A guide to staying connected, safe, engaged, productive and empathic during critical situations with the help of video.
The article was first published here on the 18th of March 2020.
During these exceptional times of a global crisis, companies are changing the way they work, shifting to working remotely, or working from home scenarios across the IT ecosystem.
Companies everywhere are currently shifting operations for safety reasons to temporary remote operations-creating a couple of challenges in staying connected, engaged and productive.
In response to those challenges, the opportunity now is to lead with calm and inspire confidence in these times of crisis, providing the context for team members to feel safe and contributing to initiatives while facing the challenges of remote work and global safety issues.
Safety and security are among the most important feelings that a leader can provide to the team.
Good leaders keep their cool when the situation provokes an emotional reaction.
As the .NET Community Manager, I’ve committed to helping everybody else stay calm and contribute to the team with objective and rational input rather than emotional outlook.
In the Enterprise .NET community in Romania, we are heavily leveraging online communication tools in order to communicate efficiently with our engineers that work either from our regional studios or for those working from home. #RemoteWork
How to stay connected and focused while working remotely?
Virtual meetings are challenging by nature: under the best of circumstances, as soon as a couple of attendees “dial in” to a meeting, productivity usually goes down for a variety of reasons:
- Attendees often interpret virtual meetings as an opportunity to multi-task
- Meeting organizers tend to be less formal in creating purpose and design of the conversation, so it’s not uncommon for one or two attendees to dominate the conversation while the others sit back and “tune out”
- Distractions are everywhere! You can check your phone, email and your fridge if you wanted to
Using a couple of best practices and easy-to-use technology, our community is, fortunately, running meetings effectively. Here are our recommendations:
- Use video if possible. Video allows people to feel like they’re all at the “same” meeting. Use video conferencing tools rather than traditional conference dial-ins. Tools our team uses daily such as Zoom, Skype and Cisco Webex help to personalize the conversation and keep participants engaged.
- Prepare ahead of the meeting by testing the video conferencing tool ahead of time. Prior to a virtual meeting, all participants are encouraged to test the connection and make sure they are comfortable with the major features like audio, video functionality, mute/unmute, hide/show video, etc.
- Engage people. One of the challenges of virtual meetings is moderating the discussion so that the participants don’t talk over each other. To prevent this, we periodically call on individuals to speak, either by going around the virtual table or by encouraging the participants to use a “raise a hand” feature which is available in Zoom.
- Practice continuous feedback and lessons learned. After the meeting ends, gather and debrief about the experience. What went well, what didn’t and what can be improved in the next meeting? How can you evolve virtual meetings to make them as productive as when you meet in person?
Tools & recommendations on how to use them efficiently
At the community level, we use Zoom extensively for engaging with our colleagues. Here are a couple of recommendations that target the Zoom video conferencing tool (you can find more useful tips in the links at the end of the article):
Use screen share or collaborative annotation: Screen sharing allows the host of a call to display their screen to everyone else on the call. Annotation tools let all the meeting participants draw and highlight what’s on screen, and are helpful when discussing visual materials, such as mock-ups, graphic designs, etc. To annotate while viewing someone else’s shared screen, select View Options from the top of the Zoom window, and then choose Annotate.
Virtual background for desktop and mobile: This feature allows you to upload an image of anything you want – your customer’s logo or headquarters, a mountain scene, or professional office – to customize your background. It’s available for both iPhones (8 and later) and desktops.
Recording transcripts: This option automatically transcribes the audio of a meeting or webinar that you record to the cloud. As the meeting host, you can edit your transcript. And when you share the recording, people can scan the text, search for keywords, click on any word in the transcript to access the video at that moment, or download the transcript.
Mute everyone at the beginning of the virtual meeting: This feature will shave minutes of detective work in identifying who is typing up a storm (really loud).