Connecting with Coworkers through Video Conferencing
“Positive culture comes from being mindful, and respecting your coworkers, and being empathetic.”—Biz Stone
In our last lesson, we talked about how to send better asynchronous written and verbal correspondence with your cohorts. In this lesson, we’ll talk about how to hold better video calls with your co-workers and colleagues.
If you’re working from home as part of a group, you want to feel connected with your co-workers during the day. If you’re self-employed or a freelancer, this lesson applies to you as well. This lesson will show you how to develop and maintain those connections, so you are in the flow of communications during the workday. As you dive in, remember that this is a two-way street: You need to be informed about what is going on within your workgroup and you need to keep your co-workers up-to-date on your status and progress.
When Should You Communicate?
This might seem like a trick question, with the answer being “always” but actually, you don’t want to overwhelm your coworkers with a minute-by-minute update of what you’re thinking. If you want your communication to be taken seriously, then make sure there is always a purpose behind it. In general, use your common sense.
1. Communicate when you have questions or doubts. Follow the guidelines we talked about in Lesson 4.
2. Communicate at project milestones. Everyone will appreciate knowing the status of the job—especially the boss. Every project has points when receiving feedback on your progress is necessary. A completed milestone might mean that another person can begin their work, such as editing or proofreading.
Fun and Productive Ways to Maintain Contact with Coworkers
Human contact will keep you happier in your job. You might think that working from home, with its lack of office politics, gossip, or work theater, will be a tremendous relief. However, you’re also missing out on friendships and a support system. Over time, you can begin to feel bored, or even isolated. Below are a few ideas for keeping you and your co-workers recognizing each other’s faces.
Meet in person. If your company has several remote workers in the same area, try an occasional in-person meetup to discuss current and upcoming work. If you are too far apart, use one of the many meeting apps to get some facetime with each other. These meetings do not all be work-related. Team-building exercises like escape rooms and mixology classes make staying connected enjoyable.
Use the buddy system. Did you and another remote worker hit it off? Worked well on a project together? Then make them your source for face-to-face conversation. You can do things like sharing your morning coffee together before getting started or work alongside each other using your timed work/break schedules. This will help you get into your workspace mindset and can become part of your before-work ritual.
Use video messaging. If you can send a video message instead of voicemail or email, do it. This ensures everyone associates a real person with your work. If you’re worried about stammering, it’s okay to write down what you have to say ahead of time. We like to see people’s faces, and video adds immeasurable context to messages, which cuts down on the number of misunderstandings by including the speaker’s body language and tone.
After learning which video conference tool your co-workers are using, install it on your computer or phone, and test it ahead of time. Having your tech ready to go will save time and embarrassment when an actual meeting takes place. Almost every videoconference seems to begin with at least one person unaware of what to do, and everybody has to wait for them to catch up. Avoid this kind of the first impression!
Here are some other tricks to make you look like a videoconferencing pro:
Can they see you? Do not position any light source behind you. Be sure there is light on your face so you can be seen. If you hate the way a monitor’s glare makes you look, add a lamp nearby with a soft light bulb. Position yourself so that you can be seen from the shoulders up.
Can they hear you? This is one reason to practice calling ahead of time. Make certain that your voice is audible but not blasting the eardrums of your coworkers.
Look at the camera when you speak. If you’re looking at your own picture or something else, it won’t look like eye contact with those you’re conferencing with. Eye contact promotes connection and trust.
Be aware of your background. People can look into your house now, so you might want to make sure you’re not sitting in front of anything distracting or unprofessional. Try not to sit with your back to a high-traffic area of your house. Your partner does not want to be the star of the video call when they wander through looking for their keys.
Make sure your chair is comfortable. Otherwise, you will shift and fidget unnecessarily. Why would you want to be uncomfortable anyway?
Keep it simple. Wearing a neutral color will keep you from looking like a floating head (in the case of a black shirt) or a projection screen (in the case of a white shirt).
The Fido warning. People are pretty understanding about this. You have kids or pets in the house who might drop in. Maybe that can’t be helped. If the opportunity presents itself, let everybody know ahead of time that you’ll possibly have a (very) brief interruption or visitor.
Popular Apps to Help You Along
As far as helping you organize, schedule, and work, there are more apps available than we have time to name! However, here are a few that are particularly popular:
For video conferencing: Zoom, Skype, Bluejeans, Gotomeeting, and Google Meetings.
For organizing your team and project management: Asana, Trello, and Monday.
For scheduling: Google Calendar, Schedule Once, and Calendly.
Generally speaking, you need a certain amount of hardware to successfully telecommute. Your office may provide equipment for you, but if you’re supplying your own, be sure to keep track of receipts.
Use a Google Spreadsheet or an expense tracking app to organize your work from home expenses.
These costs could be tax-deductible, so make sure to speak to your account regarding these expenses.
That’s a wrap for this lesson. We look forward to having you join us for our next lesson.
Jordan and Joe
Work From Home Teachers
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