The Good Remote Worker: This thing on?

Having worked with teams consisting of 100% remote, 100% in-person, and folks who do a little of both, I can understand why many organizations have a hard time with remote collaboration. This series will cover all the things I learned over the years collaborating remotely. In this first part, I talk about video conferencing. Often the most painful aspect of remote working.

Overcome the technical difficulty

Video conferencing can be a jarring experience for people who aren't doing it all the time. That experience is amplified when technical difficulties arise and the only way to overcome them is to be prepared.

Preparedness is necessary for any kind of group communication. Spending the first 10 minutes of every meeting troubleshooting your microphone, camera, and software is no good and only serves to erode confidence in remote collaboration.

Check your setup. Learn how to set the right microphone and camera in your operating system as well as the video conferencing tool being used. It saves you time and everyone else the frustration of trying to help you be seen or heard.

Help others overcome

When things go wrong its easy to blame the tools or blame the notion that their use is necessary at all. But instead of placing blame, remove the barrier by learning from team members who do it with consistent success. If you're that person, offer help and guidance.

Write up a wiki or do a screencast. If its not really a team-wide issue, set up a phone conference and share you screen with the individual. For some its just a matter of a few missing pieces. Provide the missing pieces.

Etiquette

Noise and distractions are occasionally unavoidable. Whether you work from home or in a traditional office, awareness of your surroundings is always appreciated.

Eliminate distractions by not being one yourself. Mute your microphone when not speaking. No matter what your microphone or software advertises, always assume its picking up any noise that can be heard naturally. There is nothing worse than co-workers having a candid conversation nearby for everyone to hear over your microphone.

Always be cognizant of what is visible to your camera, something that is especially important for people working from home or in public places. It is quite embarrassing when a colleague interrupts a meeting to point out something abnormal happening on your camera.

Good etiquette is just being aware of your surroundings and respectful to others who have the pleasure of observing and listening to you.

Conclusion

No one loves dealing with all the technical aspects of video conferencing. But for some its the best or only means of communicating with the team. Doing it well benefits everyone involved.

Healthy communication is a team responsibility. As everyone understands how to use the tools that facilitate it, collaboration can thrive with less friction.

April 16, 2016