Stop being a remote recluse. Why remote work needs real-time communication by default.

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I often see a hyped up pitch of remote work that asynchronous communication (text chat + video calling from time to time) is enough, you just have to adapt to it.

I don’t agree with that.

Asynchronous communication is great when a teammate has complete and clearly defined tasks. He can get himself secluded to stay focused to complete the tasks. It is better for him not to interact with fellow teammates to avoid unnecessary interruptions, stay in the state of the flow and get things done.

But how often does a team member have complete and clearly defined tasks? Not often. Usually, tasks are not complete. They often need clarifications, more brainstorming, advice from other teammates. Work is usually a boiling pot with discussions, questions, helping others and getting help from others. Staying in the state of flow is often mixed with interaction with others.

That’s when real-time synchronous communication is needed. That’s why in the long term, asynchronous communication makes a remote worker a hermit. It separates people.

Have you ever worked in a company where people sit in the same room with their headsets on, preferring to talk via text chat instead of face to face? I have. You can feel the air of isolation and separation in teams like that. You’d think a couple of times before approaching someone to talk face to face. Why? Well, because you think he is super busy, and he doesn’t want to be interrupted. At least he looks busy. And it is the norm that everyone prefers text chat and async communication in general. Separation only grows over time.

Having real-time face to face as a default mode of communication, allows teammates to interact in a more creative and diverse way. People know each other better. They can socialize and have fun. Over time the team forms some kind of a collective mind. The ability to communicate face to face by default means that the relationships within the team are staying healthy.

That is why many companies prefer open office plans because it forces teammates to have a real-time face to face communication as a default. It also prevents team members from isolating themselves and resorting to async communication as a primary mode.

What about remote workers? 

The bad news is that remote work forces to communicate asynchronously. The usual configuration is text chat + video (or even only audio) calling. Remote teammates are isolated. In such a situation it is difficult to create the same real-time face to face communication environment that you have in an open office.

You can make a Skype call and leave it always-on. Somebody does that, actually. It can work but it feels unnatural.

First, working remotely usually means working from home, often “in pants.” Nobody wants to be seen the same way as you are seen in the office wearing office clothes.

Second, software like Skype allows others to look you straight in the face in full screen. They can see every little tiny wrinkle on your face without you knowing that. Isn’t it big brother-ish? It feels awkward and weird.

Third, anyone can turn the camera off unless a team manager forces everyone to remain live-streaming. Considering the awkwardness, it can be tiresome for the team members.

So, what kind of solution could be for the mentioned problems?

Live video communication with privacy

First, everyone should feel comfortable while remaining connected via live video. One solution to implement that – to be blurred by default:

You can see that the guy is there but it is not clear what he’s doing and how he’s dressed up.

Second, a remote teammate should be aware of how others can see him, to avoid cases when others can see something, that he doesn’t expect them to see.

Third, there should be no unexpected things happening. Like when it takes only a second to unblur a teammate. It’s not cool to be suddenly unblurred when you’re picking your nose.

Every change of privacy should be notified upon and should be gradual. So, the teammate could prepare himself (get a finger out of his nose).

Is there any tool that does the mentioned things? Well, now there is one – VideoWorkLink (VWL).

It’s an experimental tool that has all the features described above. VWL allows remote teammates to remain connected via live video without feeling discomfort. The one that they’d feel in an always-on Skype video call.

Conclusion

In this article, I want to make a point that remote work needs real time face to face communication by default in order to continue winning the minds of team managers. Having only async communication is not enough for successful collaboration over the long term.

P.S.

To solve the problems mentioned in this article I’ve created the product – VideoWorkLink (VWL). I encourage you to try it out (it is in free beta) and let me know what you think! You can download it by clicking the button below.

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How can a team of 5 communicate 20 times faster

VideoWorkLink (VWL) boosts the speed of remote work by speeding up your communication with remote teammates.

Below you can find info-graphic illustrating how VWL can speed up communication up to 20 times for the team of 5.

The left column (Old Way) illustrates how most remote teams communicate today – asynchronously using video-calling.

The right column illustrates the new way of communication – continuous live video communication through VWL.

As you can see below, video-calling is awkward and has lots of barriers. Such awkwardness increases dramatically with a number of people in the team.

VWL eliminates barriers and boost the speed of communication 4x times, where X is a number of remote teammates.

That means that a team of 5 can communicate 20 times faster.

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Какую проблему решает VideoWorkLink?

