Does Video Calling Make the Office Redundant?

Go back to the office if you want to get on with your career. That was the message from Chancellor Rishi Sunak at the start of August. Why?

With 50% of the UK workforce back at their usual desks, we’re at something of a crossroads – and it’s clear which direction the Chancellor wants everyone to turn.

At the same time, however, we’re still seeing an increased demand for video calling software. That begs the question – is a return to the office necessary?

The case for a physical office

Sunak’s comments came in an interview with LinkedIn News, where he discussed his own experience as a new starter in the finance industry. He explained his doubts about how he would have progressed had his internship or first few roles been conducted virtually, by video calling.

“I doubt I would have had those strong relationships if I was doing my summer internship or my first bit of my career over Teams and Zoom… That’s why I think for young people in particular, being able to physically be in an office is invaluable.”

At this point, it’s worth noting that the start of the Chancellor’s career was in the early 2000s. That’s over a decade before the advent of Zoom and Teams, and even before the launch of Skype. In contrast, the past year has seen video calling become an integral part of day-to-day operations…

Video call vs. an office return

With the majority of businesses forced to operate remotely, it’s no surprise that video calling traffic shot up by over 500% in 2020. In a single April day alone, Microsoft saw more than 200 million meeting participants on Teams. That shift was far from temporary, with most businesses staying remote for well over a year, and some still operating remotely.

The result? Many employees who do return to the office have found themselves commuting in only to continue making video calls to their colleagues, partners or clients. Even with the office open, it’s undeniable that video calls are quicker and more convenient than face-to-face meetings.

That begs the question: what’s the point? If everyone is communicating by video call, is there any need to fork out for constantly increasing office costs and force staff to embark on lengthy commutes? What do you think?

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