As part of a new work routine many of us will be adapting to working from home or having to liaise day-to-day with individuals who are now working from home. Using a video conferencing platform can be a really valuable tool for connecting with your colleagues, particularly if you are now unable to communicate with one another in a workspace.
How do you maintain and build social connections with a remote team? In the recent ‘adapting to working from home’ blog we looked at how we can continue to look after ourselves and others in fast moving and uncertain times. At Research in Practice we have also been using video technology to connect with colleagues and to deliver online learning, such as webinars, for some time. This blog aims to offer valuable tips for those getting started with using video conferencing for meetings and to connect with colleagues day-to-day.
For those who are getting started with using conference technology there are many video platforms available, including Microsoft Teams, Skype, Zoom, Google Hangouts and more. This can feel daunting at first. However, all of these will have the same basic features required to get started. You can:
- Video call individuals and/or groups of people.
- Mute and/or share your video (webcam).
- Chat with others participating in the call via a messenger box.
- Share your computer screen, so others can view the same file or document you may be referring to.
Once you have chosen and setup your video platform we would recommend that you login and test video calling someone. You can trial this with a colleague, friend or family member. You will need to ensure that your microphone and camera is working on your computer before/during the call. Some platforms will have the ability to test if this is working correctly.
If you are new to using video conferencing (or as general good practice) you should login a little early to any of your scheduled meetings to check everything is working as it should and that you have a good internet connection.
Video calling etiquette
Video conference meetings are no different to a standard face-to-face meeting or social encounter (other than the use of technology). You should still practice good etiquette, including:
- Reading the agenda and coming prepared with any notes you would like to contribute.
- If participating in a group call, give everyone a chance to contribute to the meeting. It can be valuable for individuals to introduce themselves at beginning of the meeting. You can also go round each team member one-by-one (as you maybe would in a typical meeting) to ask if they have something to contribute/discuss. It can also be helpful to ensure there is always a ‘chair’ for larger meetings.
- Giving your full attention to the video call you are attending. You wouldn’t expect someone to be distracted by their phone, a colleague/family member or an email in the middle of any other meeting or social encounter!
One of the challenges when using online technology rather than meeting individuals face-to-face can be missing visual or social cues. Particularly if your internet connection leads to poor or delayed sound quality or fuzzy videos.
Some recommend when you are contributing (talking) within a larger video call to keep your microphone and camera switched on, and then turning this off/muting when listening to others contributions. This can aid visual cues for all of those participating. Also try not to interrupt others and give everyone a chance to participate. People want to heard and seen, same as if they were in an office or general workplace.
Meetings also do not always have to be formal gatherings. It can be valuable to organise and/or encourage 15–30-minute coffee breaks over video between you and your colleagues. This can help with checking in on how they are doing (personally and professionally) and to ease formality.
Remember that the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) still stands whether you are working in an office space or from home using online technology. Ensure that you are responsibly collecting, using and sharing data across appropriate platforms.
With this in mind, it is also sensible to familiarise yourself with the security and accessibility of the conference platform you are using. Many are virtual public forums, meaning that if your event/call is shared more widely and the permissions are set to be unrestricted (e.g. open access) others may be able to join a call and/or share unwanted content with the participants. Many platforms have helpful features to secure your conference – such as only allowing certain users to join, additional authentication, or disabling certain features. For example, turning off the chat box feature or a ‘host’ muting participants.
If you are the ‘host’ of the video conference (usually the user who has setup the meeting) you will typically have the ability to manage and apply these restrictions in order for this to be used responsibly by participants. However, it is still key for hosts to remember good practice themselves. For example when screen sharing, make sure that no sensitive information is displayed by mistake on your screen. It can be helpful to make sure that anything on your computer that is not related to the meeting has been closed.
Providing high-quality and accessible online knowledge
We are currently adapting our learning offer at Research in Practice to respond to current conditions. We will be providing a range of coordinated online activities to support professional development in a virtual learning environment over the coming weeks and months. Keep a lookout for updates in the meantime.
We are also keen to build resources that support you to address the challenging you are facing and welcome your feedback on resources, technology and communication you would value at this time.