Офис Slack Technologies в Сан-Франциско. Многие стартапы, в том числе Slack, любят открытый офисный план, как показано на фотографии выше. Знаете почему? Из-за возможности спонтанной коммуникации.

Отсутствие спонтанной коммуникации в творческих командах (дизайнеров, программистов, архитекторов и т.д.), разбросанных по разным местам (комнатам в офисе, городам, странам), является проблемой, которую вам необходимо решить, чтобы ваша команда была единым слаженным целым.

Разбросанный коллектив похож на сеть отдельных независимых людей, а не на объединенное целое. Это похоже на офис, в котором коллеги находятся в отдельных комнатах с дверями, закрытыми изнутри.

Если вы хотите войти в тесный контакт с коллегой, вам нужно «постучать» – сделать видеозвонок. Коллега, конечно, должен ответить на него.

Это делает спонтанное общение – невозможным.

Текстовый чат помогает, но печатать – это гораздо медленнее, чем говорить. Более того, он асинхронный – вы не можете получить немедленный ответ после того, как вы отправили сообщение. Еще одна задержка. Чат быстро становится перегруженным сообщениями, и за ними сложно поспевать.

Вы скажете, что можно сделать видеозвонок и оставить его работающим навсегда.

Да, но видеозвонки не предназначены для того, чтобы их оставлять работающими навсегда. Скорее всего, у вас будет высокое потребление Интернета, высокая загрузка процессора. Более того, каждый сможет наблюдать за вами (в высоком разрешении), и вы не будете знать об этом. Это как будто кто-то смотрит на вас вплотную лицом к лицу, а вы не знаете об этом.

Хотели бы вы, чтобы на вас могли так смотреть? Я так не думаю. Вот почему никто не оставляет видеозвонки навсегда.

Без спонтанной коммуникации ваша совместная работа значительно замедляется.

Поскольку возможностей для спонтанной коммуникации не существует, команда должна полагаться на видео-звонки или на запланированные видеоконференции, чтобы выполнять свою работу.

Однако, поскольку организация видеоконференций требует усилий и времени, результатом этого является низкая общая их частота. Эта низкая частота видеоконференций, в свою очередь, приводит к редкой координации коллег по совместной работе, в частности, к редкой координации плана совместной работы.

Таким образом, коллеги не своевременно дают друг другу обратную связь по направлениям, по которым должна идти совместная работа, и поэтому она занимает больше времени.

Эта проблема не становится явной для коллег, потому что каждая видеоконференция кажется продуктивной и полезной, и у них не было других, спонтанных контактов, которые они могли бы использовать для дополнения этих конференций.

На сегодняшний день на рынке имеются программные продукты для постоянной аудиосвязи – такие, как TeamSpeak, Mumble, Ventrilo, Discord. Но одной аудиосвязи недостаточно для спонтанной коммуникации, потому что не возможно заранее узнать, готов ли ваш коллега к контакту, присутствует ли он, и слушает ли он.

Также, есть продукты типа Sneek и Nowbridge. Несмотря на некоторые неудобства, они обеспечивают ощущение присутствия и предоставляют возможность мгновенного тесного контакта. Но это по-прежнему не спонтанное общение, потому что вам все равно нужно установить аудиосоединение, чтобы пообщаться с коллегой.

На сегодняшний день, VideoWorkLink – это единственный полноценный программный продукт на рынке предназначенный для решения проблемы нехватки спонтанной коммуникации в командах разбросанных по разным местам.

Он связывает вас с коллегами с помощью видео на весь рабочий день и делает это комфортным для вас способом.

Blurred view of a teammate

По умолчанию, вы размыты для коллег. Вы знаете, когда кто-то растуманивает вас. Вы видите, когда кто-то вступает в тесный контакт с вами. Это выполняется медленно, чтобы вы подготовились к контакту.

A teammate makes a close contact with you.

Спонтанная коммункация занимает ключевое место в работе творческой комманды. Для обеспечения творческого взаимодействия, творческой команде важно иметь возможность быстро обмениваться идеями и быстро коррдинировать работу.

Среди всех представленных на рынке продуктов, VideoWorkLink является единственным, который содержит все, что необходимо для спонтанной коммуникации в распределенной команде.

Вы можете видеть кто из коллег присутствует, войти с ним в близкий контакт, поговорить со всей командой.

Все это позволяет объединить вашу команду, не смотря на расстояние между вами.

What problem does VideoWorkLink solve?

Slack Technologies’ office in San Francisco. Many startups, including Slack, love open office plan like the one shown on the photo above. Do you know why? Because of the possibility for spontaneous communication.

