Sep 18, 2020

Workplace (Facebook): how video is changing business culture

Julien Codorniou
5 min
Video conferencing
Julien Codorniou, VP of Workplace (Facebook), explores the concepts of community and culture in business and how technology has changed the way we work...

Business culture and working practices have evolved dramatically over the last few decades, changing in line with modern ideals and technology developments. In recent months, lockdown has sparked a rapid wave of change like no other, forcing businesses to adapt how - and from where - they operate in order to keep the lights on and ensure staff safety. 

Technologies are known to influence the culture around us and, during lockdown, have defined how we interact and communicate with our personal and professional communities. Take corporate communication for example. Email is now a legacy communication tool. And while many businesses rely on it to communicate and get work done, it’s a fairly rigid way of working. With little innovation over the years, many organisations have outgrown the slow moving and formal process of emailing. For some, email has become the new answer machine of business communication where you’re just left waiting for a reply.  

The corporate communication journey

As textspeak developed with SMS communication, email culture has created its own vernacular with employees promising to ‘circle back’, ‘loop in’ and ‘take it offline’. But it has always been supplemented by phone calls and, later on, access to instant messaging. These encourage more synchronous communication and the quick-fire questions that people need to get things done in real-time.

In recent times, Emojis and GIFs have arrived in the workplace. A big jump for businesses enabling employees to express feelings in shorthand while at work - opening the door for honest and constructive feedback, creativity and even humour. 

Now -- with an increasingly remote workforce that looks like it is here to stay -- we are entering into the next stage of corporate language: video.

Creating virtual communities in lockdown

During the pandemic, video has been critical in keeping friends and families connected on a meaningful level that simply can’t be matched by the likes of email and text. In many of the places most impacted by the virus in March, voice and video calling more than doubled in Messenger and WhatsApp, and Facebook Live views doubled in just one week in Italy. 

In the world of work, video has helped to keep employees connected with each other in recent months regardless of their situations - whether they’ve been at home with family, working on the frontline or even temporarily not able to work at all. Many of our customers such as UK restaurant company Bistrot Pierre found that using Live video on Workplace over the lockdown helped them keep in touch with staff and get everyone together for social activities. Using the power of video in conjunction with clear communication, firms have been able to scale their company culture virtually and build a true digital community.

Video is also a hugely engaging and inclusive way of working since it echoes face-to-face conversation and bridges physical distance. With video posts and calls, employees can see and interact with colleagues, ask questions in real-time and participate in conversations wherever they are. This helps employees to remain close to their teams, to the decisions businesses are making and to senior leaders, which can often be a sticking point for engagement. 

One thing we’ve learnt is that speed, inclusion and engagement are critical during a pandemic. Organisations need to be able to send critical health and safety updates quickly and holistically to distributed workforces - and rely on the fact that employees will receive those updates. In response to this, we’ve seen more and more leaders turning to live video broadcasts. Enabling mission critical updates to reach every employee in real time, live video is also helping to create a new style of leadership - one defined by transparency and authenticity. And in times of uncertainty this can help build trust within the workforce and enable real-time staff feedback.

Video and the future world of work

Looking ahead, a full return to the office won’t happen overnight. Offices will have reduced capacity and many employees simply won’t be able to rush back because of personal circumstances, from caring or home-schooling responsibilities to health reasons. At the same time, there will continue to be essential customer facing and frontline workers as shops restaurants and transport reopens. Businesses will be operating in more of a hybrid environment than ever - with employees distributed across the frontline, the office and home. 

As a result, organisations will need to look to find the sweet spot where they can offer employees a space to ‘meet in the middle’ virtually. Video will continue to play a big role in creating this space, keeping colleagues connected and developing community feel. And when combined with continued flexibility, these remote working muscles formed over the last few months will help companies to attract remote staff that were previously inaccessible for location or situational reasons. Beyond attracting new people, businesses who invest in their online culture will be able to retain them too - since employees come for the company but stay for the community.

Video has been crucial for businesses, communities and individuals across the world to stay connected during lockdown. And as video tools continue to get better thanks to new technologies like AR and AI, it will only become a more powerful tool in business. Having already helped organisations reduce physical distance, new innovations will continue to break down barriers - whether that’s in language, accessibility or flexible hours - in the workplace.

For more information on business topics in Europe, Middle East and Africa please take a look at the latest edition of Business Chief EMEA.

