Who would have thought just four short weeks ago, a majority of us would be hunkered down working from home? But in this once-in-100-year pandemic, this is our new normal.
So just how do we navigate this new work world and remain productive? It’s not ‘rocket science.’ We do have the technology, and everyone is learning to roll with it, from organizations like Alcoholics Anonymous to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other world leaders who are conducting virtual meetings, locally, nationally and internationally.
If your company or organization has little experience with virtual meetings, it will take some keen organizers, a few tech-savvy folks and discipline to keep your workplaces ticking as close to normal as possible.
Most importantly, cut yourself a little slack if you’re new to this.
I’ve been working from home for five years, so I feel comfortable with it. But now that I have to meet with my clients digitally rather than face to face, I’m experiencing some of the challenges we all face in the coming weeks.
Whereas I once had space to myself, I suddenly have more company in my home office with the kids out of school. I find myself asking my 16-year-old son to vacate our shared space (“ Mooommm!!!”) when I’m about to go into a Zoom meeting or a video conference call.
From a client’s perspective, this will certainly change how I work with them for the foreseeable future. What does that look like? We’ll meet online in shorter, more frequent, chunks and there will be more takeaway work for participants.
We will all have to learn how to adapt and we will evolve as we do so. I’m finding myself doing that every day. This will force us to elevate our remote working game, that’s for sure.
On March 12, I began the first of a four-part series of discussions with a client. On that day, everyone was in the room. It was business as usual. By March 17, 40% of the group was remote. By the third meeting a few days later, 75% of participants were remote. The final two meetings were larger groups and 100% remote participation.
What were some takeaways?
I admit that I am finding it a bit exhausting, never mind my tech helper who had a tiny meltdown after our third meeting where we had so much complexity. But I’m determined to make this work.
For those of whom working from home is relatively new, we are all on a huge learning curve, so how do we need to be?
For one, we all need to have compassion for one another. We all have different home setups. Some people may be working from a cluttered kitchen table with an older computer, while others have an aspirational, eye candy office and impeccable tech. (Jealous!) Pro tip: If you’re working with the popular Zoom online tool, the virtual background feature (Click on the up arrow beside the camera icon in lower left hand corner, select virtual background, choose your background) allows you to have a bucolic background like the Golden Gate Bridge. Thought you might appreciate that!
Meanwhile, here are some tips for making your routine virtual meetings go smoothly.
Just because you’re not all together in one room, doesn’t mean you can’t set a positive tone, encourage meaningful conversations and establish a sense of cohesiveness.
Because online meetings are asynchronous deliberate attention to connecting conversations is really helpful. Here are a few things you can do to achieve this:
Working from home is not terrible. Think of all the advantages – no commuting, staying in your pajama bottoms (though you may want to have a decent top for video meetings), and the ability to throw in a load of laundry in the middle of the day and take your dog for a walk.
There’s a simplicity and fluidity that can be beneficial to working from home, even if virtual meetings are on the agenda. There’s a new intimacy to the way we have to work now, and we may just have to be more deliberate in creating cohesiveness, documenting our work and communicating with intention.
There are infinite online resources for virtual meetings. Here are a few I’ve found helpful
Officeless: This site represents a movement that started in Brasilia. They posted a particularly good guideline for working remotely in our current circumstances.
This CNET article has a long list of Zoom tips, tricks and hidden features.
Google slides / Google docs – really great for co-creation. Google was the first to create co-edit docs and they are an easy to use, easily accessible tool. It’s always fun to correct someone else’s typos as they make them.
Liniot is a free, sticky and canvas service that requires nothing but a Web browser. This is a simple tool for a brainstorm / cluster process. A bit ‘old school’ looking – it covers off a basic brainstorm session.
Miro.com is an online collaborative whiteboarding platform. Use it for brainstorming, clustering, mapping and diagramming. I have not used it, but have heard some good reviews from others.
Mural.co has come to my attention. It is also an online collaborative whiteboarding platform. It seems to support a larger canvas and offers many templates.
Jamboard is an interactive style of whiteboard that supports cloud-based collaboration. From Google, it’s got lots to offer and requires some investment dollars.