Attitudes on Videoconferencing Start to Shift in Response to Global Health Emergency

Global Health Emergency, Response, Videoconferencing, Adopting video conferencing technology, Zoom, Google, Cisco

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The video conferencing industry has enjoyed a number of years of significant growth across the globe. However, the amount of companies adopting video conferencing technology does not equate to the same level of actual usage. There are many reasons for this, but perhaps one of the major factors is the cultural shift needed to fully embrace video communications.

Cultural barriers include people preferring not to appear on camera (particularly when they can see themselves), being unsure of etiquette, not wanting to be seen in casual attire or not wanting to reveal their domestic surroundings when working from home. Failing to see the benefit of the technology or simply feeling uncomfortable with using it also remains significant.

This is further supported by Futuresource research. Data reveals that the leading reasons for individuals choosing not to use video in a conference session is a feeling of it being unnecessary for the type of meeting (54% of respondents) and an uncomfortableness with being on camera (24% of respondents).

This feeling of discomfort stems from a lack of understanding on how to use the video conferencing kit in the first place, leading to a rising installed base of VC enabled rooms that some employees just aren’t using.

While some companies actively encourage employees to embrace new technologies via offering training or by making it a work objective, sometimes circumstances intervene.

This is the case with the COVID-19 virus health emergency, which has caused share prices of key video conferencing platforms to soar. The spread of the virus has caused the Chinese government to request 18 million people to remain housebound and schools have been shut in Japan and Italy to contain the outbreak. In turn, as companies across the world adapt to staff working from home, video conferencing and related collaboration tools have been made a necessity despite existing cultural barriers.

Google and Twitter were some of the first global companies to “strongly encourage” their employees to work from home, affecting 8000 Google employees in Dublin and 5000 Twitter employees worldwide. The UK’s National Health Service (NHS) will also attempt to see as many people as possible via video conferencing when it comes to Coronavirus wards, thus keeping medical staff as safe as possible.

The unprecedented uptake of videoconferencing becomes evident when we look at the figures. Zoom Video Communications added more users this year than throughout the whole of 2019 (2.22 million monthly active users vs 1.99 million). This has resulted in Zoom’s share prices being up by 40% in February, their highest price since Zoom went public.

Responding to the situation, videoconferencing companies such as Zoom, Google and Cisco have made their services, or elements of their services, free of charge during this time, which has only encouraged uptake.

While situations like this may cause short-term spikes in adoption, the wider impact will be felt in the coming months and years. The health emergency is forcing companies and individuals to break down barriers, both real and imagined, in order to continue to work with some semblance of normality.

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