Tag Archives: virtual

The Human Family Crash Course Series {5} ~ Communication {6} ~ How To Stay Focused During Video Conferences

Welcome fellow souls to « The Human Family Crash Course Series, » a new project collaborated together by empress2inspire.blog and diosraw0.wordpress.com. Together we will be working on a different topic for each crash course; our fifth topic is focused on «Communication.» Each topic will have eight posts with posts on Mondays and Thursdays. We hope you enjoy our series and we look forward to knowing how our posts have inspired you!

Remember a time when zoom calls were new. We used to get so excited about logging on, seeing people and having these work conversations over the internet. And three months later, well, they suck. I think most of my days are taken up by video conferencing. We are still working from home and for me sometimes there are 5-6 video conferencing calls a day back to back. It’s tough so I have recently spent a lot of time figuring out how I can survive these long conference calls.

Here’s how you can stay focused on engaging through these calls. I hope these tips can be helpful for all of you:

Tip 1: Make it easy to stay focused
Tip 2: Show the other person that you are focused. This will help you stay focused.
Tip 3: Be prepared for the challenging calls.

Tip 1: Make it easy to stay focused
I have realised that focus for me is a very big issue on days when I am tired or when I have too many calls back to back. So I started thinking about why this is happening and I realised that one of the first reasons was there were too many distractions. So obviously for me the first solution was to remove all of these distractions. I put my phone out of sight so that I can’t see that. I removed the clutter from my desk. I cleaned up my digital desktop. This might come handy especially when you are sharing your screen with people, it’s nice to have your desktop clean. Have only tabs which are relevant for the meeting opened in your browser. Position the documents which you are referring to or reading from in the centre so that it seems you are looking at your camera when you are talking. Sometimes when I am talking and I need to look at my notes, I move my notes on the top centre of my screen so that it looks like I am looking at the camera while I am also looking at the notes at the same time. Even if your environment is very quiet, having your earphones on while you are working can help you focus on your work. It can specially come handy when there are more than one people working out of the same home, just a wall apart. Always have a glass of water available with you and mute yourself on calls when you are trying to drink. Also pro-tip have a lid on that glass of water unless you want to spill water on your laptop. Trust me I am speaking from experience. Avoid drinking any carbonated soda or spring water on calls because those bubbles will come back in the form of a burp on the call. If you notice your eyes are getting tired, play around with different steups and brightness on your laptop.

Tip 2: Show the other person that you are focused. This will help you stay focused.
Eye contact is everything. Look into the camera when you are talking when you are being authoritative and when you want to make a point because that looks like you are looking at the other person. Make sure that your computer is actually lifted because if you are on a laptop. You want to make sure that your eye level is where the camera is and that’s why keeping few books under your laptop may be beneficial. Put a little sticky note at the top of your laptop near your camera with a smiley face so that it kind of reminds you to look at the person when you are looking there. Oftentimes when you watch people on the camera and they don’t really realise that you are watching them, the face changes look like something focused on beyond the screen and this makes a huge difference when it comes to communication. One of the things that we usually forget is that when we are on these calls, our heads are quite close to the cameras and so people can tell when you are looking over or looking at text messages on your phone. In real life you are never that close to people so can get away with a lot more. But when you are online, it is difficult to get away with it. The message it sends is that hey, I am not focusing on you so don’t have to focus on me and hence there is a disconnect. Think of the camera as a magnet and when you do look away and you will, like you are going to look at the clock to see what time it is or you are going to look down on your notes to refer something and that’s okay, just make an effort to keep going back at thee camera and to maintain your presence in the meeting. If you think your eyes and the camera have a magnetic connection then you will keep going back to that. Sometimes telling people why you are looking away is a way of being polite and letting them know that you are still a part of the conversation.

Tip 3: Be prepared for the challenging calls
We have all been in them. We have all survived to tell the tale. Not all our calls are created equal. Some are really challenging and some are a breeze. It is the way it is because you are interacting with different people on different topics in different scenarios all those kinds of things. It may be the way the person is speaking or maybe their internet connection is consistently bad and so it’s hard to hear them, whatever that is, you know while going in who those challenging counterparts are going to be. If you can anticipate that, that will help you lower your expectations and manage your stress better. Another way is to not forget your listening skills. I have some typical tips which might help like :

  • Set an intention. This means think about why you are listening and what the outcome might be for the conversation. What is the purpose of your listening. Are you listening to learn something new or you are listening to find out someone’s instructions, whatever it is, have that in mind.
  • Use confirmation language when you are listening. That is especially important in these calls because if you are on mute all the time, then people really do not know that you are listening. So unmute yourself, ask a question, use some reflective language, confirm something that they said just to let them know that you were listening.
  • Finally if you are totally distracted and someone is going on and on and on then practice shadowing. Shadowing is when you are listening to somebody and in your head you are repeating every single word they say. It’s like forced focus, you can’t think about anything else because you are using all of your energy to repeat what they said.

