The art of working from home. The eight deadly sins of video meetings and how to avoid them.

Sei Mani insight

The art of working from home. The eight deadly sins of video meetings and how to avoid them. by Jo Mullins, 28th June 2018

I’m sure we all remember this:

How we all laughed in public but privately thought, thank goodness it wasn’t me.

I’m sure if you have ever worked from home you can relate to this in some way. Maybe you have been lucky enough to escape the embarrassment of something similar happening around you, but I’m sure we all have a story about watching something unfold in front of our eyes during a video conference. I know I have a few stories that will make you gasp before you giggle.

Panic stations at 15:15

My work with Sei Mani allows me to work from home 99.9% of the time and sometimes I can be in video conferences for most of the day. My anxious time used to be around 15:15 when my daughters came home from school, the chatter, the bag drops and racing each other upstairs all had the potential to disrupt my conferences and distract me.

Now, I have introduced a closed-door rule which simply means, when my office door is closed everyone knows I am in a video conference and need to be quiet. This has dramatically reduced my anxiety around 15:15, leaving me to fully concentrate on my work without the worry of any distractions.  In many respects working from home affects your entire family, and we don’t pay enough attention to this when we plan to work from home.

How to prepare for video meetings from home/office

So, what can be done to minimise distractions and improve the meeting experience for everyone in a video conference?  Here are my top tips for preparing your home working environment for video meetings

01. I can’t see you! Make sure your equipment is set up correctly. Position your camera at eye height if possible for the most natural experience. Too high and we will only be able to see the top or your head, or too low and you might end up with a very unflattering under chin angle.

02. Lift those shoulders up. Sitting at your desk when you are on video calls can be tiring but pick those shoulders up and stop the slouch. Keep your video feed on so that you can see your own posture and catch yourself. You might need to update your desk set up if you continue to slouch or get pain

03. Who turned the light out? Lighting is key when you are on a video call. Too much light behind you can make you look like you are in witness protection, and too much light in front can wash you out or cause shadows. Get it just right by having a light on your desk.

04. It’s behind you! Think about what’s behind you. Do you have washing hanging on the radiator? Or maybe confidential documents on your pinboard? You don’t need to have a plain background but keep in mind what might be in the line of sight behind you

05. Don’t make a spectacle of yourself! If you wear glasses thing about getting anti-glare added to your lenses so that the light from your desktop doesn’t reflect back in your glasses 😉

06. Stripes and spots oh my! If you have an important video call think about what you are wearing. Stripes and spots can become distorted on video. Whilst that nude colour top might look lovely in real life, on video it might prove a few double takes.

07. Is it not lunchtime yet? Don’t eat whilst in a video call – remember your microphone can pick up a multitude of sounds. Crisps crunching and sweet packets rustling can become a bit of a distraction.

08. “……” – I always mute myself when I’m in a video call, you just never know when the dog will start barking or the doorbell will ring. Just remember to unmute yourself if you want to say something.

The science bit

Neuroscience tells us that we remember what we see far more than what we hear. So, testing and positioning your webcam, or video endpoint, is really important.  I am sure we have all said at some time, ‘I can’t remember much of what was said in that meeting, but did you see what was going on in the background’ or ‘I couldn’t hear a word that was said because someone was munching through the whole meeting’.

Just like your eyes being the window into your soul, think of your video device being the window into your home office, so that people remember the content of the meeting, rather than the chaos going on around or behind you.  With a little thought and preparation, even small changes to the way you prepare and set up your video device can make your video meeting experience better for everyone.

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