Tools of Telepresence in Remote Working

Alec Saunders has an interesting observation over at Saunderslog.comabout the costs involved in some of the telepresence options availableto businesses looking to reduce travel overhead, especially in times oftravel adversity.

Five years ago, vide conferencing was the buzzword of the day, nowit’s telepresence – with the wacky virtual boardroom. As cool as it maybe to think you’re sitting in the same room as your geographicallydiverse colleagues, the pricetag is a bitter pill to swallow,especially when you consider how suspect the originalvideo-conferencing system worked. Everyone knows of the littlevideo-conferencing meeting room in their office. The one with thecomplicated infrastructure of TVs, ISDn lines and a remote control thatcould rival the nuclear warhead controls of the 1980s. In 10 years oftelecom, I’ve participated in video-conferencing less than a dozentimes. I’ve used my own $30 webcam more than that.

Of course, the idea of a special room, or dozens of special roomsacross the country that all look alike is curious, but is it reallynecessary? Are we making telepresence more complicated than it needs tobe, all for the sake of everyone having the same coloured walls behindthem? This looks effective in a episode of 24, but I’m not sure as tothe practicality in real world settings…

Alec has some decent alternatives, and none of them are going tocause budget conscious managers to blow a gasket, but I’ve come acrosssome interesting observations in the past week. I was interviewingfellow telecom types on their preferences for meetings, and brought upthe concept of webcams on conference calls to reduce the amount of“multitasking” that goes on… the overwhelming response was that webcamsweren’t ideal, that they were distracting and if you were a teleworkernormally, a webcam was going to make you invest more time in being*presentable* Video conferencing was fine if you had a room of executives, and roomsof other executives around the country, but the average worker wasn’tas interested in the bells and whistles as the exec types.

Myself- I’ve had various types of webcams, and the biggest struggle has beenin watching someone else on your screen. The position of the webcam isthe biggest problem. People are looking down at their screen, and thecam captures this pose – there’s very little eye contact, and that’s aHUGE distraction for me. Unless I’m looking at someone, and they are“looking back at me”, the conversation isn’t productive.

Am I the only one with this cam-peeve?

I’m remote today, and no, I haven’t brushed my hair yet.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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