WH: Participating in a video conference

Oh technology, how I love thee — but the video conference is one that I love to hate. Not because it isn’t a great tool, especially in the days of Covid-19, we can do more than ever before remotely. It enables people to work from home, collaborate and share ideas. At it’s best it also helps carbon emissions, reduces unnecessary travel (planes, trains, automobiles) and bloated expense accounts for meals and lodging… However, on the worst of days, it is a huge waste of time, distraction-filled and unproductive. A lot of that has to do with the presenter of the conference, which will be a topic for another day.

Today, we’re going to talk about how to be effective at participating in a video conference. After literally thousands of hours on both ends of a conference call, here are some lessons learned.

  1. Dress for the call – this isn’t a time to show off the joys of working from home, but to show that you’re still “showing up for work” and actually earning your keep.
  2. Join the call 10 minutes early – especially if this is your first conference with that specific person. If it’s new technology to you (Zoom, WebEx, etc) then plan perhaps even more time, 15 minutes or whatever. Don’t wait until the last moment.
  3. Check your background and lighting – unless you’re in witness protection, you want to be seen in a video call, that is the whole point. Make sure you have a plain background, usually a white wall. And then enough lighting to see your face. You need more light coming at you than behind you. Also, some apps like Zoom let you either blur out the background, or replace it with some sort of stock photo. Those are all great ideas. Because someone is going to zoom in and check out your home — ooh, they’re messier, cleaner, crazier.
  4. Announce yourself when you join the call – unless your specific room has a different etiquette. Out of the gate, it’s better to announce yourself than not to.
  5. Mute your microphone/phone – start off with mute, especially if it isn’t a free for all discussion. Beyond the auto distraction of background noise, some conference systems will automatically switch the video to whoever starts making a sound. So if your cell phone starts ringing in the middle of the call, all of a sudden, you’re the big-screen video, and everybody knows it was you. Oop! Mute the auto (mic, phone, etc)…
  6. Turn off all other audio distractions – More important if you’re the presenter, but do put your cell phones to silent, turn off your computer notifications, etc. Also, I will close my email application (Outlook, Gmail, etc) on my desktop/laptop altogether.

WH: Dress Code

After working from home for years, I put together this new series of posts to help those who are working from home for the first time. Tips and tactics to get more done in a day.

Today we’re going to look into the dress code when you work from home. There are many different views on this topic. Here are a few of mine:

I learned from an early age that how you dress actually affects you – it goes beyond just comfort. Sure one of the nice things about being socially distant is that you could work in your pajamas, but should you?

Much study has gone into this, and what has been discovered is that those who work in non-standard work attire (pajamas, sweats, etc.) have a lower overall performance IF your job is a typical desk or professional job. So from a performance, and getting stuff done approach – get dressed like you’re going to the office. And for me, it is typically head-to-toe — yes socks and shoes too.

Just like having a separate work area, it helps keep you in that “work mindset”. So even a casual answer of the cell phone generally has a more business versus casual tonality when answering. Plus if you have any impromptu webinars, video chats, zoom, google hangout, etc., you’re already set to succeed.

We’ve all seen the videos of people having absolutely no clue when on a video conference call. Don’t be “that guy” who looks like he just rolled out of bed, still have their curling rollers in their hair (do people really do that anymore?), or just are lounging on the sofa. Listen people are probably making fun of somebody, and I’d rather be made fun of for looking like I’m at the office, then the one who looks the worst. More on video conferences in another article.

But back to clothing… Keep up your routine — if you normally shower every other day, then keep doing that. Shave, keep yourself presentable. No need to return back to the office in a month looking like a caveman! Also from a phycological perspective, maintaining certain routines helps preserve normalcy in times of great change. It helps keep you calmer, more centered, about your work and life. And whatever you normally do when you get home from work (kick off the shoes, change into something comfortable, take off the tie, whatever) — do that. Keep whatever office schedule you set up for yourself.

Please take a moment and share in the comments below your routines for working from home dress code. What have you been wearing, and does this article change your mind in any way?

 

WH: Set a schedule

After working from home for years, I put together this new series of posts to help those who are working from home for the first time. Tips and tactics to get more done in a day.

