Improving and Maintaining Best-in-Class Video Conferencing Capabilities While Getting Back to the Office
Video conferencing has been on the rise in recent years. But COVID has thrown petrol on that particular fire, dramatically increasing its usage in a relatively short period of time.
While video conferencing has been integral to sustaining business operations throughout the pandemic, the setups many Australian companies are currently using are less than ideal. And that’s a problem as some businesses make the transition back into the workplace post-COVID. Without an efficient video conferencing framework in place, businesses put themselves at a competitive disadvantage and make everything from team collaboration to productivity more challenging.
To help prepare your organisation for getting back to the office, here’s everything you need to know about improving and maintaining best-in-class video conferencing capabilities:
5 Common Issues
The main problems Australian companies are experiencing with video conferencing can be summed up in the following categories:
1. Low-quality Tech
Many organisations are currently using technology that’s ill-equipped to handle their needs. Often, this takes the form of a cobbled-together network that helped them stay afloat during the peak of the pandemic crisis. But these systems often aren’t sustainable solutions for moving forward, and they may lag behind what many competitors have in place.
Basic webcams and poor audio tech, for example, lead to low call quality that can impact the efficiency of team collaboration. Having difficulty seeing and hearing one another puts a damper on team communication. Or, if the software is constantly locking up, staff end up wasting time getting back on track, which can result in virtual meetings running longer than they should.
2. Poor Rural Connectivity
While organisations in larger cities like Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane generally have access to high-speed internet, this isn’t always the case in many rural locations. A recent report by The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) discusses issues of latency, which is the delay in the sending and receiving of audio and video. Where too much latency exists, video is prone to freezing and delays.
According to the ACCC’s report, location matters when it comes to latency. Internet users in Western Australia experience significantly more latency with video conferencing platforms than those in Eastern Australia. As a result, organisations with a heavy base of workers in Western Australia are more likely to face connectivity problems than those in regional areas.
While initiatives are in place to improve internet speeds throughout the country — including an AUD$3.5 billion upgrade that should be completed by 2023 — it’s still a pervasive problem in many locations that organisations must consider as they plan to return to work.
3. User-related Issues
Another major challenge relates to the individual employees using video conferencing software. It is inevitable that some staff will be better at learning new technology than others. For those who struggle, asking them to get accustomed to such intensive tech can feel like a tall order.
Even those who are reasonably tech savvy may still find it difficult to handle the AV technology required for video conferencing on their own, from home. Systems are getting more complex, and updates are being continually made. Glitches will inevitably happen, and not everyone has the digital know-how to swiftly fix them.
As a result, many remote workers already struggle to keep up, which can hurt productivity. The uneven nature of return to work measures may mean these workers will struggle further when shuttling between home and office networks (and compensating for colleagues that are doing the same).
4. The Future Discontinuation of Certain Platforms
An obstacle some companies may not anticipate coming down the pipeline is the discontinuation of their current video conferencing solution. The big news here is that Skype for Business will be ending on July 31, 2021, with Microsoft encouraging users to use Microsoft Teams instead.
We’ll have more on this transition in future articles, but suffice it to say, if your team is used to a particular platform, being forced to migrate to something new can create a lot of friction.
5. Disparities in Video Conferencing Tech when returning to the office
One final factor to keep in mind when transitioning back to the workplace is the disparities that may occur between the people in the office using good tech and those still at home using lacklustre solutions. As of this writing, we’re at a critical juncture in the COVID pandemic, where many organisations are beginning to take a hybrid return-to-work approach, or at least plan for it. As a result, when video conferencing, they must account for the needs of both in-house and remote staff.
It’s highly likely that employees working from your physical office will be using more sophisticated tech than those working remotely. As a result, it’s important to come up with a framework that provides remote workers with the right setup, allowing them to operate at the same level as those working from your physical office; otherwise, collaboration and productivity can suffer.
Addressing Video Conferencing Challenges
With this clear picture of the specific challenges Australian organisations are facing when it comes to video conferencing, here are corresponding solutions to each issue:
1. Invest in up-to-date AV equipment
To begin, consider upgrading your AV equipment to technology that fully meets your team’s needs. With team collaboration through video conferencing tools like Zoom and Microsoft Teams now arguably as essential as smartphones and laptops, your AV needs the firepower to keep up.
Engagis, for example, offers a full range of cutting-edge AV components that help create a high quality meeting experience, including:
- Digital displays
- LED displays
- Smart fixed and PTZ cameras
- Audio DSP with Acoustic Echo Cancellation (AEC)
- Touch panel and no-touch control systems
- Wireless presentation
- Native Teams and Zoom rooms
Taken together, these and other resources allow your company to create a more robust video conferencing ecosystem — one that’s fully customised for your meeting room, presentation, and collaboration needs. In turn, you can dramatically improve the user experience for staff during meetings.
