In looking at a third full year of hybrid and remote work, it’s safe to say video meetings are here to stay. To keep up with demand and help ease the discomfort of a life spent on camera, video platforms have expanded their offerings with experience-enhancing extras like emojis and virtual background options. Anything to amplify the emotional element of a call and remind participants that there is more on the other side of the screen than a pixelated face.
Still, we’re hardly living in a utopia, even a virtual one. Platforms continue to be riddled with connectivity and reliability issues. Completely integrated tools that don’t rely on a third party are few and far between and, at this point, people are wondering if they’ll be regenerating video call links in their calendar invites until they die.
There are plenty of tweaks you can make to take your video meetings to the next level and make your team feel more at home in the world of virtual meeting spaces.
Cut background noise
Even as we move toward a more IRL feel, there’s much to be said for envisioning the best of both worlds. Sound, for instance, is often sacrificed for the visual components of a virtual meeting place. It doesn’t have to be that way. Set an example for your team by using Bluetooth or noise-canceling headphones to eliminate surrounding chatter and encourage focus.
Do your research on resources that might improve the audio quality of your meetings, including an external mic. (This can go for video as well if you’re keen to invest in an external camera.) The hardware you and your team use can also make a world of difference in your attitude toward work.
On a day-to-day level, you and your team can adopt video-call habits that serve you and break habits that don’t through meticulously observed routines. It takes roughly seven repetitions to drive a message home. It falls to you, as the leader, to find ways of keeping your employees energized, focused and happy. That’s no easy feat when some days feel like eight hours of staring into a webcam.
Get into the habit of keeping meetings short: 15 minutes for a standup call, 30 minutes for a catch-up and nothing longer than 45 minutes. In addition to making sure the purpose and agenda of each call are set ahead of logging in, allowing yourself less time ensures that you remain on task in your discussions and get to the points that matter.
On the calls themselves, the tone that you set can make or break the experience for everyone involved. Whatever personality you bring to IRL meetings is doubly needed in virtual ones, intentional or not. Some team members might be naturally inclined to wear funny things or crack jokes during a meeting. You can encourage those who are less outgoing to add a background that invites questions or makes a statement about their interests.
Whatever rituals you propose, lead by example. If you’re not afraid to make yourself vulnerable and you don’t take yourself too seriously, even on the most (quote-unquote) important calls, you’ll be putting your team at ease to do the same.
Reassess your physical environment
Aside from adjusting processes and workplace culture, some shifts can and should be implemented by your individual team members. Encourage them to evaluate the setup of their work area. Clear away clutter and distractions. Even if they aren’t visible onscreen, they can crowd your mind and contribute to stress. You can also help your employees invest in their own healthy at-home work habits by subsidizing materials like standing desks or walking pads.
And don’t neglect your physical relationship to your workspace. Posture is an enormously important yet under-observed factor in physical performance. To keep your team’s spines in check, resist booking video meetings back-to-back and take breaks for quick reset exercises.
Embrace the growing pains
Learn to appreciate that there is an art to holding a video meeting. Implementing new habits for your team means continuous trial and error. Operating in a remote workplace demands more organization, advance planning, creativity and collaboration than ever before. As you implement the practices that you feel are right for your team, be receptive to their feedback — facial expressions are one of the few things a screen can’t hide. An open dialogue will increase the chances of creating video meeting experiences that your team actually looks forward to.
Stefanie Palomino is Chief Product Officer and General Manager of ROOM3D from The TMRW Foundation. Stefanie is a product design veteran and a pioneering woman in tech, having co-founded the mobile social network aka-aki in 2006, which won a Webby Award for Best Mobile Social Network. In 2015, she co-founded Red Lab, a boutique consultancy supporting clients in interactive, smart digital events and communications.
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