Video is key to creating a communication-centric work environment. This is especially true at Brandwatch, where we are transitioning from global offices where everyone came to a physical workplace to being a remote work-optimized culture. As government guidelines continue to shift and it’s not advised for people to come into the office, most of us are working from home.
Since I joined the Brandwatch leadership team as VP of Global Community & Belonging during this time, I’m thinking more and more about how to make folks feel like they are part of a workplace community — one that used to evolve by default when we came together at the office.
One of the tools that keeps us connected and helps me feel a part of something bigger than my home setup is video communication. I’m sharing some of my insights on how I use Loom to connect with my team members when we can’t all be in the same physical workspaces.
The impact of the pandemic on workplace communication and remote teams
When we wake up each day and think about what motivates us to come to work and be a part of a company, there are material reasons to consider — we have to pay our bills — but bigger than that, work is an integral part of our identities. We pick the companies we work for and the roles we do because the company culture and work aligns with our skills and values.
The challenging part about remote work during the COVID-19 pandemic is that it can feel like our roles and communication at work have become transactional. We’ve lost the in-person team meals, Friday beers, yoga at lunch, and those kinds of built-in moments to spontaneously and socially engage — which psychologists cite as critical for employee happiness, well-being, and productivity in the workplace. We’re only seeing each other in scheduled increments — for team meetings, client interactions, and project updates. It’s tough, and it puts a strain on our sense of self as it relates to our work identities.
At the same time, even when we do attempt to connect for purely social ends, it can feel like we’ve reached a saturation point with scheduled fun. When hangouts, quizzes, trivia, and happy hours are all conducted on Zoom, there’s a distinct fatigue in mitigating these social interactions in the same virtual spaces in which we work.
How do we as leaders and teammates ensure that people can still bring their full selves to work and engage in work culture beyond the transactional interactions of their role in a way that feels authentic, exciting, and unforced?
Communication is at the heart of the answer to this question. We have to talk to each other about aspects of our lives that are not just related to our jobs and what we accomplished that day.
The need for water cooler conversations in remote work life
Now that work and home are the same place for many of us, we’re learning about the impact and conflation of how we context switch at work between our personal and professional lives. Spontaneous social connection and meetups were easier to do when we were literally changing locations, say when commuting to and from work, or passing each other in office hallways on the way to grab a coffee. We had the benefit of geography; there were more clear delineations between our home and office personas — for me, I’m a wife and I’m also an executive. I can be in a Zoom meeting one minute in my home office and in the kitchen making a snack with my husband the next.
Research terms this kind of code-switching dynamic as identity coactivation, wherein personal and workplace identities combine and are expressed in tandem. The benefits of coactivation, including greater problem solving and effectiveness abilities — and the perception of whether or not our personal and professional identities can coexist in a workplace context — is as important to our mental health and success (or lack thereof) there.
Break down the barriers between personal and professional personas
We’ve lost the traditional metaphorical water cooler moments, and those built-in transitions between our personal and professional lives which offer vital social stimulation have become blurred or have disappeared altogether. To alleviate the pressure to constantly context and code switch, organizational culture research and psychology suggests the solution is to break down the barriers between personal and professional self — in other words, be who you are, all the time.
Adapting to more frequent coactivation now that we work from home in the pandemic is easier said than done, especially if you don’t look like your boss or hiring manager and are navigating gendered or other biased expectations. As a woman of color, there aren’t many like me within my leadership peer group. Being a relative outsider leads me to think about what role communication can play in making me — and those like me — feel less isolated and alone.
Vanessa Tanicien, Leadership Trainer and Facilitator at LifeLabs Learning, posits that while emotional self-regulation is at an all-time high, people are leaning in to bringing their full, authentic selves to their work.
Creating content gives insight into what you’re working on, how you feel, and how you’re doing — and video communication presents an ideal way to do both.
