Videoconferencing has been a lifeline, not a curse, for the industry – let’s keep it

Zoom fatigue has taken its toll over the past 12 months, with the hours spent at screens straining eyes and draining hearts, but, as the world begins to open up, evidence is rapidly amassing that business as usual will look very different in the future.

Let's not throw the baby out with the bath water as normality returns, argues Caroline Gruen
Let's not throw the baby out with the bath water as normality returns, argues Caroline Gruen

International travel has been significantly impacted and research has shown that two-thirds of business travellers expect to take fewer flights in the future.

The workplace as we know it will also be a thing of the past, with fewer than one in five workers wanting to return to the office full time. For the PR industry, where communication is king, this means rather a lot of adjustment.

Far from being a curse, though, videoconferencing has been a lifeline throughout the pandemic so far. From keeping in touch with colleagues in real-time to celebrating birthdays with family, it would have been hard to survive without it. Video communication tools will have an even more important role to play in the shift from surviving to thriving in a post-pandemic era.

During the course of lockdown, work got a whole lot more inclusive. Calls that previously took place on a telephone dial-in have shifted to video and, as a result, client/agency relationships are closer than ever before.

From pets to children and favourite books, seeing colleagues in their home environment has provided a very different insight into the humans themselves. It has made personal relationships of ones that in many cases were, in the past, purely functional. It can’t be stated too highly what meeting someone’s cat does in forming a connection.

The tables have also turned. The remote worker – who too often was the poor relation “dialling in” – has become an equal part of every conversation.

In fact, already used to working self-sufficiently, those accustomed to working from home have had something of a competitive advantage. Gone are the days of being forgotten on the spider phone when lunch arrives.

And meetings requiring overseas – or, in fact, any – travel are no longer limited to those team members the company or client has budget to send. Anyone from the intern upwards can join, allowing everyone to contribute and to have a seat at the (virtual) table.

This is opening up many opportunities for better career progression, skills development and relationship-building – not to mention saving thousands of tonnes of CO2 in business travel.

Video calls, love them or hate them, are the future. That’s not to say that face-to-face interaction does not matter or disappears from working society. But as we all look to build back better, they will play a vital role in providing equality of opportunity, work-life balance and reducing our impact on the world.

Caroline Gruen is associate partner at Milk & Honey PR

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