Managing Remote Teams (Part 1): Setting Up a Virtual Office

If you weren’t doing remote meetings before you are definitely noticing that this is likely to be a permanent part of how everyone works. If you were one of those who was already experienced you may need some patience while the rest of your colleagues catch up to your proficiency. 

Either way the three articles which follow present some of the best practices we have seen from our friends and clients adopt across many verticals and geographic areas. The first article covers setting up your virtual office, the second article deals with the “rules of engagement” when managing remote meetings and the third instalment covers remote team management.

Note we do not have any affiliate relationship with any product, company or service we mention below.

PART ONE: THE VIRTUAL OFFICE SETUP

Too often, home offices have been rapidly put together without much forethought. A few simple changes can enhance the experience for everyone.  In order to optimize your (video conferencing focused) workspace we recommend the following guidelines.

  1. Make sure you have a consistent broadband internet connection. Often wifi can be affected by people moving between you and your modem so if you are having intermittent problems consider either using your ethernet cable directly or a signal booster to mitigate interference.
  2. Use a headset and microphone. Your built-in microphone is usually not good enough to prevent echo and background noises and if you have ever felt that a day of video conferencing leaves you more tired that being at the office, it could be because you are straining to listen. In addition, a headset will help you focus and be more present. First prize is for a headset with a boom style microphone (so that you sound good all the time to others) and some form of active noise cancelling. We are partial to the Jabra 75 but any device that works and fits within your budget will be an improvement on your laptop or desktop factory sound.
  3. Set the rules of engagement with your family and friends. Whether it is a homemade do-not-disturb hotel style door hanger or a more sophisticated privacy sign, make sure you have agreement as to when it is OK to be disturbed and when you need privacy.
  4. Have a privacy slide for your camera. While we are generally not conspiracy theorists, why take the chance? Simply slide the cover over when not in use or when you need to stand up and walk around during a call so as not to distract others. Just remember to open the slide and keep your camera on when you are back online, no-one really wants to look at your initials during a video conference, otherwise it may as well be a phone conference. Up to 86% of communication is facial expressions and body language, why diminish this further? Having your camera on will also mitigate the tendency to zone out.
  5. Your phone or laptop camera is usually of good enough quality out of the box but what you may not have taken into consideration is the lighting. Background lighting that is too bright darkens your face and makes it appear as though you have entered a witness protection program. Ensure you have consistent lighting for both your visage and the surrounding areas. This is particularly important if you are using one of the virtual backgrounds many video conferencing applications offer as differential lighting creates a distorted look. When in doubt, go towards the light!
  6. Take the time ahead of the meeting to make sure you appear in the middle of the camera frame with a typical shoulder and head view. Align your camera at eye level, so that it does not appear as if you are looking down or are floating in the sky or even worse that your head is chopped off half way.
  7. Speaking of backgrounds, while the view of a tropical beach behind you or a New York penthouse outlook may be fun, you are missing an opportunity to create what we term the “red-carpet” look. If you ever notice celebrities walking the red carpet, whenever they reach a banner background they stop for photos. Have your virtual background be your banner that reflects your company logo, sponsor or branding, it is far more professional in our opinion.

For advanced users - knowing how to navigate around multiple online platforms, having dual screens, breakout rooms, white boards and learning various keyboard shortcuts appropriate for each app will maximize your productivity.

Would love to hear about any other hacks you have developed that we can share with our friends and colleagues. Part Two will cover the "rules of engagement" for when you have to manage your remote team.

Article Written by Peter Holgate
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