Face the future: Video technologies gain traction in workplace communication

Video technologies are reframing the workplace by offering ways for people to interact face to face without having to assemble in the same room.

The technologies – from Skype to Zoom to Google Hangouts to Apple’s FaceTime – are connecting employees, contractors, consultants, vendors, clients and customers whether for one-on-one sessions or in groups.

Lindsay Watson, co-founder of FIA Employment Services in Allentown, said video calls and meetings make business connections more personalized.

“What’s fantastic about the online meeting platform is if we can’t be face to face for any reason, we can still connect,” Watson said.

She said FIA employs remote workers and video meetings help with training.

“We can see each other’s facial expressions, and we can do this regardless of where we’re located,” Watson said.

She said screen sharing was a big plus, too.

As it is for Paul Marrella, a wealth manager at Marrella Financial Group LLC in Wyomissing, who uses screen sharing in his work with clients.

“Helping with taxes is a great example,” Marrella said. Using the screen share function, he can point out a particular line or issue with a client.

Marrella said he has used Zoom and Skype video conferencing to offer consulting services. And thanks to video technologies, he has maintained relationships with clients even when they move out of the area.

“The visual component is going to replace the voice transaction of a phone call,” Marrella said.

Over-reliant?

Scott Flaherty said his firm uses Android phones and WhatsApp video-calling to support technicians in the field.

Flaherty is director of operations for Altek Business Systems, a business equipment company in Telford, Bucks County.

“If our technicians are out in the field and experience something out in the field they’ve not seen before, has been very useful,” Flaherty said.

He said taking photos of a problem can be helpful. But video adds an extra element. Having a supervisor or veteran technician on hand via video to “troubleshoot noises or a hum was something we couldn’t do before,” Flaherty said.

“Multiple technicians are able to help you with one technician on site,” Flaherty said.

He said the only downside was dependence on the technology for remote support. “I think we become reliant on it,” Flaherty said.

Because of the ease of use and quick response time, new, less-experienced field technicians at a customer’s office might not “hit the manual” before bringing a problem to a supervisor.

“What happens is our technicians may not be learning to troubleshoot – they become more reliant on our supervisors rather than discovering the [answers] for themselves,” Flaherty said.

He said in years past technicians carried product service manuals and had to research field problems on the fly. “Sometimes with face-timing we skip the step of doing the service manual,” he said.

He noted supervisors with extensive field experience did save repair time. “Ultimately keeping customers happy is everyone’s goal. If we can fix the problem right away, face time is the path of least resistance,” Flaherty said.

Issues of privacy, connection

Suparna Damany owns and operates Damany Center for Chronic Pain and Holistic Well-Being in Allentown. She often treats patients via video link, typically FaceTime or Skype.

“We can do a consult, provide remote ergonomic advice and even do a stretch session for [several] people at the same time,” Damany said.

She said the only downside is when the Wi-Fi on either side of the connection isn’t working. “But I think that’s minor compared to the benefits,” Damany said.

Jacob Sitman, a shareholder at law firm Fitzpatrick, Lentz and Bubba PC in Upper Saucon Township, noted confidentiality questions and issues can arise from using video calling technologies. Sitman specializes in employment law.

“You want to avoid transmitting proprietary data or trade secrets” that might be in the background of the call, Sitman said.

He noted Pennsylvania is a “two-party consent state” so anyone on the call, or in the background of the call, technically must agree to be there.

Still, he added, video has value.

“It’s a great tool when it works well,” Sitman said.

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