Workers around the country are packing up, purloining potted desk succulents, and trading their work desks for the ones at home. Today, 63% of workers are remote (for at least one day per week) according to The New York Times, up from 34% in 2005. 

There are a number of reasons behind this shift. Sure, communication technology makes it possible, but workers are also demanding more flexibility while companies are finding less value in paying for high-priced real estate. Together, they’re agreeing on a new contract for work-life balance but, without everyone in the same building, they’re also finding that it’s harder than ever to maintain their office culture.

Remote workers bring home new challenges

Remote working offers both advantages and disadvantages. The Harvard Business Review reported that when the travel website Ctrip allowed workers to telecommute, the company not only saved $1,900 per month per worker, but those employees also “started earlier, took shorter breaks, and worked until the end of the day.” With no commute or line-of-sight supervision, employees had time to handle personal matters and were overall more productive. But, precisely because of that self-focus, company cohesion also suffered, and in Ctrip’s case, many employees felt isolated and opted to return to onsite work.

Without the chit-chat around the water cooler, life can be stressful. According to a study by the International Labour Organization, 40% of remote workers reported high levels of stress compared to only 25% of their onsite colleagues. It can also lead to less cooperation: According to Fast Company, “company culture doesn’t necessarily translate virtually” and remote peers are more prone to disagreement. The cost of cohesion has been enough to convince very large companies like Yahoo!, Aetna, and most recently, IBM, to reverse their remote worker policies. IBM, in particular, cited a desire to “improve collaboration and accelerate the pace of work.”

Yet, as remote working marches on, companies will have to find a solution to the remote culture challenge, and some are discovering it in the use of inter-office video.

Video killed the never-ending email thread

The next big internal communications wave is video, and it’s being used to revitalize remote company culture. Much of what leads to remote worker isolation in the first place is that all the classic inter-office communication channels like email, message apps, text, and phone calls cull down people’s personalities. When so much of our communication is nonverbal, video brings it all streaming back.

Check out this example that I sent around to our entire team, across the globe, when we launched a recent content asset, our video in business benchmark report:

When peers can see the smiles, gestures, winks, grins, yawns, and scoffs of their peers, they bond. And when video is even easier than composing an email, people can share more unfiltered thoughts and pipe more personality across the airwaves.  

Some executives have realized this and are encouraging video from the top-down. Ryan Holmes, CEO of Hootsuite, a social media software with offices in eight countries, has chosen to use recorded videos for communicating real-time thoughts to the company. “These quick smartphone videos are the best way I’ve found to deliver that,” Holmes told Fast Company. Even here at Vidyard, our CEO Michael Litt shares monthly video selfie updates (although he’s eager to try virtual reality for a remote work experience, too!) that are informal and brimming with personality. He’s constantly on the road, but we barely notice it (sorry Michael) because we’re always hearing him and seeing his mug.

Here’s a recent example he sent the team:

Other companies are encouraging peer-to-peer video messages where co-workers can connect with each other on a daily basis. Virgin Pulse, an HR software firm with ten offices around the world and hundreds of employees working remotely, finds that using apps like FaceTime and other video chat tools help remote employees feel included, reports Fast Company. And across the country, we’re seeing workers utilize Vidyard’s own free video sharing tool Vidyard GoVideo (Formerly ViewedIt) for sharing peer-to-peer thoughts, employee onboarding, capturing meetings, sharing weekly stand-ups, working through problems, product feedback, and in lieu of long-winded emails.

As companies become more and more global, even staying in touch across different offices and different countries can become a challenge. While formal company updates are always shared, it’s the smaller moments full of personality that often contribute more to building a great remote culture. With our second office opening up across the country in Vancouver, we’ve been putting this into play. Here’s the first video we received from the Vancouver team to give us a not-so-formal tour of their digs:

The result of all this video is that remote employees have exposure to the personalities of the people they work with and can build those core bonds and a cohesive culture that makes companies successful.

The future of work may be remote, but with the use of video, your culture doesn’t have to feel like it.

Want to Turn Employees into Advocates using video at your company? Download Vidyard GoVideo to capture and share videos with one click.

Kimbe MacMaster