Videoconferencing is an emerging technology, which enables people from any location, with the appropriate set of equipment, to communicate with each other in a virtual ‘face-to-face’ manner. The impact of videoconferencing on organizations has been extensive, with the effects of this technology growing as it becomes user-friendlier and the cost of equipment decreases. As a promising technological advance, videoconferencing has already had recent impacts upon some organizations.
From a positive perspective videoconferencing has permitted things like decreases in costs, greater flexibility, and heightened strategic opportunities. Nevertheless, caution must still be applied to videoconferencing, like any new device, with concern now emerging regarding the negative consequences of such technology. These extend too many areas for example interaction, psychological outcomes, and team dynamics. A primary impact of videoconferencing is that it allows more people to conduct work from home.
This has many implications such as reducing the levels of travel needed by employees and increasing the time they can spend with their family, etc. This aspect is particularly exciting in relation to disabled citizens, enabling them to do much of their work in the home office environment. It is important to note however, that this benefit is unevenly distributed throughout society. This is because people who require more sophisticated equipment or environments (assembly lines, construction areas, etc), have to be at their place of work and cannot operate from home.
Videoconferencing provides a cost-effective means of bringing a firm’s managers and employers together with customers. Estimates are that the average cost of a videoconference is about 10 percent that of a physical meeting. This is supported by research in the Business Research International showing that videoconferencing can provide businesses with a 90% saving, versus the cost of traveling to the meeting in person. This is another example of an uneven distribution in society, due to the fact that such systems will be of greater benefit to larger companies, who have clients in a wider variety of locations.
Videoconferencing also enables companies to have greater flexibility in their operations. Meetings can potentially be organized and held instantly no matter where the involved parties are. This permits greater communication throughout the company and heightened productivity. Currently however, such communication advantages only really exist for top management, who are the individuals with regular access to videoconferencing systems. This may change in the future as desktop videoconferencing begins to become the norm.
Videoconferencing has had positive impacts in allowing much greater sharing of expertise with and between companies. An example of this is the Sustainability Special Interest Group in New Zealand, which meets monthly through a video linked between Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin. This conference allows different experts to teach member companies about topics including the sustainable use of energy. Uneven distribution throughout society is apparent however; with the benefits of mass networking and linking with videoconferencing not being realized when an organized group is small.
Videoconferencing has also been used in an attempt to improve employee relations in certain companies. This is best seen in the case of global shipping company CSX, which has began looking into holding annual video meetings with all of their employees on a mass basis. This will allow the company to obtain higher quality feedback from staff in order to improve performance and to better satisfy their needs. Further the company has recently began allowing employee representation, the Transportation Communications Union, to use the system for union communications.
Director Geoffrey Fuller believes “this will get company/union issues dealt with quicker and more sensibly. ” This is an unexpected and paradoxical effect of the system with many predicting these videoconferencing systems would, if anything, cause union problems. It is also an example of an uneven distribution of benefits through society, with companies unable to afford such videoconferencing systems not being able to offer such services to their unions