If you’re a business professional, you’ve spent the last few months working from home due to shelter-in-place orders. Distributed workforce models aren’t new, but measures implemented during the pandemic have shown organizations that they can succeed, at-scale, swiftly. Many will make a permanent shift that will allow employees to work from home a lot more often, if not exclusively. You, personally, may have managed OK through a temporary period, but what does life look like when your company transitions to a new model and the majority of your communications are through a computer or mobile device?
Well before COVID-19, I managed dispersed teams – first, while working from home with a field sales team during a 12-month period while we looked for new office space and another time during a long tenure with a Fortune 1000 corporation that moved through various degrees of remote work. In these roles I managed home-based local talent, national teams and international teams who worked remotely and in corporate offices. Here are a few things I learned that allowed us to have more meaningful and effective remote communications and maximize productivity.
Create the Connection
Even with the right collaboration tools, choosing which to use can make or break your effectiveness, and sometimes sanity. With the availability of high-quality, easy-to-use video conferencing software, most teams today default to video as their primary collaboration tool for live conversations. The belief is that you can interpret and show emotions and understanding through body language. For example, if you notice a team member nodding their head when you’re presenting, and another typically responsive member remaining stoic and silent, you know to provide more explanation or ask for feedback. On the reverse side, when others are speaking or presenting, you have the chance to show them that you respect their time and thoughts by paying attention, looking at them and using facial expressions.
However, good audio remains the most important aspect of good video conferencing. You must have it to participate. Good quality audio allows you to deal with the intermittent Internet bandwidth that affects video. Good quality audio allows you to not have to have cameras rolling if you need to move around a bit or have an 8:00pm call with a customer in Asia after a long day of video calls. With good quality audio conferencing you don’t have to worry about background. If you use a noise elimination application , no one will hear your kids yelling, the street noise, or noises you encounter while walking around the house or yard. With this type of application, you have an opportunity to interpret the feelings and responses of team members by listening to tone. In fact, some research shows voice alone is a more powerful form of empathy.
If you choose the communication method that’s easiest-to-use and appropropriate for your circumstances, and pair it with technology that allows you and others to clearly hear, every live communication can be an opportunity to establish understanding, empathy and true connection.
Prepare for Every Conference Call
People may get a little casual when it comes to conducting conference calls from home. But you need to prepare for virtual meetings just like you would for a face-to-face meeting, only better. Because you don’t have the luxury of freely asking questions, getting feedback or striking up a conversation in the same way you would if you were sitting in the next chair from colleagues, you need to make sure every live virtual communication count. Sure you can open up chats or send texts for quick one-offs, but if you want to make the most of your time, as well as everyone else’s, make sure you establish objectives and intended outcomes. Many people are on video calls throughout the day and it can be challenging to stay focused and present looking at a screen for hours on end. Short and sharp is best!
Communicate important information before the meeting. If you’re presenting materials, send them out ahead of time so participants are ready to provide feedback. If your meeting or call is of a sensitive or serious nature, be sure to give participants a heads up so they can be in a good space physically and mentally to receive it. And, most important, ensure the people with whom you’re communicating can hear you and you can hear them. Nothing wastes time more than configuring your set up, repeating yourself or asking others to do the same because of disruptive background noise.
Preparing for every meeting with objectives and pre-communications – as well as having clear audio to avoid delays – will keep a professional, results-focused culture that is focused on productivity while also respecting coworkers time and fostering positive connections.
Be Present, without Distractions
You may not be the only one working from home. You and your spouse may be taking turns commandeering the office while your three children take over every other space. While everyone understands that distractions will happen in a world where work melds into home life, it’s important to do what you can to set yourself up to truly be present when you’re on a video or audio conference call.
I have set up an office in a barn to remove myself from the chaos of my house. That doesn’t stop my daughter from coming out and throwing the medicine ball against the wall or my sons from dribbling a basketball just feet away, but I use Clear Edge to block that out. You may not have the option of a completely separate space but you do have the option of using a simple noise-elimination app to block out unwanted and distracting background sounds so others can hear you and you can hear them.
When meetings are shorter and more focused because you’re not wasting time having to repeat yourself, participants are less likely to get sidetracked and everyone has a chance to truly “hear” and be present with one another.
Succeed in the New Work World
Not all business professionals are cut out to work remotely for the long run, but with accelerated adoption of the distributed workforce model, almost everyone can spend much more time collaborating productivity. Set yourself up with the right tools and know that through better connection and understanding with your coworkers you can succeed in this new, virtual world of work.
If you’re looking for an easy way to hear, understand and connect from home or in talking to others who are working remotely, boost your productivity by downloading Clear Edge – it’s free your first three months.