When you’re managing a remote team, it’s difficult to gauge accountability.
It’s not always clear when someone is online or offline or how long they work. Since accountability is one of the most critical components of distributed teams, team leaders often seek technology to solve the accountability challenge.
One of these solutions is "always on" video conferencing, where team members work in front of a camera that, you guessed it, is always on during the workday. Some organizations feel this makes it easier to connect and collaborate with this approach while holding the entire team accountable.
However, there are major disadvantages that come with these "always on" solutions. In time, they can actually be detrimental to your team for a few significant reasons.
Always On Video Conferencing: The Downsides For Remote Teams
There are a lot of questions that decision-makers have before adopting “always on” solutions, and the most common questions are valid. Will “always on” video conferencing put your team on edge? Does it suggest a lack of trust? In our experience, there are quite a few reasons not to adopt “always on” video conferencing.
1. Missed Context, Cues, And Connection
One of the negatives of video conferencing, in general, is not having the opportunity to pick up on physical cues. This is also an overall disadvantage of remote work. When you’re face-to-face, it’s easy to assess someone’s body language. You can sense whether or not they understand a question or if they feel uncomfortable. It’s easier to detect low morale.
Even "always on" video conferencing won’t solve this. It’s just a downside of working with a distributed team.
2. The Cost Of Software And Devices
If you choose to invest in always-on video conferencing software, you'll need to equip your team with the right software and devices. These can include headsets, video cameras, and microphones. Depending on the aesthetic you’re trying to create, you may also want to purchase backdrops and lighting for home offices.
While cost may not be a dealbreaker for most and depends on the quality of the tech you invest in, it’s another consideration to make.
3. Poor Audio and Video Quality
With most video conferencing platforms, there often times where the audio and video is poor. You have difficulty hearing someone talk during a meeting, there is audible noise in the background, or the screen is blurry and pixelated. This type of disconnection is difficult to predict, as it depends on the video software you’re using, as well as the strength of each team member’s internet connection.
“It puts you completely at the mercy of technology,” says Rachel Bridge of The Telegraph, “which may decide to stop working halfway through your meeting."
Although it doesn't happen all the time, it can be really distracting. One moment, you're in a good flow of conversation with someone, and the next, the video cuts out and the audio crackles.
4. Prevents Proper Time Management And Efficiency
When it comes to remote work, one of the best parts is the flexibility, freedom, and authority that people have over their own work. If you’re always on a video call, it’s similar to being back in an office, where anyone can pop in and interrupt what you’re doing.
Rather than getting into deep workflows, you're hopping on and off video chats. It defeats the whole purpose of remote work.
5. Erodes Trust And Morale With Your Team
Similar to web monitoring tools, "always on" video conferencing suggests a lack of trust. Even if your intentions are good, employees won't feel great about needing to be on camera all the time at work.
“It’s marketed as a way of building comradery and a team ethos, but surely it’s just going to be a distraction,” says Lucas of Video Conferencing Daily. “Furthermore, it plays right into the number one fear people have of video conferencing–seeing themselves on camera. Almost 60% of people feel more self-conscious when appearing on camera than they do in normal life.”
Overall, always being on camera can prevent employees from taking breaks or time off to take care of personal matters. It's very big brother-esque and for the most part, most employees don't care for it.
Fostering Better Communication And Collaboration For Remote Teams
If your team is struggling with collaborating, "always on" video isn't the answer. It can help with some of your pain points, but it won't solve all of your problems. The negatives may not be worth the positives.