Why I recorded a 15-minute video message to introduce myself to my remote team
I’m in a newly created role as Brandwatch’s first VP of Global Community and Belonging. My definition of community encompasses everything from our customers who engage with our product to the people at Brandwatch who are in the process of transitioning to being remote workers a new way of working from a co-located workplace culture to a remote one.
Communication is a two-way street. Especially since I’m in a leadership role, I wanted to introduce myself, tell people who I am, share what I’m going to work on, and get to know and build trust with the Brandwatch community.
So, as part of my onboarding, I recorded a 15-minute Loom video to introduce myself.
Recording this short Loom video was the next best option to meeting face-to-face in person and also a great way to share my philosophy, my way of working, and why I’ve chosen to work at Brandwatch. Here are some highlights as to what I emphasized in the content and why I chose video messaging as the medium:
I wanted to share a window into understanding my personal journey and my experiences of exclusion in the workplace. In past tech roles, I didn’t see myself reflected in the culture or leadership; in one case, I was the only black person at the company. I felt I needed to move into a position that could drive an inclusive company culture, to make teams look more representative of our larger society. Because of my experiences of exclusion, I transitioned from working in product and growth roles to working within belonging — founding Hustle Crew, where we led inclusion workshops for companies, before joining Brandwatch.
I wanted to invite people to engage in this content in a relaxed way, to be consumed on their own time. Watching the video shouldn’t be another item on someone’s to-do list, to check off before their day is over (who wants their introduction to feel like a chore?). I wanted people to imagine that we were sitting on a sofa in an office, with a cup of tea, getting to know each other.
I ended my Loom video with a game, Two Truths and a Lie, to wrap it up on a positive, fun note. I made three statements — two that were true and one that was not. The goal: increase engagement and encourage folks to connect with me one-on-one on Slack about which of the anecdotes I shared were true and which was a lie. Correct guesses won a mystery prize, and it was great to see dozens of people respond, from the CEO to new remote employees.
In fact, folks continue to reach out to me, even though they may have watched my intro video weeks ago when I first released it. This shows me that my hypothesis — building the behavior of asynchronous communication starting with leadership could be a catalyst for sustained employee engagement and distributed team interaction — was correct. The continued engagement with my intro video demonstrates to me that leveraging video communication has a lasting impact.
Center asynchronous communication in remote company culture to meet people where they are
What can video do to positively impact you and your teams in the current remote work reality and beyond? Here at Brandwatch, we’re committed to using more video communication in our workflows to stay connected as a remote culture. Brandwatch’s CEO Giles Palmer shares regular business updates and quarterly reviews, and “Now You Know Me” has become a regular series.
As a VP, it’s essential for me to remind folks how they can engage and work with me on my roadmap, share their insights, and create a two-way dialogue. With Loom, there are so many ways to engage. You can watch the video, share emoji reactions, leave comments, or initiate a synchronous meeting. Video communication provides more contextual information in terms of tone, delivery, and nonverbal cues, and asynchronous communication with video is a wonderful solution when navigating remote work — and for leadership to introduce themselves and engage with the company.
We need a new language for work: one more inventive, authentic, and emotionally present. The only way to do that is for organizations to lead by example — the behavior has to come from leadership. That’s how you shift company culture and create new, healthy habits for better, more open communication and team building that helps us all feel seen and heard and supports us to excel at work.
We’re going to get through adapting to remote work by being honest about the scope of the challenge and by creating the right forum and communication channels for people to engage with each other in meaningful ways and become more effective communicators. Think about how to create fresh dialogue and foster check-ins with new hires, direct reports, and the whole team when we’re all working asynchronously — a new way to be honest and invite people to participate, share, discuss, and connect through video.
The next time you go to choose video conferencing or send a real-time Slack message or email, take a pause and ask: Could a form of asynchronous communication — like a loom! — do the job instead to lend an added layer of empathy to the interaction? Wouldn’t it be more powerful to express that in video form, versus with a few static lines of text? If you can — always opt for video.