The remote workplace. It’s an interesting concept since it means different things to different people, and it’s defined in new ways every day.

Of course, whether we’re talking e-mail, instant messaging, social media, video conferencing, or virtual desktops, it all began with the popularity of the Internet.  From the moment a critical mass of companies began to use the Internet, working outside of the office became a realistic option.

But instead of going through the endless number of remote collaboration tools we now have available to us, let’s focus on one that’s especially interesting to recruiters and job-seekers alike: video.

Get ready for more face-time

Last week, Cisco announced that its Jabber collaboration platform, which includes voice, HD video, instant messaging and desktop sharing, would be available for virtual desktops. Meanwhile, hardware companies like Logitech, Dell and Jabra said they’d soon be supporting Jabber on new thin clients, handsets and keyboards.

New video-enabled Logitech keyboard

New video-enabled Logitech keyboard

Clearly, vendors are betting on a future in which video plays a bigger role.

To me, there’s something special about technology that allows a face-to-face encounter with someone who could be thousands of kilometres away. Unlike e-mail, the video call appeared in science fiction long before it became practical to use in real life.

We all just assumed, very early on, that video was the future of communication, whether we saw Jean-Luc Picard on the U.S.S. Enterprise negotiating a deal with the Klingons, or a menacing villain barking orders at his subordinates from some undisclosed location.

But while most of us would agree that video collaboration can be an effective tool in remote work, and to a large extent, we have the technology for it, it’s not for everyone. You’ll get people who say they aren’t keen on having their bosses seem them in their bathrobes, and others who view it as an unnecessary hassle. Sure, it’s cool, but what exactly does remote face-time really accomplish?

The meeting you want to attend

We’ll, here’s one way in which a video connection can definitely be worth it.

Many of us don’t like meetings. And the availability of a remote video link gives us one less opportunity to avoid them. But here’s one kind of meeting we don’t want to miss: the job interview.

In a globalized economy, more people are chasing more jobs in more places. On the other side of the coin, recruiters are increasingly seeking out talent far beyond their own backyards. But of course, the problem of distance presents itself. Many companies regularly fly in candidates who have already perked their interest for interviews, but it can get expensive if there are lots of really attractive candidates scattered all over the place.

Interview-by-webcam has definitely become part of a recruiter’s toolbox. It’s faster, much cheaper, and can eliminate candidates whose appearance alone is enough to disqualify them. But the video quality can vary greatly.  Sometimes, personality doesn’t come through very well on a shaky webcam.

A richer video job interview experience

But technology is improving. And as the price comes down, companies are investing in video platforms that deliver seamless, high-definition video. More importantly, we’re on the verge of seeing them adopted by consumers. Once the user experience improves to the extent that a video conversation seems more true-to-life, I think the remote video job interview will become commonplace.

Again, we come back to sci-fi becoming reality. One day, you might not even be staring at your counterpart through computer screen, but at a fully life-like hologram.

Cisco, we’re impressed. Now bring this stuff into every workplace.

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