Distributed teams are fast realizing that bringing all team members on video calls synchronously all the time is unrealistic and unsustainable.
Zoom Fatigue is very real. Just ask Zoom CEO Eric Yuan.
Enter video messaging: a tool to combat both the burnout from endless video calls, as well as the constant pings and buzzes on work chats.
For distributed team members, video messaging is providing a robust solution for cross-departmental communication, onboarding, and much more.
“Video is so critical for our working process, from recruitment to daily meetings; we’ve been using video from the start. While it was great at first to be able to connect with each other, it got a bit overwhelming at times and exhausting to have to turn cameras on all the time,” she tells UNLEASH.
Just like Attaluri, for most teams working through the pandemic, the challenge was two-fold/
One, everyone wanted to mimic the same ease of communication and understanding as in-person meetings. Two, they didn’t want to keep “jumping on a call” every time there were questions or feedback, because the context switching was far too disruptive and hampered productivity.
For Attaluri, the benefits of video are undeniable, but video calls were too demanding. Today, she uses Loom across a variety of functions at her agency, including for feedback and edits, tutorials, and HR tasks.
Making communication asynchronous
Synchronous video meetings impair workflows due to endless context switching, but if you want to explain complex ideas or plans, demo a new product feature, or train new hires, then articulation, presentation, and rapport building are also important.
The choice seemed to be limited between endless video meetings or painstakingly writing lengthy messages.
For global teams with employees working across time zones, hopping on video calls — or just scheduling them — can be an arduous task.
The timings are going to be ungodly for at least one person on the team at all times. All the benefits of remote work that we talk about — flexibility, work-life balance, control over hours — would nullify in such a communication culture.
“As a fully distributed team, it doesn’t always make sense to rely on synchronous communication (video calls) as our team is spread across time zones. Instead, we also use asynchronous communication to communicate non-urgent messages,”Hailley Griffis, head of PR at Buffer, tells UNLEASH.
“While we do a lot of written communication using a tool called Threads, we also send video messages when it suits the topic (maybe explaining a project, or sharing information that would take too long in a written format) as it both helps make that communication more effective as well as lets us connect more as a fully remote team by seeing each other’s face and hearing each other’s voices.”
Video messages hit the sweet spot for organizations big and small: a) they provide the comfort of instant messaging with rich details and b) they help create a personal connection with the recipient.
Tools like Loom, CloudApp, Tella.tv, Snagit, Vidyard, among others, provide exactly this service: capture the screen, record the video, and share the link to your audio-visual message with the intended recipient.
As Michael Roberts, head of marketing automation at CloudApp, says “it provides essentially all the benefits of a meeting, but we don’t have to organize our schedule to get it done, which is really great.”
Making Zoom fatigue a thing of the past
One of the most pronounced benefits of a video messaging culture, therefore, is that team members no longer have to organize their schedule around a video call to get their answers, share updates, or move forward on a project.
At Buffer, Griffis shares: “Teams like engineering, design, product, and customer Advocacy regularly use video messaging to explain projects, speak with customers, or share updates.
“Our People team also uses video messaging to help teammates get to know each other, for example by sharing a video interview with a newer teammate.”
is an intersection of high-fidelity rich information, and async communication to help you replace not just meetings but all types of ad-hoc sync work. This, in turn, gives you more control over your time for deep work.”
It was this time-optimizing benefit of video messaging that the early adopters of such tools were drawn to.
“A product manager who wants to demo a product to executives who it’s harder to coordinate schedules with can show their progress asynchronously, get questions and answers upfront faster and quicker. Quality assurance (QA) people can report back by taking a video, pointing out exactly the areas that need attention, and share the link to the video on your text chat tool,” he adds.
What makes it work
“We learned that as a remote company, video can help build trust and empathy. We’ve worked with contractors and freelancers solely through email exchange and while it’s still possible to get work done, seeing that person on video [messages] allows us to build deeper connections,” Attaluri shares.
Research has also shown that our minds respond to seeing faces on the screen differently. It’s this emotional context unlocked by video messages that’s the game-changer, according to Hiremath.
“This is a huge part of culture building in teams. When you can see the face of the speaker, so much of the emotional range of how they feel about something gets captured. In the case of text, it’s very difficult. When people started adopting this tool for communication, they wanted to cut down the back-and-forth or ambiguity in communication.
“Now, it’s also about culture building and connecting by putting people’s faces to the screen.”
Roberts points out how the tool replicates the ease and personability of physical office communication; “it is the virtual equivalent of when you’d simply nudge the person seated next to you in the office to address a quick question…a conversation without interrupting your workflow.”
A big driver of the adoption of video messaging tools is the effortless integration with the rest of the tech stack.
The team at Buffer, for example, leverages multiple video messaging tools: they use Loom internally, sharing Looms via Threads or in Slack (where it can also be embedded), and CloudApp externally with customers through ZenDesk.
Annotations and comments can be added to add a layer of context, the final video can be shared as a link or embedded within the communication tools being used.
An evolving SaaS product
Broadly speaking, video messaging is being used for both documentation as well as messaging needs.
Most organizations witness a proliferation of use cases almost immediately after one employee or department uses it because it’s easy to see the benefits.
As the use of video at work scales up, one concern is regarding people feeling hesitant about recording their videos. The good news is that most tools allow this to be optional, but there are also innovative ways to bypass this.
Platforms like Itsme and Genies are creating expressive digital avatars for people to get comfortable with video messaging without feeling anxious about their looks.
Going forward, it’s also important to create a roadmap for the effective use and consumption of video messaging at scale.
Hiremath rightly points out that video as a format is really dense. To keep video messaging sustainable at work, the medium has to evolve to become more consumable and skimmable.
In the meantime, video messaging has a supplementary role to play within organizational communications; elevating communications where it can.