Video conferencing enables face-to-face meetings between stakeholders in separate locations. It is different to video calling which is normally on a one-to-one call basis. The technology has developed rapidly in recent years, and is widely used by many global organisations. The advent of Voice over IP harnesses the underlying IP infrastructure to make cost effective communication possible. Video conferencing typically requires an appreciably higher bandwidth than video calls. We do not recommend eliminating all face-to-face meetings now that video conferencing is becoming more commonplace. Meeting in person is the most effective way of forging and nurturing healthy working relationships between colleagues in different locations. However the use of video conferencing technology is a worthwhile consideration when travel costs are prohibitive. While video conferencing cannot match the benefits of actual face-to-face meetings, there are a number of noteworthy advantages of this technology:
1) Travel cost savings
Travelling to and from meetings can be expensive when considering the costs associated with transportation, accommodation, and meals. The savings can be substantial; British telecommunications (BT Group) estimate the use of web and videoconferencing results in annual savings of £180 million for the company. BT have said that the technology has eliminated more than 860,000 face-to-face meetings and significantly cut their carbon footprint.
2) Time savings
Video conferencing allows employees to spend less time on travelling, and more time on performing their roles. Time savings during working hours equates to employee cost savings, due to the opportunity cost of work not performed whilst travelling. Time savings outside of normal working hours is likely to have a positive impact on business travellers work life balance. There are also usually administrative time savings associated with effort spent on researching and booking trips, not to mention time spent on submitting expense claims.
3) Reduction in carbon footprint
A reduction in business travel is likely to lead to a decrease in the company's carbon footprint. In addition to the environmental benefits, a reduction in the company's carbon footprint is usually well received by interested parties such as investors, and shareholders. Video conferencing offers an opportunity to reduce travel costs while simultaneously elevating the company's image through corporate social responsibility.
4) Telecommuting benefits
Telecommuting refers to a working arrangement where employees work outside of the principal office. Telecommuters typically work from home and communicate with the office over email, work chat, phone and video conferencing. Seeing others and showing yourself is very important in building and maintaining working relationships, as communication through body language is lost over other communication technologies. The use of video conferencing is an essential tool in facilitating interaction between workers in different locations.
5) More collaboration between offices in different geographies
Attendees at a video conference can quickly share ideas and knowledge. 'Meetings' can be held with staff from different offices and countries which may be based in different time zones. Documents can usually be shared on the screen during a video conference, which enables attendees to brainstorm ideas despite differences in time zones. Video conferencing is becoming increasingly popular as travel costs continue to increase. For example, the law firm Latham & Watkins ensures that members of the global team are continually connected and able to deliver an effective 24-7 service as part of their "follow the sun" model. This is in part facilitated through the use of video conferencing technology.