Working remotely isn’t new. Before Coronavirus, 5 million Americans were working from home at least half the time. But it’s never been as widespread as it is right now. While the trend towards a distributed workforce has long meant a gradual shift towards spending more time in virtual meetings, none of us expected the transition to be as swift as the novel Coronavirus crisis has necessitated.
For many of us, working from home is still an experiment… and one that we may not have been entirely prepared for. Hopefully, this guide will help you to meet the challenge presented by the COVID-19 situation and even turn it into an opportunity.
General Tips for Video Conferencing from Home (Especially During a Pandemic)
Home office video conferencing isn’t new…but it is much more critical that ever before. Before lockdowns, video was already highly favored.
- 98% of employees said video helped improve communication
- 95% said video helped connect dispersed teams
- 92% said video made executives more relatable
- 63% of video users miss seeing colleagues’ faces when they can’t join calls
Much of the conventional wisdom about video conferencing from home was written before the COVID-19 crisis, and was aimed at replicating an office environment from home. This advice was targeted to workers that usually had dedicated home offices and were perhaps still struggling to convince their colleagues that they could be just as productive from a remote location as those in an office.
Now that almost all of us are working at home, there’s lots of good to find in these guidelines, but it’s worth remembering that the current COVID-19 situation is unprecedented. Many of us are joining virtual meetings from home set-ups that haven’t been designed for remote work. Interruptions from the people and pets we share ours spaces with are common, and the stress of living in a pandemic has to be acknowledged.
In times like this it’s important to remember that you – and everyone else – are doing the best they can. Here are some tips that can hopefully make attending virtual meetings a little smoother.
- Try to find a quiet place. We know this may not be possible right now. A lot of us are working from kitchen tables or suddenly have closets doubling as home offices. It may take a few meetings before you find the solution that works best for you. And that solution may not be perfectly quiet. That’s okay.
- Don’t feel like you have to get dressed for the office… but do wear pants. Dress codes for a pandemic basically amount to “reasonably clean and appropriately concealing.” Business casual, or even just casual, will do just fine for most meetings. Try to avoid shirts with logos or slogans that might be distracting or offensive. And do wear pants… just in case you have to get up suddenly.
- Wearing headphones can improve your experience. By wearing headphones, you can block out distractions in your work environment and signal to those around you that you’re on a meeting. But, perhaps most importantly, wearing headphones can reduce the chance of your computer producing an echo on the meeting as it broadcasts your own audio back to you.
- When you aren’t speaking, use the mute button. Making sure you’re only sharing sound with the meeting when you want to can help safe-guard your privacy and allow the meeting to run my smoothly.
- Don’t worry too much if your kids or your pets pay a visit. Sure, we’re all trying to minimize distractions, but unscheduled visits from other members of your household may be unavoidable. Most people you’re meeting with will be understanding, and a quick break to share a smile over these moments will generally be welcome.
Creating Home Office Video Conferencing Meetings That Make Sense
If you’re responsible for creating and scheduling home office video conferences, there are also new challenges to consider in the current environment. As many workplaces shift to a virtual format, there’s often an impulse to use meetings to make sure staff are staying productive and on task. And while meetings can help to combat isolation and the challenge of staying focused in these unusual circumstances, supervisors and team leaders should remember not to overschedule their staff, especially while many of us are still trying to figure out the challenges that come with Stay-At-Home orders and similar restrictions.
These guidelines can help you create meetings that help your business and your employees get things done even in these trying times.
- Make sure meetings, especially video conferencing meetings, have a purpose. A weekly check-in meeting may make sense. More frequent meetings may not, unless there’s a specific task you’re trying to tackle.
- Be sensitive to work/life boundaries. If your staff is spread out over multiple time zones, it may not always be possible to confine meetings to traditional working hours for all staff members, but your colleagues will appreciate it if you can remember that working from home doesn’t mean constant availability.
- Focus on accessibility and inclusion. Make sure that employees who can’t make it to a meeting are able to view a recording and participate in follow up discussion as appropriate. If you have staff that need translations or captioning, make sure their access to the work process remains as robust as it was in the more traditional workplace. Our sudden reality can be isolating enough, work should always be a place of inclusion, but that’s even more true right now.
- Giving 100% right now, may not look the same as it did a few months ago. People are juggling a lot emotionally and logistically, and their productivity may suffer. Plan for that in advance as much as you can and look for ways to help instead of penalize. Giving people clear deadlines and making them feel comfortable enough to communicate if those deadlines don’t seem possible isn’t just essential, it’s kind.
