For organizations of all types — schools, businesses, government agencies — and millions around the world, the COVID-19 outbreak has seriously disrupted the way we work. Even if your company or institution had already embraced video collaboration among team members, you may not have used it to the extent you have to now. AVI-SPL wants to help by giving you the guidance you need to stay connected with each other and be as productive as you can during this difficult time. That’s why we’ve launched our Together We Can initiative, in which we share tips, advice, and resources for reinforcing our connections, building new communities, and maintaining business continuity. This blog is the hub for much of that content, and the most recent resources are at the top of this list:

I strongly encourage you to bookmark the Together We Can page so that you will always have the latest tools, tips, and outside-the-box ideas for keeping your teams engaged and productive.

3 Tips for Remote Workers

In this post, Laurie Berg, AVI-SPL director of services product management, shares her insight into ways you can make remote work a productive, successful experience. Remote worker, home worker, teleworker — it doesn’t matter what you call it, you are not working from an office for an extended period of time. I’ve been a home worker for the last decade and worked in the collaboration technology industry for two decades. I can say with confidence I have seen it all. But what I have discovered is that working remotely is as much about my state of mind as it is about the technology I have access to. Technologies evolve and trends come and go, but how I deal with my environment is completely within my control. Therefore, I wanted to share my top three takeaways from what I’ve learned over the years and provide a little guidance to the trial-and-error everyone is going through.

  1. Make your tools work for you. Instant messaging, audio conferencing, video conferencing, project and task management applications, digital notebooks, file sharing — there seems to be a tool for everything you can think of. However, having access to tools does not magically make you productive or efficient. Take the time to learn your tools and discover how they best benefit your world. Personally, I have access to so many applications it can be overwhelming at times. There is always something buzzing or dinging somewhere. But what I find the most useful are tools that combine instant messaging, audio, video, and document sharing. I can have multiple conversations at once with the instant messaging, some with individuals and some with groups of a shared topic. But sometimes those chats need to escalate to a larger conversation over audio and/or video. That is as easy as clicking a button within the chat window, and I can invite others just as easily. And when all is said and done, notes and documents can be shared with others into specific topic spaces to keep things organized. We all know multitasking exists, and instead of trying to train myself not to, I use a tool that helps me do it better.
  • Etiquette. Etiquette sounds like such an old-fashioned term, but meeting with people down the hall, in a local meeting space, is not the same as meeting with people remotely, and even less so when everyone is remote. Think about not only how you interact with your colleagues, but how others interact with you. Remember things like:
    • Minimize distractions. Working from home can bring all sorts of distractions. My dog, for example, is on a different schedule than me, and he is not concerned if his barking interrupts. So as you go into meetings, take a moment to mute your microphone and close your door, if you have one. Any minimizing that can be done to disruptions is a plus.
    • Utilize application “presence.” Applications that merge instant messaging with other capabilities, such as Microsoft Teams or Cisco Webex Teams, have a presence engine. In essence, it enables you to set yourself to “available,” “away,” “busy,” “do-not-disturb,” etc. This is similar to walking down the hall and seeing that the person you need is behind a closed door, on the phone, or otherwise engaged; therefore, do not interrupt. Similarly, if you are not available because you are trying to get something done, set yourself to “busy.”
    • Turn off your video when needed. It can be very easy to forget you are in a “working environment” at home. With shelter-in-place directives, stay-at-home orders, etc., we are faced with a constant barrage of phones ringing, kids rummaging around in the kitchen, someone or something needing your attention and immediate gratification. We are also faced with network congestion we have never experienced before, causing poor video quality. So while I know we cannot get rid of those issues, as you cannot lock everyone else away or make people get off the public internet, please turn off your video when you do need to step away, move to another place or want to decrease the bandwidth you are using. And let other attendees know. People are very understanding but be respectful of others. Often when people turn off their video, others think they dropped from the call.

    And my number one piece of advice for all of the new remote workers:

    1. Go to your virtual office everyday. This may sound silly. Of course, you are working every day. You are dedicated employees doing your part for your organization’s continued advancements. However, as I mentioned up front, this is about your state of mind. Get up, have your cup of coffee, bowl of cereal (my preference is Wheat Chex), get your family ready. All of the things you would normally do, but then continue your daily routine. You get ready. We would all love to wear a pair of sweatpants, a T-shirt, and a baseball hat, but go with business-casual or a “jeans Friday” mentality. Do your hair, makeup, shave, whatever your routine would be if you were going into the office — continue that routine as best you can. Separate out lounging at the house/family time from work. And then go to your new space. This could be an in-home office, kitchen table, living room. Wherever it is, make it your workspace.

    We know home demands on all of us are different than ever before. And none of what I mentioned can be done 100% of the time to 100% productivity. But if you take the time to make slight adjustments and create a “new normal,” your mind will more settled, your family will be more settled, and your work will be more settled.