By Scott DeMasse, CMIT Solutions of the Outer Banks
Millions of North American workers have had one to two weeks to get used to telecommuting. That means mastering a handful of video conferencing platforms, instant message apps, and other tools — along with highlighting a set of standards of online communication.
The basics are easy to grasp. Don’t be the person that refuses to turn on their camera when everyone else in a meeting does. Limit background distractions. Mute your microphone when you’re not talking.
But the nuances of online meeting etiquette run much deeper, even as best practices are still being hammered out. CMIT Solutions collected 12 of the most impactful tips for telecommuting and staying connected in a smart, respectful manner.
1. Write out an agenda and share it before a remote meeting.
No matter the topic, it should merit the time scheduled. The best way to make sure that happens is to come up with a list of topics beforehand so everyone has a common agenda to work from.
2. Remain present.
We all need to multi-task. But when you’re typing furiously or responding to emails, others on the call will probably hear it. Following the thread of conversation actually requires more effort when meeting remotely, too.
3. Embrace face-to-face communication.
This was mentioned before as a common-sense part of telecommuting, but it bears repeating: video calls can be so much more productive than audio ones. Body language and visual cues can make conversations more natural. And using video makes being present (see bullet point above) a must.
4. Put your computer on a pedestal.
We’re all familiar with the hunched shoulders and craned necks common to webcams. Solve that nagging problem with a quick solution: place your laptop on a stack of books or magazines to make the web camera level with your line of sight.
5. Test out different methods of connection.
Most online meeting platforms offer web-based, app-based, and dial-in options. Test your audio and video capabilities on desktop, laptop, and mobile phone (well before a meeting actually starts!) to see what works best for you.
6. Dial into your online meeting a few minutes early.
Once you know which device you want to use, click or connect to each virtual meeting early so you can get “tech issues” out of the way before everyone is on the call.
7. Did you set up the meeting? If so, lead it.
There’s nothing worse than dialing into a call that one knows how to start. The meeting organizer should always be proactive in introducing participants, presenting topics for discussion, managing the schedule, and summarizing next steps or follow-up action items.
8. Embrace a bit of positivity.
If time and topic allow, start your meeting by asking all the participants to share something positive that happened to them that day. So many of us are bombarded and overwhelmed with negative news right now that focusing on optimism can set the right tone for any virtual gathering.
9. Carve out time for informal conversations.
Continuing that idea, we’re all missing those coffee break chats, lunchtime laughs, and post-meeting inspirations. Beyond your regularly scheduled online calls, make sure you connect with colleagues for those off-the-cuff moments, too. Those quick flashes of brevity (and, hopefully, humor) will help the next two-hour meeting go down more smoothly.
10. Forgive and forget, where appropriate.
Everyone is working out the kinks of telecommuting, often on a day-by-day and hour-by-hour basis. Frustrations will flare up; children and pets will interrupt important conference calls; connectivity issues will kick us out of a meeting. What matters now is how clearly we can communicate, how efficiently we can work, and how cohesively we can interact as teams. Don’t beat yourself (or a co-worker) up for a minor breach of online meeting etiquette.
11. Look at your camera when speaking
So it appears to another member of the call that you are looking at them.
12. Invest in a good microphone. It makes a BIG difference.
Whether you’re working from home with a small group of local colleagues or telecommuting thousands of miles with contacts around North America, CMIT Solutions is here to support businesses and employees as we navigate this new terrain. Together, we can all rise to the current challenge.