COVID-19 has changed so many things about our daily lives. From socializing with friends and family to the way we work, life has looked and will continue to look very different for some time to come. Almost every industry has been impacted in some way by COVID-19, and many people have been forced to work from home. While those of us who have been working from home understand how fortunate we are that we can do this, working from home can present new challenges.
One of these challenges is finding ways to communicate with your colleagues effectively while being in separate locations. There is only so much you can write in a work email or memo, and sometimes a meeting is the best option for everyone as it allows them to discuss things naturally. With more people working from home, online or virtual meetings have become very popular. If we look at Google Trends data, the search term 'Zoom video communications' had a drastic rise in popularity during March and into April when most of the world was starting to go into lockdown. For the first week in March, the term only had a popularity rating of 3, when you compare this to the end of the month and the beginning of April it had risen all the way to 100.
Some people who have been working from home are now starting to return to their offices and interact with colleagues. However, there has been speculation that this time spent working from home will raise the number of people who work from home in the future, as it has shown companies it can be done. If that is the case, online meetings will become even more important. There are some crucial things to remember when setting up and working through an online or virtual meeting.
Have a quiet space and the right equipment
While meetings in an office can often get noisy with lots of people talking at the same time, when taking part in an online meeting, being set up in a quiet place so as little noise as possible will interfere with your meeting is vital.
The equipment you have access to can also make a substantial difference to your online meeting experience. Making sure everyone participating in an online conference call or meeting has headphones, and a microphone will make it easier for everyone on the call to communicate. The difference between the microphone on your computer and one directly positioned close to your mouth is much more significant than you might think. Even using the headphones and microphone that come with most smartphones today is better than nothing and will help everyone communicate better.
If you think you may be working from home for some time to come, it’s vital to make it clear to your employer about any equipment needs you might have. A recent survey of people working from home found that over half, 53%, said they were not supplied with anything to help set up an office at home by their company. Headphones, microphones, and a good quality computer camera are the basics needed for online meetings today.
Make use of document sharing programs
Often meetings are used to discuss work projects and bring other members of a team up to speed on what certain people have been working on. This is an excellent opportunity to work together, develop ideas, and get feedback on a project. When you're working from home, getting feedback from co-workers or your manager can be difficult, as it's not as easy to speak to them compared to when working in an office. The aforementioned study also found that 72% of people working from home had a day where they did not speak to any of their colleagues from work.
An online meeting can help keep communication between co-workers, but there are also tools to help people work on projects together. Collaborative work documents such as Google Docs can help you share comments and give feedback in real-time while having an online meeting. This can not only save time but also help integrate multiple people’s ideas into a project effectively.
Keeping on track during an online meeting
I’m sure we have all been in meetings where the conversation gets off-topic. When working from home and then taking part in an online meeting, and perhaps having not talked to your co-workers in a few days, this is easy to do. There are some really useful things you can do to help keep people on topic and productive during an online meeting.
It helps to have a presentation or some other form of visual aid that everyone can see, which supports what is being said in the meeting and helps keep people’s attention. This can be sent to the participants in the meeting before it starts so they can have it ready to go through at the start of the meeting.
During the meetings, it can be useful to have a speaking order so everyone participating can get their turn to contribute. In online meetings, when everyone is confined to little boxes on a screen, it can be hard to draw attention to yourself when you have something to say.
Online meetings can be a fantastic way of communicating, and in times like we're experiencing now a vital resource for keeping businesses running as smoothly as possible. Making sure you're getting the most out of them will allow you to maximize your productivity when working from home.