Written By Rachel Stuart
Pensacola Young Professionals hosted a Work From Home Professional Development webinar, hosted by our guest speaker, Ann Novakowski, and our PD chair Bradley Sanders. Ann’s presentation was centered on her experience working from home for the past 6 years. I added some of my own advice as I’ve been working from home for two years from all over the world (read: military spouse). Ready to learn from work from home pros? Read on below for these 11 virtual working tips!
Are you Ready for Your Close Up?
Understandably, we have all been feeling Zoom fatigue lately. It’s difficult to be on camera for every video conference meeting. Psychology experts assert that zoom fatigue is caused by a number of factors, from the work required to process our colleague’s communication without the extra help from body language and facial expressions, to the real stress we are processing from this global pandemic. Still, leaving your camera on during a video conferencing session does help ease communication because you will feel more connected to your team, even if the rest of your team are on-premises.
Call People by their Name
During video conference meetings, no matter how benevolent the intentions of the attendees, sometimes people speak over one another. Ann suggests that the leader of the meeting call on folks by name in order to facilitate the conversation. In my experience, too, streamlining communication this way does enhance the conversation at hand and helps everyone get back to doing real work.
The Magic of Sharing Screens
Speaking of getting back to work ASAP — sharing screens does just that. Seriously, though, having the ability to see exactly what the work at hand is by jumping into the software or document itself only picks up the pace of work projects and helps everyone get on the same page. My own experience corroborates this– from working on school accreditation documents (I’m a school admin) to writing textbooks, to designing websites. I think it does help a lot!
Will this meeting ever end???
If you’re like me, there are times when video conference meetings drone on and on and have no end in sight because one colleague likes to dominate the conversation, while others might get into heated discussions. Ann suggests that you have an “exit phrase” to get things back on track or shut the conversation down. Suggested phrases are “Let’s continue this discussion elsewhere” or “Bob and Sue, let’s talk about the specific difficulties of this asynchronously or offline.” Reorienting conversations back on track is a hard skill to master, but one that on- and off-line leaders must cultivate to move the work forward.
“Chunk” Meeting Times
If you have ever heard the tip to get all your errands done at once to free up the rest of your week, this is kind of similar advice. Ann recommends “chunking” your meetings on the same day, since meetings stop you from diving into “deep work”, you will get them all done at once and that will alleviate time in your schedule during the rest of the week to get your deliverables done. This time management advice, in my experience, is right on. Also, this means the rest of your week, you can work in pajamas and no makeup! Win-win.
Confession: I had to look this one up. I am not a gamer, so I didn’t know what “LARP” meant. After a quick google search, I found it meant “Live Action Role Playing.” Ann says that there is no need to overcompensate and cause yourself to work extra because there are some remote-work naysayers. Don’t send out tons of unnecessary emails or get over-involved in other projects. Seriously, it is a waste of your time. The only time that it is okay to do it, she says, is to show up early for a video conference meeting to “shoot the breeze” as you would do for an in-person meeting.
Mind your Space
Ann had a ton of great tips under this umbrella, many of which I have implemented in my time as a remote worker. First, make sure that your space is not distracting. Sit in front of a blank wall or work-appropriate background. Second, invest in items that make you more productive, like a standing desk (check for me) or a laptop riser. Have an “emergency blazer” available in your space so you can easily “dress up” for a last-minute meeting. Another tip is to have a fun item like fuzzy slippers to help you feel more comfortable in a way that your coworkers can’t see on camera. For virtual interviews, she highly recommends protecting your space from interruption through using a curtain or a closed door with a note on it, reminding others that you’re busy trying to make a great impression with hiring managers. On that point, she also recommends looking directly at the camera during your interview, as this does create real eye contact with the other person in the video conference. Lastly, DO dress up! The advice to dress to impress is still relevant here, even in a virtual interview. To aid conversation further, invest in a noise-canceling microphone. Your wallet will thank you in the long run.
Turn your phone off at the end of the day
Yes, you’ve heard it before, and Ann said it again! Turn off your devices and disconnect from email, social media, and endless scrolling. It’s better for you and those around you.
Want to keep working remotely even after the pandemic is over?
Ann recommended some superb job boards! I myself have regularly checked them, albeit have never applied to their postings because they’re usually looking for a technical few. Here they are: We Work Remotely, Flex Jobs, Remote OK.
My tip: working from abroad is hard. Oh wait, that’s not a tip.
That’s just reality. I have worked from Guam, Japan, Thailand, and Taiwan while my husband and I were stationed abroad and traveled in Southeast Asia extensively. My #1 tip is to use a Time Converter like World Time Buddy to make sure you get to meetings on time. Seriously, this app has saved my life (okay, I’m being dramatic, but it certainly helped me keep my sanity)! I was building a website for my employer while we were in Thailand and I had WEEKLY meetings. Weekly meetings in Thailand, where we were 12 hours ahead of EST. I got up at 5 AM to have a 5 PM meeting on a regular basis. At least I was on time though!
Lighting is Your Friend
If you spend as much time as I do in virtual meetings, you know that you have to look at yourself for hours on camera. And if you don’t spend time making sure your lighting situation is good, you may have a problem with WANTING to look at yourself for that long. Seriously, it’s a problem. So my biggest solution was to go around my house and collect extra lamps to make my office as bright as possible. This means that when I see myself in virtual meetings, it actually feels like me, and not some ghoulish demon sitting in the dark. Not to mention, it will add credibility to what you’re saying in the meeting!
Alright, folks! Those are our tips, but we want to hear from you! What do you do to make working remotely successful for you?
- Connect with Ann Novakowski on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/annhnova/
- Connect with Rachel on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/rachel-the-learning-educator/