Lack of spontaneous communication in teams scattered over different locations (rooms, offices, cities, countries) is the problem that you need to solve in order for your team to be a single cohesive unit.

A scattered team is like a network of isolated autonomous individuals rather than a connected whole. It is like being in the office where teammates are in separate rooms with doors locked from the inside.

If you want to make a close contact you have to “knock” – make a video-conference call. The other party, of course, must answer it.

It makes spontaneous communication impossible.

Text chat helps, but typing is much slower than talking. Moreover, it is asynchronous – you might not get an immediate answer after you’ve sent a message. Another delay. Chat gets overloaded with messages quite fast and it is hard to keep track.

You could make a video-conference call and leave it always on forever, you would say.

Yes, but video calls are not meant to be left forever. The odds are that you will have high Internet bandwidth consumption, high CPU load. Moreover, anyone will be able to watch you (in High Definition) without you knowing about that. It is like if someone could stare right at your face at a breadth distance without you knowing that.

Would you like to be watched that way? I don’t think so. That is why nobody does that always on video-conferencing thing.

Without spontaneous communication, your process of working together slows down dramatically.

Because the opportunities for spontaneous communication don’t exist, a scattered team have to rely on ad-hoc online meetings or on more formal, scheduled online meetings to get their work done.

However, because organizing meetings takes effort, a lower overall frequency of meetings results. This lower frequency of meetings, in turn, results in less work being done by the collaborators on their joint problems, particularly the problem of refining and coordinating their work plan.

Thus the collaborators are not as timely in giving each other feedback on the directions their joint work should go, and hence they take longer to construct and select among the alternatives that guided the course of their work.

This problem never becomes clear to the participants in the remote collaboration because each meeting seemed productive and useful, and they did not have other, spontaneous contacts that they can use to supplement these meetings.

There are several products on the market for a continuous audio communication, like TeamSpeak, Mumble, Ventrilo, Discord. But having only audio is not enough because it is impossible to know beforehand if a person is present and available.

Also, there are products like Sneek and Nowbridge. Despite possible privacy problems, such products provide a sense of presence and provide a possibility for an instant contact. But they still do not provide the possibility for spontaneous communication, because you still have to make a contact in order to communicate with a teammate via audio.

To this date, VideoWorkLink is the only fully-fledged software on the market created to solve the problem of a lack of spontaneous communication in distributed teams.

It links you up with remote teammates by the means of video for the whole working day. Yet, it does that with respect to your privacy.

Blurred view of a teammate

By default, you are blurred for your teammates. You know when someone unblurs you. You see when someone enters into a close contact with you, and it is done in a smooth slow way, in order for you to prepare for a contact.

A teammate makes a close contact with you.

Spontaneous communication is a key component required for communication in a creative team. For a successful creative process, a team has to have a possibility to instantly exchange ideas and coordinate work.

Among all products present on the market, VideoWorkLink is the only product that has all means necessary for providing a possibility for spontaneous communication to a distributed team.

You can see who is present and available, enter into a close contact with a teammate, talk to all team.

With VideoWorkLink your team will be together no matter the distance between each and every one of you.

VideoWorkLink is available for download

After many months of hard work, the product is finally available for download.

Here how it looks like:

Dear friends, I encourage you to try it out!

Since it is a test release, the product will collect a usage statistics and record audio & video feeds. Since your audio feed will be recorded, you can say what you think about the product right into the microphone. You will be heard, and your words will be taken into consideration. Your thoughts and ideas are very welcomed!

Please, feel free to check out the product that is absolutely unique on the market!

In all sincerity,
Oleg I. Galkin

5 years have passed…

As you can see, the previous post dated 2012, and there was nothing published after that for 5 years. What happened, you might ask?

The project wasn’t dead all these years, quite contrary, under the surface, it was very much alive.

I have done a lot of work in the last 5 years.

What was done in the last 5 years?

  • Market research
  • Research of existing patents
  • Study of scientific research on the subject
  • Research & development of the product including:
    • Prototyping and demoing different product designs to potential users
    • Experimentation with different design ideas
    • Product development from scratch
  • Search for potential customers and attempts to sell the idea

Why it took so much time? Well, I have to make my living working on a regular job; I am working on this project on my spare time. Yes, it is a fully bootstrapped project.

What’s next?

  • The product will go live within next few weeks.
  • Every 1 – 2 weeks I will publish an article on the product, its design and idea behind it. It is going to be interesting. A lot of original content with new ideas coming soon.

Thank you for reading and stay tuned for updates!