Due to social distancing measures and building closures, we're collectively experiencing an unprecedented push toward digital working, learning and socializing. This push calls for many employees facing head-on the equally dreaded and lauded video conference. Amidst the COVID-19 crisis, those typically working in office environments and going through school have moved their daily routine to their kitchen table or living room, causing work/school life and home life to collide in a way that's new for most and uncomfortable for many. Video conferences can be awkward at first and can sometimes uncomfortably highlight differences in the environments, dynamic and technology present in each home. However, video calls are easily the best tool during this time for staying connected, staying present and encouraging the informal conversation and face-to-face contact needed to maintain distanced relationships.
Although video calls may come with some new, strange etiquette for many of us, using this tool is better than rejecting it altogether. Here are some ways to make your video conferences less painful:
Be open about your living arrangement. It's crucial to acknowledge that for some, video calls aren't ideal due to a bad connection or a crowded environment. As an employee, be open about whether your space is suited for video conferencing. As an employer, be aware that not all employees may be able to fulfill this option in a quiet, secluded space and allow for easy accommodations (like simple audio conferencing).
Test your technology and environment in advance. For many, this is a brand-new experience. High-speed internet or a high-quality webcam isn't accessible to us all. Be sure to test out your camera, technology and software options in advance and speak up if something is unachievable for you.
Know your options. What software works best, and what is accessible to you as an employer or employee? The most popular options are Zoom and Microsoft Teams/Skype, which allow for video/audio conferencing, chatting and formatting backgrounds. Reference your teleworking policy or research which platform works best for your type of meetings/communication. You can review some options here.
Use the mute and chat features. The etiquette and flow of conversation during a video call tends to be slightly more rigid than in-person conversations. Be conscious not to talk over others or distract with accidental sounds or echoes. Be respectful and keep yourself muted unless you're speaking or on a one-on-one call. Additionally, utilize the chat feature; send a quick typed message if you have something minor to interject on a more populated call.
Find a Space. Again, not everyone will have access to the proper space for a video chat. If you're able, bargain for quiet time or separate rooms during scheduled video meetings. For an easy setup, find natural light and a blank wall. Another option, available on Zoom and Microsoft Teams, is to blur your background or, if you're up for it, change your background photo. Find some backgrounds here.
Dress and speak normally. It should go without saying, but please wear pants to your video calls. Be sure to keep up with your typical attire, or at least move away from wearing anything inappropriate. If preparing for a more formal meeting or interview, read these tips on what clothing looks best for a webcam. Additionally, if your team usually chats informally before a meeting, be sure to continue that remotely.
Think outside the box. Video conferencing software isn't only for face-to-face communication in a work environment. Video calls have been pushed to the forefront of the healthcare industry, causing an unprecedented reliance on telemedicine. Additionally, our virtual landscape has pushed the need for remote learning environments through multimedia e-learning courses and webinars. For an example, check out our webinar about medical imaging interoperability. There's an abundance of ways to use multimedia and video conferencing to achieve in-person learning and interaction, and now is the time to showcase creativity.
The nuances inherent to working and learning digitally are new and sometimes challenging. Following the guidance of honesty and proper etiquette, it doesn't have to be a struggle. For more resources, check out our blogs on teleworking and business etiquette.