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'And then the phone fell into the bath': why it is so difficult to work from home during quarantine

“Last week, during a video meeting, a colleague had her half-naked boyfriend walking behind her back,” says communications consultant Jason Nisse. This example illustrates well the pitfalls of video conferencing, a technology that thousands of people get used to when trying to work from home. Air force.

Photo: Shutterstock

Some situations do need radical help. For example, an employee of the financial department of one of the companies received the following warning to the corporate mail: "The computer monitor is being viewed, and we can see how you watch porn between searches."

Teleconferencing services such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Google Meet are reporting a sharp increase in the number of users.

For many of us, this is a completely new way of working, which we need to adapt to.

Do you hear me?

The quality of communication, technical problems and, of course, the ineptitude of users add confusion during video meetings.

Having made sure that everyone understands how the program works, you can save a huge amount of time.

In addition, some leaders have already realized that staff who often do not need to be there are often involved in meetings.

And reducing the number of participants in a video conference reduces unwanted noise. One is breathing heavily, the other is sneaking or coughing, the third has a dog barking or the doorbell rings - all these unpleasant additional sounds can be removed by turning off the microphone.

Here is another example of a not very pleasant situation.

“One day a client was talking to me from the bathroom, and I heard the splash of water and the tap of the tap. Then he realized that the microphone was on, and the phone slid out of his hands into the bathtub. There was a murmur, gurgle and splash in my pipe. The client jumped out of the tub to get another phone, slipped and fell down the stairs, ”recalls Neil Henderson of Zurich Insurance.

On the subject: Office noise generator: a site was created for those who are unusual to work from home

Who is the moderator?

During an online meeting, one should be in charge of organizing it. This should be a person who can put the conversation on the right track when the discussion drops to the level of office toilet paper.

Steve Parks from the digital agency Convivio says this is reminiscent of a talk show moderator.

“This person is responsible for timing, the distribution of the discussion among the 'guests', questions to the audience, the pace and dynamics of the process,” he says.

Television and radio producers always work on this principle, building programs. Each question has its own time limits, goals and possible additional points that need to be considered.

It is advisable to draw up an agenda in advance and familiarize participants with it. This will help to better organize the meeting and at the same time observe the time limit without turning it into a booth.

“During normal communication, people sometimes speak at the same time. But in videoconferencing mode, this is not possible, because the conversation turns into an unintelligible hum. And bad communications are exacerbating the problem, ”explains Chris Hirst, chief executive of Havas Global, a media company that has been working remotely since the outbreak of the coronavirus in China.

“Also, our communication is mostly non-verbal. And during video conferencing, this is usually lost, so the moderator must constantly keep this in mind, ”says Hirst.

Frame view

Keep in mind that video meeting is part of the workflow, so you should look neat and decent in the frame, at least your upper body.

BBC cinematographer Tracy Langford recommends placing the laptop on top of a pile of books - at eye level.

“Looking down doesn't make a good impression,” she notes. “So remember to look at the top of the screen — where the camera is, not the screen itself.”

A few words about lighting.

Tracy advises placing a light source just above the face.

“You shouldn't illuminate one part of the face from the window, and the other with the help of inner light. Pick one thing, ”she says.

Also think about the interior in the frame behind you. An unmade bed, clothes dryer, or bathroom detergent looks weird and spoils the business atmosphere.

But comic, sometimes even absurd situations during video meetings are also useful, says Ben Todd of Rolls Royce.

“I'm not against extraneous sounds. I love listening to children playing, watching TV, or barking a dog. It reminds us that we are all human, ”he says.

Melinda de Boer, director of communications for a global brand, agrees: “Many times my colleagues saw me throwing stern glances at my two sons wandering around the room where I tried to work via Skype. Colleagues say that every time they were scared themselves - that's just a pity that it didn't work very well with the children! ”

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Public response

Due to quarantine, many had to abandon the corporate Friday gatherings in the pub.

However, companies say they are trying to maintain normal daily communication between colleagues and enjoy working.

For example, the UK company Etch runs quizzes for customers and employees during its lunch break, as well as a virtual film club and yoga classes. Other companies share how they eat lunch “together,” with everyone eating at the table in their own home.

If video conferencing isn't your way of working, then you're out of luck, says Chris Hurst, CEO of Havas Global.

“I think the current experience could be the impetus for the rapid and sustainable adoption of technology that allows us to work remotely every day,” he says.

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