Nothing can beat the value of a face-to-face chat for fostering workplace collaboration, productivity and goodwill. However, many businesses don’t have this option when dealing with a mobile workforce.

It can be hard to establish a rapport with someone if you’ve only ever interacted with them via email, or only ever heard their voice over the phone. But it needn’t be so. By taking advantage of unified communications, the distance between teams becomes a non-factor. In the absence of in-person communications, video conferencing is by far the next best thing for improving employee relations.

In-person meetings are better, but video conferencing is the next best thing

We are fortunate that in today’s society there are an abundance of communication options at our fingertips. They offer a diverse range of platforms with which to engage and build relationships, yet not every mode weighs the same.

A study by the University of Michigan looked into the four most popular platforms of communication and how they fostered the formation of trust. Face-to-face and three computer-mediated communication types: video, audio and text, were compared. While collaborating in person was the most effective mode of communicating, the study found that video conferencing was the next best thing, followed closely by audio. Compared to a text-based communication system like email or chat, which did poorly, video offers the richest medium with which to connect remote employees and – more importantly – build trust.

How to further improve video communication

It takes more than just sitting down in front of a webcam to build trust when you work from home. To improve the quality of video collaboration, the Harvard Business Review suggests employees can leverage several tricks to ensure the formation of long-lasting trust:

  • Be proactive about being personal. Taking a few minutes to establish a personal connection and focus on the individuals rather than the work will help form a more meaningful connection.
  • Predictable communication. Just like how you wouldn’t show up to an in-person meeting late, neither should you do so online.
  • Share and rotate power. By shifting control between members who have the most relevant knowledge to the issue at hand, you create a more equal-footed platform to communicate with.