With the gender pay gap and equality in the workplace a pressing priority for organisations, we look at how the introduction of video conferencing can help to address gender balance
Video conferencing is accelerating in popularity in the workplace. Simple video applications like Skype or Google Hangouts can bring people together effortlessly. And it allows them to enjoy the benefits of speaking to someone face to face, even if they are working miles away. Using an inbuilt laptop camera, a plug-in camera or a full-on conferencing suite, video conferencing saves time and money on business travel. It also provides a greater opportunity for relationship building and collaboration than with telephone calls and email alone. So what role can video conferencing play in addressing gender balance in the workplace?
Video conferencing is particularly useful for anyone who wants or needs to work from home. And working mums certainly come into that category. As a working mum myself, I would simply not be able to work without video communication, and I’m lucky that I eventually found an organisation that allowed me to do just that.
Before children, I commuted for three hours a day, leaving my home town at 7:15am and returning twelve hours later. When I had kids, it just wasn’t sustainable to continue this. So I left my London job (where I had recently had a promotion) and became a full time mum.
And it’s a familiar story. The result is of course is under-representation of women in the workforce, and in particular, senior positions, as women either step out of work or miss out on promotion due to the seemingly impossible task to ‘have it all’.
Having an opportunity to work from home can certainly help to address this. It eliminates the commute, giving you more time at home with your family, and allows parents to be on hand for school meetings or doctors appointments where needed. But working from home has long been frowned upon by businesses and managers who favour presenteeism over output. And even progressive organisations like Yahoo and IBM have curtailed home working as collaboration and innovation can be impeded when people aren’t working together in the same office. But video communication can help to overcome that.
Video conferencing allows people to join meetings from a remote location. So you don’t have to travel to take part. But desktop video calling takes collaboration to a deeper level. Company-wide cloud solutions like Skype for Business or StarLeaf allow colleagues to interact with each other, face to face, from their desktops at the touch of a button. It’s like making a phone call – but you just use video. So you can have the same sense of popping round to someone’s desk, but you can be in different places.
For organisations who have made the culture-shift from telephone to video calling the results are impressive: improved relationships, better communication, more regular opportunities for collaboration – both with other colleagues and people outside the business. Video calls can be made to anyone with an internet connection and a web cam (yes inbuilt laptop cameras work fine!) so it can be used universally.
And it’s not just about women and working mums. A recent study by Deloitte and flexible working experts Timewise, suggests that only by providing a flexible working culture for everyone can we truly address gender balance in the workplace. The challenge is that people who work more flexibly and from home often feel they have less status and importance because of this, with many claiming to have missed out on promotion because of their flexible working. But if we can normalise non-traditional working across the workforce, for everyone, it stops the stigma of working from home and flexible working patterns.
Chief Executive of Timewise, Karen Mattison said, “The traditional workplace was designed for a family structure in which one person stayed at home and another went out to work. This is no longer the case for the majority of UK households. Employers need to catch up with the needs and aspirations of the modern workforce, or risk getting left behind.”
Video conferencing offers a practical way to give working mothers and indeed workers generally, an increased sense of work-life balance. This ultimately helps with staff retention and can be a great incentive to recruit the best talent – both women and men – who either need or simply want a job that allows them to work away from the office.
So if you are looking to provide a working environment that supports women returning to work, that addresses gender balance, whilst boosting staff retention and talent acquisition, video conferencing should definitely be a consideration. At TecInteractive, we support organisations that are either looking to introduce video conferencing or improve their existing video conferencing system. Whether you are looking for additional hardware or a complete cloud-based solution, we work across a range of brands and manufacturers so that we can help you find the solution that is right for you. Contact us to find out more.