We are all well aware of what technology is bringing to the table when it comes to opening up the world to business and collaboration. Look at Skype, for example. From gaming to keeping families together to business meetings with people on the other side of the globe, it takes nothing more than a cheap webcam, a computer that doesn’t use DOS as its primary OS, and a quick click of the video call button. Google does the same thing with Hangouts, and those are just to name a few. From there, things get even more globally connected with conference calls, instant messengers, and email. So, is there any real need for meeting your colleagues and supervisors or those that report to you face to face? Common sense and Mark Mortensen, Associate Professor at INSEAD, think so.
Body Language Is a Bigger Deal Than You Think
Entire studies and articles have been written based on the importance of body language. While you can get some through Skype or FaceTime, it doesn’t come close to the full body experience that you get when speaking with someone directly. Imagine being on Skype and one of the individuals in the call keeps looking up to the left. Are they bored or distracted by something else? If they are like the older generation in my family, they just tend to look up at the video constantly. Often times, people simply place the webcam in the wrong area and they can seem to be distant or in a positon of disinterest when, really, they just have it set up the way that works for them.
On the other hand, if you are speaking face to face with someone and they do the same thing, a whole different type of message is actually being sent. They may be ignoring you or bored with the conversation. Maybe they are stretching the truth a bit. For serious conversations, this can make all the difference. Body language, stance and movements not seen through a web-based conversation can say a great deal, subconsciously, about how your peer is taking the discussion.
Technology Hasn’t Made Life Carefree
If you ever watched ‘The Jetsons’ or even the ‘Back to the Future’ films, you saw an idealized future where technology made life much easier. While it has brought on some great benefits for everything from productivity to leisure, it has also added more stress and frustration to our lives.
When technology doesn’t work, we get, in a word, furious. When we feel that the person we are trying to meet with remotely is at fault, we consciously, or subconsciously, take that frustration out on them. All of a sudden, a fantastic conversation turns into something a bit less pleasant.
Any More Questions?
Have you ever been on a conference call where someone just keeps asking questions, while everyone else is rolling their eyes? In many cases, that person is genuinely trying to clarify issues. Still, they can’t read body language, or in the case of a non-video based call, eye rolls, to know when they should shut up and email the questions to the person in charge later. This is just one example, but there are plenty more that you are probably thinking of right now. Do any of them end up with gained time? Probably not. Most are actually more likely to waste time than anything else.
Balance Is Key
This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t incorporate technology into your work. It is key as the world becomes more connected. You just need to remember that we made it this far as a people and, technologically, because we were willing to sit down and hash things out with people. The greatest conversations can come from one person picking up on another person’s body language. At the same time, when you roll out a new policy at your place of business that needs to reach a large group spread throughout the world, simply get on a video conference and keep it brief and to the point. Email is a great way to get answers to burning questions quickly. It leaves a paper trail and point of reference as well. In the end, balance is what will make your business, or your career, more streamlined and return a bit of that work-life balance we all strive so hard to find.
What are your thoughts? Do you prefer video conferencing or the traditional face-to-face meetings? Let us know in the comments section below!