In just a few short weeks, the coronavirus pandemic has already transformed the way Americans live and work. At this time, the CDC urges minimal contact with others and gatherings of more than 10 people are highly discouraged.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 29% of Americans can currently work from home. With social distancing policies in place, that number is expected to grow. Tap or click to find out how to prepare your business for remote work.
Many businesses are now relying on teleconferencing to get the job done. But is it actually an effective strategy for workers? Here’s what we’ve learned after relying on teleconferencing for the past week at Komando.com.
An awkward dance: The strengths and weaknesses of teleconferencing
Last week, the Komando.com editorial team moved its operations remotely as part of our company’s social distancing policy. Our mission is to continue to deliver the trusted advice and content you rely on, while still maintaining responsible health and hygiene practices.
After configuring our desktops for remote access and saving our passwords, we left home for the day and prepared ourselves for the new process. The results have been optimistic, but not without some quirky situations and snafus.
When morning arrived, everyone logged into Google Hangouts Meet for our daily meeting. Once the cameras lit up, the entire editorial crew could be seen and heard onscreen.
Well, all but one of us. Not all computers and internet connections are created equal, and one of our writers was unable to talk to the crew without sounding like Alvin and the Chipmunks — his voice high pitched and absurdly fast.
As a workaround, he connected to G Suite using his phone and was able to join our meeting without further issues.
But that wasn’t the only technical hiccup during the video conference. Cameras would spontaneously blur and a distinct audio lag would occur that left several of our staff talking over one another.
After some brief growing pains, the editorial team became comfortable with the tools at our disposal. Using G Chat, we would frequently communicate on our progress and deadlines, and coordinate with one another to deliver our finished products.
Roll with the punches
While some are familiar with video conferencing tools, others aren’t. Our editorial team was familiar, and we were able to make the appropriate adjustments to both our tech and our behavior to help our conference calls run smoothly.
But what about those who aren’t video conferencing gurus? Well, there’re a few tricks you can use to ensure a smoother conferencing experience with minimal glitches — no matter what system you’re using.
1. Check your connection
Make sure your internet connection is plugged in and working. Check that all wires are tightly fastened and that your router isn’t in a precarious spot where wires can easily become unplugged.
You’ll also want to make sure you’ve prepared your router for secure networking. If you’re working at home, you’re less likely to have the network protections your workplace does. Tap or click here to see the router settings you need to change.
2. Make sure your camera and microphone are working
This sounds like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many people have never configured their cameras and mics. After all, many manufacturers don’t even enable the hardware right out of the box.
On Windows, click the Start menu >> Settings >> Privacy >> Camera. Then toggle “Allow apps to access your camera” to the on position.
Repeat the same process for your mic by clicking on Microphone from the left-hand menu and toggling “Allow apps to access your microphone” to the on position.
On a Mac, the camera and microphone are enabled by default. To make sure they’re working, use the FaceTime and Settings apps.
For the camera, open the Facetime app and make sure your face is visible. The green light should be on, indicating the camera is active.
For the microphone, open Settings and search “Sound Input” in the search bar on the upper right. Click Sound Input and begin speaking out loud. If your mic is working, you’ll see the bars light up under Input Level.
If you don’t see this, try turning Input Volume up higher until you notice the bars light up. This means your microphone is picking up sound.
3. Download the mobile app for your video conferencing tool as a backup
Just like with our writer, a software glitch can sabotage meeting participation. That’s why downloading a mobile app backup like he did is a great way to keep the ball rolling.
Most of the biggest productivity tools like G Suite, Microsoft Office 365 and Zoom all offer mobile versions on the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store.
Keep in mind that some, like G Suite, are spread across multiple apps. You’ll want to make sure you’re aware of the ins and outs of your workplace’s tools before downloading. Tap or click to see how you can get free premium versions of these productivity apps.
Also make sure that when you install these programs, you’re logging in with your secure work username and password, not setting up a new account.
4. Take a breather when you’re finished talking
This is a big one! Audio lag, or latency, is a common issue for video conferencing. And with more people working from home than ever, it’s likely to affect all of us at some point. Tap or click to see why.
To avoid talking over one another, try this easy trick: Pause longer than usual when you’re finished speaking. This acts as an invitation for others on the conference call to speak — especially those struggling with lag.
Your team can also take turns speaking rather than chiming in all at once. It might be easy to jump in and out of a conversation when speaking face-to-face, but teleconferencing is a different story. It’s best only to speak if need-be and be courteous by waiting if others are already talking.
5. Dress for success – seriously!
This one’s a bit of a lifehack for all the newly remote workers out there.
One of the most important parts of successfully working from home is separating your work life from your home life. The lines can blur when you sleep in the same space that you work and it can make you feel like you never have a chance to go home.
To keep yourself productive (and sane), try to get up and dress for work as you would normally. Then, at the end of the day, you have a chance to get in comfortable clothes and unwind for the night.
It may seem like an unnecessary step, but the psychological impact is immediately obvious. Dressing for work puts you in a working mindset. Changing to leisure clothes when you’re done working for the day separates the feeling of your work life from your home life.
Also, designating an exclusive spot in your home for work is a good way to keep your mind away from the distractions of home life. Decorate it with things you enjoy or need, and soon you’ll have your very own home office setup.
Working from home is a major adjustment for many people. But in the end, the technology and a few life hacks makes it possible to maintain your livelihood during times of uncertainty. Plus, you can’t beat that ultra-short commute from your bed to your desk!