The rush to control the spread of the novel coronavirus, known as COVID-19, is on. Canceled events and self-quarantines are the norm. Companies and schools are acting too by sending workers and students home to meet remotely. It’s likely organizations like yours already utilize video meetings. However, if most of your teams and students are suddenly remote every day due to coronavirus, virtual meetings are playing their largest role ever in achieving your business goals.
Keep in mind some team members and students will be new to working or studying from home. Before you send your teams, students, and teachers into the virtual meeting world, and help fight the spread of COVID-19, follow these steps to help people stay engaged and productive during video meetings.
6 ways to help staff and students adjust to working remotely
1. Grant access
Make sure employees and students have remote access to all networks, software, and files they need to do their work or teach and attend classes. Since you’ll have a spike in video conferencing usage, contact your IT department to review your meeting software licenses and available bandwidth. You don’t want to send everyone home, then realize 1,000 people must share 200 software licenses.
Global companies should encourage staff to utilize cloud video connections vs. dial-in options to limit international calling charges. Even toll-free lines can have hidden call charges. It’s helpful to offer backup call-in options in case of slow home internet connections or local outages too. However, encourage staff to call in only when online connections are not available to control phone charges. Another tip is to encourage remote participants to turn off their camera feed to save bandwidth while benefiting from the online audio conferencing service.
2. Offer online training
It’s likely your staff is already meeting online. If virtual meetings are not the norm, though, users may not be aware of all collaboration software features. Offer live and recorded video training to ensure everyone knows how to utilize the tools available to them. Show users how to schedule and start video meetings, record sessions, share files, chat, make online calls, and start impromptu meetings.
3. Have extra tech support available
Since tech support calls may increase with more people suddenly working online, get your tech support team involved early. Have your IT team review common tech challenges, so they are ready to help video conferencing attendees connect quickly. Consider creating a dedicated support team to help run your newly-minted virtual offices and classrooms.
Don’t forget to send tech support contact information to your virtual team members, so they know who to call for help. Also, since support staff will likely work remotely too, make sure they can still access employee laptops via remote control when needed.
4. Provide quality headsets for video meetings
It’s essential for meeting participants to see and hear everyone in the video conference and be seen and heard. Most laptops include cameras suitable for video calls. For audio, external devices often improve the remote meeting experience. Provide quality headsets with microphones to ensure all attendees can collaborate and share ideas during meetings.
Note that your staff and students may have to contend with noise and distractions. Children and pets may be at home, and traffic noise can seep through windows. Consider noise-canceling headphones to help tune out background noises and ensure everyone stays focused on the meeting.
5. Share Video Conferencing Best Practices
Share video meeting best practices with inexperienced users. It won’t hurt to give veteran remote workers a refresher too. Top ideas to share include:
- Choose a dedicated, quiet well-lit area with as little noise and distractions as possible
- Avoid sitting in front of a window with bright light behind you
- Dress like you would on a typical workday
- Join the call a few minutes early and greet your coworkers, say goodbye when leaving the meeting too
- Mute your microphone when you’re not speaking during meetings to limit noise
- Turn your camera on for face-to-face communication
- Check your surroundings that the camera will display
- Clear the breakfast dishes from the table and remove anything hanging on chairs, etc., move any personal photos or other items you don’t want to be seen during the meeting
- Share any documents you’re discussing via screen sharing
- Stay focused and avoid multi-tasking during the meeting
- Record the session and share the recording with meeting attendees
- Make sure family and friends know you’re “at work” to prevent interruptions
- Manage unexpected distractions as quickly as possible
6. Check in regularly
Encourage supervisors and teachers to ramp up online communications and feedback via chat and one-on-one video meetings. They should check in often to see how teachers, staff, and students are doing in the virtual world.
Reactions to work from home schedules can vary. Some people may love to skip the commute; others may feel lonely compared to coming into the office every day. Regular communication can help remote workers, and students feel connected to the rest of the group.
In addition to addressing current health concerns, work from home options provide flexibility, and can reduce stress. You may find the students and staff are more efficient and engaged while working away from the office. When your organization returns to normal working conditions once the spread of COVID-19 is under control, track your virtual meeting results. If you see happier employees and students, along with increased productivity, consider offering permanent options to work and study remotely a few days a week.
Get expert video conferencing help
Our teams at AVI-SPL are here to help. While the coronavirus outbreak has created a sudden exponential reliance on video meetings, helping teams connect online through video conferencing has been our core mission for years. If you need assistance launching or upgrading your digital workplace collaboration tools, contact us now or find your local AVI-SPL office.