Engagis partners with some of the world’s leading vendors and manufacturers like Crestron, Samsung, and Logitech to create a top-of-the-line video conferencing experience. We’ll work with you to come up with the optimal solution — all while providing high-level support and maintenance.
2. Ensure you’re getting appropriate internet speeds
Although there are multiple factors that affect the quality of video conferencing calls, having a solid internet connection is absolutely vital. Having lower upload speeds tends to reduce the quality of virtual meetings, while higher upload speeds tends to improve it.
As mentioned earlier, there’s often a gap between internet speed in regional areas and rural ones. The Parliament of Australia writes that, “living in rural or regional areas does not in itself determine internet access, but there remains a regional dimension to the digital divide.”
While there isn’t necessarily a cure-all solution to internet bandwidth problems for remote workers in rural locations, you can at least understand the extent of the issue by running speed tests at each worker’s location.
If you encounter any issues, you can contact the internet provider to explore other plans through them, consider paying for a competitor that offers faster service, or change your expectations for whether or not remote workers in poor service areas must turn on their video at team meetings.
3. Place an emphasis on Staff Training
When it comes to addressing user-related issues, some people naturally catch on to video conferencing software more quickly than others. For this reason, it may make sense to continue offering training to your less tech-savvy team members to help them become more skilled with your chosen video conferencing platform.
Fortunately, there are plenty of resources available to streamline this process.
Zoom, for example, offers robust training resources featuring video tutorials, live training, and webinars and events. Video tutorials can walk employees through everything from getting started and AV sharing, to messaging and Zoom rooms. They also host free, daily live training sessions that can get users up to speed in less than an hour.
Microsoft Teams also has a helpful learning section, complete with:
- A quick start guide
- Training videos
- Training courses
Although you might think that staff training will have little impact now that we’re nearly a year into the COVID pandemic, consider team members who may have been too busy trying to stay afloat amidst rapid work-from-home transitions (or too embarrassed to ask for help). If employees continue to have frustrations with their current video conferencing setups, training may still be worth pursuing.
4. Partner with a Migration Expert
The discontinuation of platforms like Skype for Business puts organisations in a difficult position. Even if you’re ultra tech-savvy and know the ins and outs of video conferencing platforms, no company in the world is going to enjoy the hassle of a platform migration.
If you find yourself in this situation, make the process smoother by partnering with a migration expert who can aid in the journey. Such a partner can decrease costs and frustrations by recommending the right video conferencing software and assisting you in deploying and maintaining your new solution.
Besides certain video conferencing platforms being discontinued, companies may also have to deal with digital signage vendors/service providers making massive changes to their offerings — or even exiting the market entirely. When this happens, a migration expert can be invaluable in terms of making suggestions on replacements and upgrades.
Engagis, for instance, has extensive experience designing and deploying digital media networks, as well as in migrating a portion or all of a solution from other vendors. Not only can we help you find the right AV tech for your needs, we can install the screens needed to run them, eliminating migration stress on your end.
5. Equip Remote Staff with the Right Technology
The final piece of the video conferencing puzzle is getting the right technology into the hands of your remote workers. Merely having a laptop with a built-in camera won’t always cut it; you’ll often need to go well beyond the bare minimum to equip them for success.
Here are some specific factors to consider to ensure remote staff have adequate technology:
- HD or 4K video quality: This should provide employees with crisp video during meetings.
- Camera stability: A quality camera will be capable of producing a sharp focus and quickly stabilise if bumped or readjusted.
- Dedicated audio hardware: Whilst a meeting can continue without video, it can’t without audio. A quality speakerphone or microphone will dramatically increase the quality of speech received by meeting participants, ensuring nothing is missed. Likewise, quality audio playback reduces strain and fatigue, allowing participants to remain engaged in the meeting.
- The ability to handle several participants: Some hardware can accommodate a larger number of meeting participants than others. Ideally, your chosen solution will be able to handle at least six.
- Certified peripherals: Any hardware you choose should be capable of integrating with popular video conferencing platforms like Zoom and Microsoft Teams without any user intervention or manipulation.
Engagis can help recommend and provide AV solutions for remote workers at home in combination with our in-office meeting room solutions, helping to create a uniform experience between work and home.
Ultimately, as COVID restrictions ease and life in general normalises, staff will begin gradually returning to the workplace throughout Australia. That said, a good chunk of employees will continue to work remotely for the foreseeable future — a trend modern organisations must account for.
Many companies have made the shift to video conferencing, but have setups that are less than ideal. In particular, low-quality tech, poor rural connectivity, user-related issues, certain platforms becoming defunct, and disparities in tech between in-office workers and remote workers pose problems.
Fortunately, these are all issues that can be overcome, largely by investing in up-to-date AV equipment and ensuring remote workers have access to high-speed internet and proper training on how to use video conferencing tools.
Want expert help on how to find and maintain a best-in-class video conferencing setup, while supporting a hybrid mix of technology for remote and on-site workers? Reach out to the professionals at Engagis today for customised recommendations.