- Stay flexible. Plans will change. Availability will change. The situation in our communities and countries will change. In the current environment, the new business rules have to prioritize the ability to pivot both emotionally and logistically.
Getting Started With Virtual Meetings
Joining the world of using home office video conferencing for virtual meetings is easy for your staff, but will take some technical preparation from your organization. You’ll need to decide on what type of virtual meeting technology to use, and you’ll need to make a plan to manage the huge amount of video initiatives like this will produce. Security, search, and storage are all critical if we view virtual meetings as an opportunity and not just a stop-gap measure.
So where will all this video go? And how are you going to find it again? And how are you going to make sure that the solution you choose works for all your employees – no matter where they are, regardless of what their international connection is like, and regardless of their personal home technology choices?
You’ll also want to consider how virtual meetings are going to interact with your existing business technology, from intranets to social media.
Security Precautions for Video Conferencing at Home
As virtual meetings become commonplace in the current situation, there’s been lots of talk about security. You want to make sure only people who belong in your meeting are there, and you want to make sure those people only have access to the information you want to share with them.
When setting up a video conferencing meeting, especially if it will have a large number of participants who may be new to you, consider adding a password. This ensures that only people you want to be at the meeting are present and helps you avoid a phenomenon called Zoombombing.
Additionally, moderation features can prevent participants from contributing content until they are called on. This feature is generally used to help make meetings with a large number of attendees run more smoothly, but it is also a good way to prevent outbursts from unauthorized participants who may have slipped through other security protocols. Start people on mute. Specifically choose people to allow them to speak, share, or use the whiteboard.
And while you’re considering the security and safety of your online video conferencing meeting, don’t forget to consider the security of your own information. If you plan to share your screen during the meeting, you’ll want to be mindful of what others might see. Browser tabs for searches not related to work are one common privacy concern that it’s easy to forget about. It may be easier to load all the content you want to share into a playlist and share from that, so there’s no way you can show something you didn’t want to.
Tricks and Tips for Working from Home with Kaltura Meetings
If you’ve been invited to a virtual meeting, all you have to do to join is click on the link provided by the organizer (and provide a password if that feature is enabled). As long as your computer is connected to the Internet and has at least a microphone, you’re good to go. If you need help making sure your microphone and video are activated for the meeting, you can check out this video.
Once inside a meeting, your host will let you know how they want to use the features of the space. One of the many advantages of Kaltura Meetings is that it provides participants with persistent rooms, allowing the conversation to continue after the meeting. And, the next time your team gets together, you can pick up right where you left off. Unlike face-to-face meetings, there’s no need to erase the whiteboard when you’re done. Your work will stay right where you left it, ready for you to build on until the next meeting.
- Use text-based chat features to address relevant side issues without interrupting the flow of information. One aspects of virtual meetings that many people find challenging is the lack of physical and visual signals for finding just the right moment to interrupt a speaker with an observation or question. Using text-based chat features can help alert your meeting to other topics that need to be raised.
- If you’re explaining something complex, use visuals. Everyone has different learning styles. Showing participants what you’re doing on your computer or sharing a presentation with them can help keep your colleagues focused and grasp the issues at hand more quickly.
- Virtual whiteboards can allow for brainstorming. Just because we’re far apart, doesn’t mean we can’t maximize creativity and efficiency. Kaltura virtual white boards allow you to draw, add text, and highlight the ideas you want to share.
- Notetaking doesn’t have to be a one-person job. Shared notetaking features means there can be a thorough summary of what happens at your meeting without saddling once person with secretarial duties or waiting for approval from all the participants. With Kaltura Meeting, note-taking permission can be given to multiple participants in a way that results in a single, downloaded file after the event.
- Make sure meetings are recorded so people who couldn’t attend have a chance to catch up. No matter how inclusive we want to be, conflicts are going to come up, often last minute. Virtual meetings allow for intended participants to get the information they need, even if they can’t be there in-person virtually.
The Current Situation is Evolving… So Are Your Video Conferencing Meetings
What works best for your organization in these times may take some trial and error. Having a flexible, robust, and secure tool like Kaltura Meetings is only the start of finding what’s going to be productive and efficient for you and your colleagues. For some groups, the ideal meeting gets right to the point and is over as quickly as possible. For others, taking the time to personally check in and talk about Stay-At-Home life will free up brain space to get work done. Some teams will find comfort in playing by familiar rules; others will discover they work best when they jettison old habits. Experimenting with meeting format and features is to be expected right now and offers a way to explore and expand how you’ve been doing business. Home office video conferencing and virtual meetings offer endless possibilities.
Just because we have to be at home right now, doesn’t mean we have to be apart.