[Opinion column written by Lorene Phillips]
We have always known the benefits of working remotely included, among other things, flexibility [work life balance], cost reduction [need for less office space] as well as the ability to effectively collaborate and have meetings globally.
As we know, the new Covid-19 pandemic is forcing the world to adapt to a remote/virtual working environment for a period to stop the spread of the virus.
This crisis we are faced with is having a fundamental and global shift in the way we work, whether organizations are ready or not to become virtual. Everyone will have to adapt quickly to this business change and do so in a way that business is still productive overall.
Most companies were already prepared with a disaster recovery plan, although no one thought this would have been triggered by a pandemic.
I continue to receive email updates of companies from various industries advising that they are now moving 100% to an online presence which will allow them to deliver their services until, in some cases, Spring of this year.
I have listed below some standard of etiquette to follow that I am sharing with my clients and I believe others will also find very useful. It will help everyone adapt during this transitional period to present their best self at work in a virtual or remote capacity. These rules apply in virtual meeting just as they do in face-to-face meetings.
1. Do conduct relevant checks before the scheduled video conferencing. If you are the meeting co-coordinator you should test the microphone and video ahead of the call. Check the video conferencing system in advance of the meeting so you can address any issues and enable a smooth discussion.
- Tip: Log unto the conference call a at least five minutes early to ensure you are prepared to start promptly.
2. Do dress appropriately and be on time. Like face-to-face, be particularly mindful that you are dressed appropriately for your video conference. Check your camera well ahead of meeting to ensure no embarrassing surprises. Dress in business attire even though you are at home. It’s a shift in mindset – dress for work. Be on time and make sure to check your dial-in instructions well in advance.
- Tip 1: Wait professionally as others may be logging in early as well and you want to be professionally ready.
- Tip 2: Wearing your PJs is not appropriate. Your image does matter so be mindful of this.
3. Do create an appropriate professional environment. Ensure that you have a space that is professional looking. If you do not have a home office be creative and find a place that could be adapted temporarily as an office space such as a spare room or a playroom etc.
- Tip 1: Avoid loud clicking clocks and position your camera to focus on you.
- Tip 2: Ensure you discuss with your family this change in work practice and explain what would be required of them during such times.
- Tip 3: Make arrangements ahead of time to take care of any barking dogs or crying babies etc.- check out this YouTube video that highlights the need for this precaution.
4. Do set an agenda. An agenda will ensure that everyone is kept focused. The purpose of the meeting will be clear, and your time will be well managed. An agenda will also allow for successful collaboration and will make the best use of everyone’s time. Your virtual meetings will be short and sweet.
- Tip: Send out presentations and agendas in advance of meeting so participants can have them before the meeting begins.
5. Don’t multitask and interrupt speakers. Try to resist the urge of doing several things while you are on a virtual meeting call. According to a survey by Raindance Communications, 70% of people do unrelated work, 50% read or send emails, and 36% mute the call to talk to someone else while on a video call. Think very carefully about timing of comments or questions to ensure that you are not interrupting the speaker – you may have to factor in any delay in voices and this can be tricky.
- Tip: If you are finding it difficult to ask your question during the call consider emailing any questions after the call.
6. Do speak clearly and concisely. Be sure to pronounce your words clearly– muffled microphones and poor speakers can impact how well people understand you. Keep your points to the point. Pause after questions and statements. Sometimes there is a time delay between participants, so allow enough time to hear the complete exchange so you can respond appropriately. Start with their name and then wait to begin explaining or asking your question.
- Tip: You can raise a hand when using a webcam.
7. Do take steps to have fully engaged participants. These steps will ensure that participants minds are not distracted during important meetings where high levels of productivity is critical. A recent HBR article on March 9,2020 identified 5 rules that when applied, 86% of participants report as high or higher levels of engagement as in face-to-face meetings. This includes ‘The 60 Second Rule’, ‘The Nowhere to Hide Rule’, ‘The MVP Rule’ and ‘The 5 Minute Rule’.
- Tip: For further details about these rules please read HBR article on link.
Coaching remotely. As coaches, we are trained to operate very well in a remote working environment and so we will find what might appear to be a disruption of service for many to be a normal way of doing business for us.
By employing these rules of etiquette, you and your team can be professional and productive during this time of highly unusual circumstances.
Whilst companies are scrambling and trying to figure out the etiquette for conducting business online, remember that it’s better to be safe than sorry and adopt the same behaviour as you would during a face-to-face meeting – always with the utmost professionalism.
It will be interesting to see if working predominantly on a remote or virtual basis will become the new normal and how these soft skills described above will help to enhance your professionalism and performance going forward.
– Lorene Phillips is a leader, corporate coach, mentor, career strategist, trainer, speaker, and author. A wife and mother of three, she developed a 25-year track record of success as an international underwriter. She offers her services at Clarendon Wallace.