The world has shifted rapidly over the past three months as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Lockdowns have affected how we work, resulting in an increased use of digital technologies that allow for people to work remotely.
The rise of video chat for business has made it easy for many South Africans to continue working from home during the lockdown. Those with comorbidities or above the age of 60 are encourage to stay at home and continue to work remotely if they can, to reduce their chances of getting infected with the Coronavirus. As we enter into lockdown with level 3 regulations which allows for more movement and economic activities to take place, such people would be making use of the various virtual channels available on the market to conduct their business.
UASA has put together a few tips to assist our members in this ‘new’ workplace on how they can professionally conduct virtual meetings.
Preparation is key. Just like with any other in-person meeting, preparation is important to ensure everyone is aware of the agenda and eliminates guess work as to what the meeting is about. Preparing for a virtual meeting includes things like;
- Ensuring you have enough data (bandwidth) to sustain the duration of the meeting
- Making sure your laptop/cellphone/tablet has enough battery
- Testing speakers and microphones if they are in good working order.
A great meeting starts with an ice breaker, this helps participants to relax and ease into the situation. It is important to build in time for an icebreaker because it can create a positive group atmosphere and break down social barriers;
- Ask the participants how they are doing and if they have something they want to share about their well-being or situation at the moment
- This is also a good time to test everyone’s sound and video to make sure you can all hear and see each other.
Virtual meetings are just as important as in-person meetings and as such, it is important to stick to a few guidelines to keep the meeting professional.
- Be attentive to people’s time and stick to the allocated time for each meeting.
- Be presentable and dress as you would if you were meeting in person.
- Keep your surroundings and background neat.
- Refrain from eating, drinking alcohol or smoking during meetings
- Speak directly to the microphone so that everyone can hear you.
It is important for security reasons to ensure that only the participants invited to the meeting are the only ones who can access to the meeting.
- Share the meeting invitation or particulars with the intended colleagues only.
- You can increase the security of the meeting by putting a password in place only known to the participants.
- When sharing your screen, make sure that only the intended content is being shared.
- Do not open any other tabs, apps or unnecessary documents while the meeting is ongoing.
With participants working from home and other locations, it is very common for surrounding distractions to temporarily pause or stop the meeting. It important to keep an eye out for the following during the meeting;
- Switch off or mute your phone if you are not using it for the meeting
- Avoid any distracting background noises, these may include television, radios, washing machines etc.
- Mute your microphone when you are not talking
- If you have a question, rather use the chat feature to avoid disturbing someone while they are still talking
In a face to face meeting, it is easy to pick up on body language, eye contact and other non-verbal communication cues that are essential to communication but unfortunately not available in virtual meetings. This can lead to miscommunication and misinterpretation but we would like to urge everyone to exercise some patience, open mindedness and not take this personally.