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May 28, 2021

Automation of repetitive tasks leads to higher value work

Kate Birch
4 min
As a new report reveals most office workers are crushed by repetitive tasks, we talk the value of automation with UiPath’s MD of Northern Europe, Gavin Mee

Two-thirds of global office workers feel they are constantly doing the same tasks over and over again. That’s according to a new study (2021 Office Worker Survey) from automation software company UiPath.

Whether emailing, inputting data, or scheduling calls and meetings, the majority of those surveyed said they waste on average four and a half hours a week on time-consuming tasks that they think could be automated.

Not only is the undertaking of such repetitious and mundane tasks a waste of time for employees, and therefore for businesses, but it can also have a negative impact on employees’ motivation and productivity. And the research backs this up with more than half (58%) of those surveyed saying that undertaking such repetitive tasks doesn’t allow them to be as creative as they’d like to be.

When repetitive, unrewarding tasks are handled by people, it takes time and this can cause delays and reduce both employee and customer satisfaction,” Gavin Mee, Managing Director of UiPath Northern Europe tells Business Chief. “Repetitive tasks can also be tedious, which often leads to stress and an increased likelihood to leave a job.”

And these tasks exist at all levels within an organisation, right up to executive level, where there are “small daily tasks that can be automated, such as scheduling, logging onto systems and creating reports”, adds Mee.

Automation can free employees to focus on higher value work

By automating some or all of these repetitive tasks, employees at whatever level of the organisation are freed up to focus on meaningful work that is creative, collaborative and strategic, something that will not only help them feel more engaged, but also benefit the organisation.

“Automation can free people to do more engaging, rewarding and higher value work,” says Mee, highlighting that 68% of global workers believe automation will make them more productive and 60% of executives agree that automation will enable people to focus on more strategic work. “Importantly, 57% of executives also say that automation increases employee engagement, all important factors to achieving business objectives.”

These aren’t the only benefits, however. One of the problems with employees doing some of these repetitive tasks manually is that “people are fallible and make mistakes”, says Mee, whereas automation boosts accuracy and reduces manual errors by 57%, according to Forrester Research. Compliance is also improved, according to 92% of global organisations.

Repetitive tasks that can be automated

Any repetitive process can be automated, Mee explains, from paying invoices to dealing with enquiries, or authorising documents and managing insurance claims. “The process will vary from business to business, but office workers have identified and created software robots to assist with thousands of common tasks they want automated.”

These include inputting data or creating data sets, a time-consuming task that 59% of those surveyed globally said was the task they would most like to automate, with scheduling of calls and meetings (57%) and sending template or reminder emails (60%) also top of the automation list. Far fewer believed, however, that tasks such as liaising with their team or customers could be automated, illustrating the higher value of such tasks.

“By employing software robots to undertake such tasks, they can be handled much more quickly,” adds Mee pointing to OTP Bank Romania, which during the pandemic used an automation to process requests to postpone bank loan instalments. “This reduced the processing time of a single request from 10 minutes to 20 seconds, allowing the bank to cope with a 125% increase in the number of calls received by call centre agents.”

Mee says: “Automation accelerates digital transformation, according to 63% of global executives. It also drives major cost savings and improves business metrics, and because software robots can ramp-up quickly to meet spikes in demand, it improves resilience.

Five business areas that can be automated

Mee outlines five business areas where automation can really make a difference.

  1. Contact centres Whether a customer seeks help online, in-store or with an agent, the entire customer service journey can be automated – from initial interaction to reaching a satisfying outcome
  2. Finance and accounting Automation enables firms to manage tasks such as invoice processing, ensuring accuracy and preventing mistakes
  3. Human resources Automations can be used across the HR team to manage things like payroll, assessing job candidates, and on-boarding
  4. IT IT teams are often swamped in daily activity like on-boarding or off-boarding employees. Deploying virtual machines, provisioning, configuring, and maintaining infrastructure. These tasks are ideal for automation
  5. Legal There are many important administrative tasks undertaken by legal teams that can be automated. Often, legal professionals are creating their own robots to help them manage this work. In legal and compliance processes, that means attorneys and paralegals can respond more quickly to increasing demands from clients and internal stakeholders. Robots don’t store data, and the data they use is encrypted in transit and at rest, which improves risk profiling and compliance.

“To embark on an automation journey, organisations need to create a Centre of Excellence in which technical expertise is fostered,” explains Mee. “This group of experts can begin automating processes quickly to show return on investment and gain buy-in. This effort leads to greater interest from within the organisation, which often kick-starts a strategic focus on embedding automation.”


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