Transitioning from working in an office to working from the home can be a lot like a teenager moving out of their parent’s house. From a structured environment to an unstructured one. And what at first seems like unlimited freedom devolves quickly into chaos. We all had different ‘out on your own’ experiences. Some more successful than others. My wife quickly noticed how many of her coworker’s natural schedules started to show through when they’d send emails. Some emailing really earlier, others late at night. Everyone isn’t a natural ‘day person’. I certainly am not.

Here are some tips that I’ve collected over the years:

  • Make your bed after you get up – I know it’s a crazy idea, it’s based on a book I read years ago by the same name by Admiral William H. McRaven. The concept is simple, no matter what happens to your day’s schedule, you’ll have accomplished at least one thing.
  • Clean the kitchen – following quickly on the first item – get the simple, easy things out of the way. I do it while making breakfast. Slay those easy to do tasks nobody really wants to do.
  • Have a specific work area and clean anything with-in eyesight of it. And if there are others home with you, make sure they know that is your work zone. Have little ones at home, then you’ll need to manage this differently than those without — more on that another day. (I’ll link it here when I get around to writing it!).

Okay, so right now you’re probably asking if you’re reading the right list. Yes, you are – this is for people who have regular day jobs, white-collar, work from an office or classroom. Stick with me. One of the biggest distractions from people getting stuff done from home is the distractions of the house. These first three help avoid those distractions and get stuff actually done.

  • Set specific “work hours” – otherwise things get out of hand really quick. This is both for your sake and your coworkers, managers, etc. One benefit of working at home is often scheduled flexibility. But what messes this up is bosses who expect you to always be available, and home/family needs who feel you’re totally accessible. Boundaries need to be set on both ends.
  • Reinforce your work hours by managing when you communicate with coworkers and the office. If you want to be available 9 to 5, but are sending late-night emails, it communicates that you’re available after hours. Is that what you really want to communicate? Likewise, if you’re tending to your kids during the normal day and really only work before breakfast and after dinner, likewise reinforce that with how and when you communicate. There are several ways (depending on how you’re setup) to even write an email and schedule it to be delivered later, during your ‘office hours’. I used this extensively. I would sometimes burn the midnight oil, but not necessarily want to be ‘available’ for an immediate reply or give the impression that I normally work that late. Instead, I’d write a lot of emails that would go out at 9am.
  • Protect your privacy with a virtual phone number – Only answer work calls during your specific work hours. More details at Virtual Phone Numbers article.

 

This article will be updated as I create more articles that cross-reference each other. None of the links to products or services on here are affiliate links (I don’t make any revenue from them.) Additionally, the WordPress platform I use does provide other advertisement links that generate them revenue but I receive zero financial benefits.

 

 

WH: Virtual Phone Number

After working from home for years, I put together this new series of posts to help those who are working from home for the first time. Tips and tactics to get more done in a day.

If your work has issued you a work phone (cell, desk, virtual phone) you can skip this article. This is for those of you who have only your personal phone to communicate with workers, students, etc, the last thing you want to be doing is giving out your personal cell to everyone. And as part of maintaining boundaries with coworkers, you need to be able to turn off those calls.

Imagine this:

You can give a number out to your coworkers/students/etc, that they can call and it automatically forwards to your cell or home phone. That this magical number you can have it only forward those calls during your ‘office hours’, and the rest of the time it goes to voicemail. And perhaps after all of this Carona/Covid shelter-in-place is over, you can turn off that number and still keep your personal phone number private!

There are two great ways you can do this:

  1. Google Voice is completely free and if you have a Google account, such as gmail.com it’s really easy to set up!
  2. Ring Central is a fantastic business level option, and during this Carona/Covid situation, if you’re in education, healthcare, non-profit or a few other cases get Ring Central Free at this link. I have personally used Ring Central for years – and they’re great, and I was really excited to see they’re offering this free for select industries. Of course, they’re hoping you’ll fall in love with it and pay to continue service, but there is zero obligation. And remember Google Voice is permanently free!

 

Also, be sure to watch to pay special attention to the feature that prevents your personal voicemail/answering machine from grabbing the message. Both Google Voice and Ring Central have options for this – that way your work and personal voicemails stay separate.

Finally, be sure to check out the texting options also available on these platforms!

 

This article will be updated as I create more articles that cross-reference each other. None of the links to products or services on here are affiliate links (I don’t make any revenue from them.) Additionally, the WordPress platform I use does provide other advertisement links that generate them revenue but I receive zero financial benefits.

 

 

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