valuable nonverbal cues for optimal understanding, virtual face-to-face communication offers other benefits that help create an ideal collaboration environment.
The other research findings highlighted above also shed some potential light on why video makes it easier to collaborate.
Let’s revisit the three elements necessary for effective collaboration that Peters and Manz highlighted—trust, shared understanding, and depth of relationships—and see how the findings about video map onto them.
- Trust & Depth of Relationship: People who regularly use video are more likely to experience increased empathy from colleagues. Showing empathy and experiencing empathy from others can help create an environment of trust and deepen relationships—two of the ingredients for effective collaboration we discussed above.
- Shared Understanding: People who rarely used video are also less likely to feel connected with company strategy, perhaps experiencing a lack of the shared understanding and commitment to team goals necessary for top-notch collaboration.
Given these promising findings, it’s worth evaluating your company’s video use. Are there additional steps you can take to cultivate a healthy, video-first culture?
The current state of video use in virtual meetings
Despite the benefits of video, only 58% of remote workers consistently turn on video when attending meetings from home.
Why aren’t more people using video? And how can you encourage your team to integrate video into their workflow so you can all reap the collaboration benefits?
Let’s talk about video fatigue
First, let’s acknowledge the elephant in the room: video fatigue.
Video fatigue is definitely a thing and likely a main reason why people aren’t using video regularly.
Consider that 61% of remote workers report that their video meeting fatigue has increased since they started working from home. Stanford University’s Jeremy Bailenson has theorized extensively on why video fatigue might occur, identifying possible causes including prolonged eye contact at close distances and exhaustion from staring into the “all-day mirror” of your own video image.
But rather than abandoning video altogether, you can adopt strategies for healthy video use so you can enjoy the collaboration benefits while mitigating any potential challenges.
For example, consider scheduling one meeting-free day per week for focus work and encouraging people to turn off their self-view to avoid the all-day mirror effect.
Also consider offering video presence training so that employees feel confident on camera and don’t have added stress about coming across well. A refresher on best practices can always help, even if your team has been leveraging video conferencing for years.
Do you have the right collaboration technology?
Having the right collaboration technology can also make or break your video meeting experience.
Are you leveraging intelligent video conferencing software that allows employees to easily connect? Do employees have the right hardware they need for high quality video experiences?
The vast majority of people (90%) say that their home meeting experience could be improved. Common challenges include unwanted background noise, too many people talking at once, inability to effectively brainstorm, and poor internet quality.
The right collaboration technology can go a long way to help mitigate these challenges and make employees more likely to participate in video meetings. In a survey of remote workers, participants identified several top features and tools that would improve their virtual meeting experience, including background noise removal, digital whiteboarding tools, video quality that automatically adjusts to bandwidth conditions, and better devices for meetings and collaboration.
Here are a few questions to consider when evaluating your video meeting tech stack:
- Do you need to provide employees with quality webcams, headsets, and lighting so they feel confident on video?
- Do team members need extra monitors or all-in-one collaboration devices to give them space to comfortably collaborate?
- Does your video conferencing solution offer intelligent features that can reduce fatigue, such as directional audio, background noise removal, and smart camera framing?
- Does your video meeting platform also offer digital whiteboarding and content annotation so that everyone can easily brainstorm and participate?
- During video meetings, can people engage in multiple ways, including polling, chat, Q&A, gesture recognition, and emojis?
- Does your solution offer real-time transcription and translation to remove language barriers and help everyone follow along?
- Could your team benefit from displays designed to reduce eyestrain by optimizing brightness and contrast?
Building a healthy, video-first culture
As we continue to reimagine collaboration in this era of hybrid work, a healthy, video-first culture can play a major role in your company’s success. With thoughtful boundaries in place to guard against video fatigue and with the right technology, your team can take full advantage of video’s potential to deepen relationships, build trust and shared understanding, and help your collaboration thrive.
Explore a video conferencing solution purpose-built for inclusive collaboration. Get started with a free trial of Webex. And for more insight into thriving in a hybrid work world, check out this eBook and take the Hybrid Work Readiness Assessment.
May 26, 2022 — Alex Cambell
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