5 Reasons Video is Better than Phone

By: Laurel Farrer

It’s no secret that Jeff Robbins is an audio ninja, with his rockstar background and all. So, his last remotip about why using a phone instead of video for calls came as no surprise to the Yonder team. We use phone as our primary meeting method about 95% of the time for all of the reasons that he discussed, and we love it.

However, my professional history doesn’t revolve around music. It’s in art and design because I am a very visual learner, and naturally a pretty terrible listener. Over the years, I’ve learned to develop this skill (ie: taking notes during a call), but when I read Jeff’s article, I just couldn’t sit still without defending my fellow eye-based buddies!

Here are a few reasons why I sometimes prefer video to phone for remote meetings.

1. The Human Factor

When I’m conducting interviews and client meetings, I like to utilize video calls to humanize both parties. I think their ability to see my face reminds them that I’m a real person, who is focused on them, cares about them, and is fully-accessible to support them. I also like to see their faces because I also see subtle character cues, like their clothes and environment. They would never think to tell me about these, but it helps me get to know them better and work with them in a more personal, intuitive way.

2. Nonverbal Communication

Even the most open and connected employees can occasionally feel uncomfortable about being 100% transparent verbally, especially if they are new, hoping for a promotion, or have personal life stressors. So, a visual glimpse into their body language and physical condition can provide insight into their thoughts. For example, my graphic designer might be saying “Sure!” to that new infographic assignment, but suddenly his head dips down, his body stiffens, and he breaks eye contact. Or maybe my usually-polished-and-preened virtual assistant logs on to a call looking uncharacteristically unkempt. I use those visual cues as triggers to probe further about potential blocks (availability, qualifications, etc.) that might be causing unnecessary stress and creating performance blocks.

3. Better Work-Life Balance  

I am a workaholic, and in this world of remote work and smartphones, that can be dangerous. If my phone is with me, I can be “at the office” and want to be working. One way I try to preserve work-life balance is to keep all of my work on my laptop (aka: my “office”) and away from my phone. Keeping my calls associated with my office (my work device) removes the temptation to mix work time and personal time (on my personal device). It also makes it easier to unplug mentally at the end of work hours when all I have to do is close a screen, instead of turning notifications off or setting do not disturb modes for various channels.

4. One Less Tool

I’m notorious for not always having my phone with me (or accidentally leaving it on silent, or neglecting to charge it, or just being too lazy to type on it.) My laptop is the most reliable method to contact me because I’m already on it during work hours. Calling me via Skype or Google Hangouts only requires me to click the accept button and eliminates the need to involve another device, whereas a Slack message saying, “I’ll call you in 5” or “Did you get my text?” usually has me frantically searching for my phone. Bonus: I’m not great at articulating my thoughts, so I love the option of file sharing and screen sharing, so I can “show you what I mean.”

5. Requires Commitment

As remote workers, we’ve all attended at least one phone meeting at least partially naked or while in bed about 3 minutes after waking up. Am I right? While these scenarios are some of the greatest perks to having a commute-less job, there is a lot of psychological value in having to prepare for a call. The requirement to take a shower and put on a fresh shirt, or to herd your kids out of the room, or clean the clutter off your desk really puts you into a more alert and focused frame of mind, which can greatly enhance the results of the call. Also, if you get interrupted, you feel more obligated to pause the conversation, then return when your attention is uncompromised, whereas, with the phone, you usually just mute for a while, miss several minutes of the conversation, then return to chime in with an ignorant “uh huh.”

Now, let it be said that as much of an advocate for video communication as I am, I think many teams overuse this tool by defaulting to it for every meeting and stand-up. That can be a dangerous time suck. And as Jeff mentioned, a sign of a lack of trust. Instead of having any default — phone, video, chat, or anything else — meeting hosts should consider the pros and cons of each medium and match them to the needs of that specific interaction.


Remotip #7 - Using video calls humanizes virtual communication.

Laurel Farrer is the COO here at Yonder. She always has a notebook and pen within arm's reach, never sits with both feet on the floor, and drives (safely) without depth perception.