To put my own US$ 0.02 in, video calls allow for significant bandwidth, especially when screen-sharing or having private conversations. I’ve used it very effectively mentoring junior members of the team. Yes, it doesn’t get shared, but many of the questions and answers require context to be understood by someone else. I can teach someone in more in twenties minutes than entire blogs can in weeks.
And a but more on point, my teams likes how we use video calls. We like seeing each other. We like the little side comments and jokes we make.
What we do do is aggressively avoid meetings and video calls where they don’t add value.
I agree with you. I don’t want all 1:1 video calls to get lumped in with the “useless meetings” bucket. When I want to ask a quick question, if someone is available (and that’s always the first question) you can sort it out in minutes on a video call where it might be a bunch of async back and forth on slack or something. Which is also ok, but more to the point, video calls are sometimes all the face to face interaction we’re getting some days, and I like seeing the people I work with, because I like them! Is that too much to ask for once and a while?
The opposite is also true.
Ask me a question in text and I might need 30s to think about it, reread it twice for all the details and find you an answer in 90s.
Or you could call me and I need you to repeat everything three times and I can’t collect my thoughts. Bonus points for names of certain systems or things I’ve never heard about or would only rediscover in my notes because someone mentioned it months ago.
But I’m not saying video calls are useless. We do a ton of screen sharing in my team, but we’re with the author. There needs to be a reason, or an agenda. You show something because it’s better suited than typing.
On the other hands, more stuff should be in the team chat and not in video calls between single members. That info is lost forever unless people write it down after the fact. I regularly re-paste my chat answers, because I can magically find them again with just one key word, unlike any call conversations.
The WFH dialog seems to be dominated by “I don’t like interacting with people, ergo doing so is terrible for productivity” and the converse. Outside of that one Microsoft study (that I haven’t looked at closely enough to evaluate), I haven’t seen much that isn’t just people asserting their personal preferences were coincidentally crucial to team performance.
Yup. That’s why I said my team likes our meetings.
For mentoring junior developers, I can’t see any way other than video to effectively teach. My impression from articles like this is the person writing them does not consider leveling up their team a high priority. I hope I am wrong.
But I have my own bias. My coworkers are intelligent, but inexperienced. I personally get a lot of satisfaction out of teaching them. XKCD said it best: https://xkcd.com/1053/
I’ve also found that teaching significantly improves my own skills. And I learn just as much from my coworkers as they learn from me.
Sensitivity to preference is implicit in my “are they available” question. I just mean that I fundamentally think quick 1:1 calls are not in the same category as “this meeting could have been an email” meetings that waste hours of whole departments’ time.
To clarify, my comment was more directed at the original post than your comment. I nested it since I felt I was building on those comments.
I think “this meeting could have been an email” is tangential to remote/in-office. The problems and solutions are pretty much the same. Personally, I find unnecessary meetings to be less annoying remote as they can either be a chance for interacting with people/fighting loneliness and/or I just turn my camera off and do work.
An accessibility gripe: the author’s use of emojis made it quite hard to read the tables with comparisons of different communication mechanisms. At least on MacOS, the emoji glyphs without skin-color modifiers are identically-colored faces with just a few pixels’ difference in the mouths. As someone with less-than-perfect vision, I had to crank my browser’s zoom level up to 200% to read that part of the article.
For an article about clear and concise communication, it struck me as pretty ironic. That information would have been more clearly conveyed as text or, if the author really wanted emoji, as different numbers of stars.
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Not here. I can still read faster than I can absorb audio, I can search and skim, and.. I can read while in the office or on a video call, when I wouldn’t be able to listen at all. I’m really frustrated at the decline in actual writing on the web. If you want to have audio, please at least have a transcript.
More on topic to this article, I find it a huge pain in the ass that my company has decided to start sharing all of the really important top-level information in a 90 minute company-wide video “town hall” with no agenda and no summary. Generally no more than 5 minutes of it is relevant to me, but I have to sit through all of it to find out, or else miss out – but it won’t change because the execs want to believe that every minute of it is essential for everyone.