Working Virtually

You’re probably sick of getting COVID-19 related emails from literally every company you’ve ever interacted with.

As we venture into uncharted territory and more and more of us are working from home, we thought we’d share a few tricks of the trade. At Action Engineering, we are a virtual team spread across Colorado, Indiana, and Pennsylvania, so we’re used to figuring out the nuances of working remotely. We still have our own hiccups but thought we’d share a few tips so every call doesn’t become A Conference Call in Real Life.

  1. Set a clear agenda so everyone knows the purpose of the meeting and what they need to come prepared with. Include the agenda in the meeting invite.
  2. For meetings over an hour, plan to take a 5-minute break every hour to stretch, grab more coffee, let the dog out, and check to make sure the kids are still doing their schoolwork.
  3. Turn on the web camera. So much is missed when we can’t interact face-to-face. Using web cameras are the next best thing. This promotes accountability and helps keep us focused.
    • You may still be in your pajamas, but brushing your hair is a good baseline for setting your intention to focus on your work day at home. Better yet, start your day with a shower and change into zippered pants.
    • Also, lose the shame, everybody is working from home now — so who cares if your dog barks or your kiddo tugs at your sleeve?! 
  4. Mute! Practice finding that mute button on all your devices! Stay on mute unless talking.
  5. Use a headset instead of speakerphone, when possible. No headset is ideally suited for all remote conferencing software (believe me, we’ve tried to find one), but here are our favorites: Jabra Evolve 75, Jabra Elite 65e, Plantronics Voyager 6200, and LG TONE INFINIM.
  6. Say your name before you speak on a call. When we’re on conference calls, we lose the ability to see visual cues when others are done talking. If we say our name before we speak it does two things: it helps identify us in a sea of voices, and it can help us realize how much we interrupt others.
  7. Overcommunicate. It’s human nature to just assume that someone knows what we’re talking about, so if we think we’re overcommunicating, we are often communicating the right amount.
  8. Check-in with each other. Since you won’t bump into your coworkers in the breakroom, you have to create that virtual watercooler. Here at Action Engineering, we have a running group chat message called #WaterCooler which we use for company-wide communications. Even just giving someone a quick 5-minute call to say hello can turn into a bigger conversation and help drive work forward.
  9. Keep your calendar up-to-date with your availability. Your calendar is a communication tool to others. Schedule your lunch, drop that 30-minute dog walk on your calendar, and stick to it! Your sanity depends on breaking up your work day. For calendar interoperability, we use FindTime, Calendly, and Doodle.
  10. Start the meeting 10 minutes early to work out the A/V kinks before the call starts. A/V often doesn’t work perfectly the first time!

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