So those are three tips on how to stay focused during video conferencing. These endless video conference calls have to be made easy because it seems like we will be doing them for a long while now. Also don’t forget to give yourself breaks. Stand up, walk around the house, drink some water. Also remember that the other person on the call may be going through the same thing. They may also be tired of the calls one after the other. You can help them out by being focused and engaging.

If you have any additional tips on how to stay engaged, please do share in the comments section. We always love to hear from you. If there are any questions you would like us to address, please feel free to ask us and we will try to answer them as best as possible.

~Garima {Empress2Inspire}

The Human Family Crash Course Series {5} ~ Communication {4} ~ How To Win In A Virtual Workplace

Welcome fellow souls to « The Human Family Crash Course Series, » a new project collaborated together by empress2inspire.blog and diosraw0.wordpress.com. Together we will be working on a different topic for each crash course; our fifth topic is focused on «Communication.» Each topic will have eight posts with posts on Mondays and Thursdays. We hope you enjoy our series and we look forward to knowing how our posts have inspired you!

Virtual workplaces, in which employees operate remotely from each other and from managers, are a reality, and will become even more common in the future. There are sound business reasons for establishing virtual workplaces, but their advantages may be offset by such factors as setup and maintenance costs, loss of cost efficiencies, cultural clashes, isolation, and lack of trust. Virtual teams and telework are examples of such arrangements, but they are not appropriate for all jobs, all employees, or all managers. To be most effective in these environments, managers need to do two things well:

~Shift from a focus on time to a focus on results
~Recognise that virtual workplaces, instead of needing fewer managers, require better supervisory skills among existing managers.

If you’re like most people today, you are facing a whole new set of challenges around how to manage your workload, share ideas and build relationships while working remotely. It’s not just about the work. You will also have to learn how to maximize socialization between your boss, colleagues and customers. Step up. This is your time to shine. Never ever in your life have your environment been so conducive for working. No travel time. No nagging work colleagues. Your own space. Access to unlimited food and drink, no one is judging how many times you made the trip to the coffee machine or snackbar. I mean what else do you want? Fully embrace this moment to make sure that you come out on the top. I mean what better time to surf when everyone else is coasting?

Here are a few ways to set the stage effectively and increase your impact ~

You need to be ready to work a little harder to communicate. Think of it like commuting. Back when we were going to the office, you had this commute time to prepare for things transitioning from your home life to your work life. Those boundaries are no longer there, I understand. So it is easy to feel like your home life and work life have kind of blended together. If you really want to fully take advantage of this moment here’s few tips:
~Make sure when you are talking in these virtual meetings, that you are being concise and powerful. You really want to make sure you are organised and you really don’t want to be that person who everybody wishes would just log off. In order to do this well, you have to plan ahead.
~Make attempts to connect with the people in your meeting after the call. Are you setting up coffee chats or are you setting up virtual happy hours. Doing this is very important to maintaining relationships with people in your meetings because you may not have that much time to talk to them during your meeting.
~When you are interacting with the team on zoom, keep your videos on, make sure your head and shoulders are visible on the calls. Also remember to smile often to let people know that you are still part of the conversation and not feel like they are speaking with an expressionless statue.

~Be responsive. When people can’t see you, they don’t know if you are working, and what you are working on so I think it’s more of the old “Out of sight and out of mind concept”. Nowadays, it’s not so much about what you are doing but who knows what you are doing. You have to be constantly interacting. I have noticed that people who I work with and have a high responsibility stake and the ones who are most responsive when I communicate with them. They know they need to be responsive. Sometimes it is more of an individual contributor who knows what they are doing and not so worried about their communication and takes them longer to get back. We need to remember that the higher we move up the more our jobs rely on communication. Here are a few tips :
~If you are going to be away from your seat, put an on break reply to the emails or messages you get. Let your team know you are taking a break.
~Send an email acknowledging someone’s request or email. It is good etiquette. This shows you are in the loop and you are responsive. As the tasks are being completed, let them know.

~Do what you say you will do. In our virtual workplaces it may be a little bit easier to drop the ball on things because you are not seeing your coworkers walk by your desk, things may not be front and centre, there are a lot of other things on our mind these days. So it’s a lot easier to hide. We need to make sure that we are really on it. I think some workplaces have a lot of pressure even when we are working from home, the intensity and urgency is pervasive. But for important but not urgent tasks, you need to create that sense of urgency yourself so that you do not become lazy about it. So here’s a tip~
~Know where your action item list is. We all have our things to do but do you know where yours is? Put it on your calendar. Do not have multiple to do lists. Get that piece figured out.
~Set up regular meetings with colleagues and stakeholders and people who help you stay accountable and stay on track.
~Keep your promises. If you tend to promise too much, maybe make an effort to manage expectations.

It takes a little hard work to be successful. So don’t coast. Remember the universe is bending in your favour. It is time to reach up and grab the opportunity. We are all going to come out of these cocoons like perfect communication butterflies successfully navigating the future of our crazy world. We would love to know about your communication and workplace hacks for succeeding in this virtual world. Please share.

~Garima {Empress2Inspire}