For many working professionals the growth and adoption of hybrid working has been a welcome change, providing them with an opportunity to have a greater work-life balance, taking away the need for long commutes. With more than 40% of Australians working from home now according to ABS, it’s fast become apparent that the era of hybrid working is here to stay. But what implications does that have on the workplace?

Naturally, hybrid work is heavily dependent on technology. As it becomes more prevalent, video collaboration tools such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams helped employees communicate face-to-face from anywhere.

However, as with any digital transformation, working with new and emerging technology also presents challenges. For a start, employers and employees alike may struggle to keep up with rapidly changing technology. And even if they do, remote work technology provides new obstacles. For instance, so many of the softer skills of business are learned through observation of senior leaders or peers. Similarly, many good working relationships are founded through social interactions outside of the office, the classic ‘watercooler’ moments or perhaps over a quick pint before catching the train home.

It’s safe to say that video technology defines and shapes the modern hybrid working culture. But with so much to learn, how can leaders get their teams up to speed and retain strong communication while working remotely?

How retailers are using video tools to engage their people and enable hybrid working

The best video technology is all about keeping it simple. Simple devices that are super easy to install and use – they just work.  Crucial in our current hybrid way of working, where teams need to be able to easily meet, collaborate on projects and make decisions that simply get the job done. Whether that be meeting with a supplier to review samples for a new seasonal range or catching up with a team member for a performance appraisal. Regardless of the task at hand, the best video meetings are those that focus on the experience of coming together, engaging, collaborating, debating – just as people would in person.

When it comes to video technology and adopting hybrid working, retailer IKEUCHI ORGANIC, a Japanese store that offers organic towels, is an example of how to do this efficiently. The company used video technology to improve their internal workflow and support virtual shopping experiences for customers wanting to experience products before buying.

Not only does IKEUCHI ORGANIC engage in online events from its Imabari headquarters to connect with consumers, but they also use video to connect with organic cotton producers in Tanzania and Switzerland. The CEO of IKEUCHI ORGANIC Mr Ikuchi said using video helped them “to build business relationships, especially in places like Tanzania, which is thousands of miles from Japan.”

In another example, Incu, a major high-end Australian fashion retailer wanted to create a stronger sense of community and collaboration among their dispersed workforce during lockdowns. Doug Low, Incu CEO says, “I think the way that we run the business is that we love to discuss things, because something will come out of that organically that you haven’t originally thought about. It’s about trading those ideas. Neat allows for that because it’s natural- like sitting next to someone and discussing things, which is always going to be much better in that open environment.”

Regional manager of Incu Paul Mangila also added, “It has improved our culture in terms of maintaining and building relationships, collaboration on projects and making people feel involved in the bigger business. It’s given interstate team members more of a touch point, and keeps them connected to the office, which is otherwise hard to do.”

As video collaboration becomes core to working life and collaboration, demand for seamless and intuitive solutions will continue to grow. In a highly visual industry such as retail, it is expected that video technology will continue to be a significant part of the industry shift to hybrid working models.

Top tips for getting the most out of video technology

Without video technology, the hybrid working model would not be what it is today. But it isn’t always as simple as turning on a camera and pressing ‘join’. Whatever it is that brings people together, the technology and equipment should not hinder that interaction.

The reality is most organisations will adopt video technology if they haven’t already. With the rapid growth of hybrid working, here are my top tips on how to efficiently use video to enhance communication:
1. Your tech equipment is an extension of your brand:

Nothing screams behind the curve to a prospective client more than a glitchy first meet, like a set-up that takes forever, scrappy audio and irritating background noise. We’ve all been on those calls, the ones we can’t wait to get off. I believe it is important to invest in next generation video collaboration devices that are easy and intuitive to use and block out background noise. You want the technology to not be the centre point for conversation and for the focus to be on the communication – not the audio problems you may be facing.

2. Remember to value your staff, because it’s all too easy to forget:

Out of sight out of mind is a phrase that comes to mind with this tip- when it comes to improving communication amongst staff using video, one of the best ways to make your staff feel valued and ‘in the loop’ so to speak, is to proactively schedule one-on-one meetings via video call. These conversations provide you a chance to check how each person is doing and prevent them from feeling like they’re being lost in the shuffle. Sometimes email checks ins aren’t enough- and video calling gives you a better sense of how your staff are doing.

3. Build a strong video presence
Effective speaking and listening are key to successful meeting and in the era of hybrid working, communication style has been brought more into focus. Identify whether you are task-oriented or facilitative-oriented and manage your style smartly, so you can operate more consciously and mindfully in meetings.

Good communication fosters better productivity in a hybrid workplace. As video technology develops, it should become less about the equipment and more about the conversations and connections. The future of video meetings in a hybrid workplace helps people put their best digital selves forward, whether they choose to work on site or online.

Paul Falzon is regional director for Australia and New Zealand at Neat.