Tips on Attending Online Meetings and Working Remotely from Home

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Are you new to working from home and attending meetings online? Or perhaps you just started a business that requires you to meet with clients is 100% online. Here are some tips for attending online meetings and managing time to avoid overwhelm while working from home.

 

Select a Room in Your House  

 

Which part of your home will you be sitting in when you are in a virtual meeting?  Figure this out first and set your computer or laptop on the table/desk.  Look behind you because that is what others will see (if you don’t have the option to virtually blur the background or replace it with a virtual background.). If you are using a spare bedroom or have a separate office space, close your door to keep outside noise to a minimum.

 

Before You Turn Your Camera On

 

Just because you are conducting business from home doesn’t mean you just wake up and roll out of bed and join the virtual meeting in your sweats, pajamas, and your hair is a mess! Please, get dressed as if you were walking physically into the meeting in an office.  At minimum, get dressed at least from the waist up, wear a shirt that you would normally wear if you were in an office or at a coffee shop meeting with your colleagues or clients.

 

Ladies, put on your makeup (if you wear cosmetics) as if you were in a real meeting, fix your hair and look professional. Guys, shave if you normally shave, style your hair, put on a tie (for the camera) if you normally would wear a tie at a physical meeting. Everyone should look professional, wide-eyed and attentive for the virtual meeting.

 

Etiquettes Online and Basic Tech Check

 

Prior to joining the online meeting, please mute your cellphones so we don’t hear it ringing or hear texting sounds. Also, please mute all your computer notifications such as reminders from calendars, Teams, Skype, etc.

 

Avoid using your phone and texting while in a meeting, especially when we see your face on camera, that is rude. Just like it’s rude to sit in a physical meeting and texting on your phone.  Have respect and courtesy for you and the people in attendance. Don’t pay your bills on another screen, don’t google things, or look at social media while you are in a meeting.

 

Sound Control – Figure out how to mute and unmute your mic so you don’t interrupt the meeting with annoying background noise.  If you are not speaking, keep the mic muted. This is helpful if you have dogs, lawn mowing noise, or other people are nearby (like a hotel lobby), that might disrupt the meeting.

 

Camera Control – Know how to turn your camera on or off as needed.  Maybe you might need to blow your nose into a tissue, no one wants to see this on camera. Turn your camera off, blow your nose, then turn your camera back on.

 

If your camera is built-in to your laptop, adjust the height. Don’t just set your laptop on a table lower that your eye-level. No one needs to look up at your nostrils. Use books or small sturdy corrugated cardboard boxes to add height so the camera is at eye level. Consequently, you don’t want your camera too high, so the top part of your head is cut off from the view either.

 

Headset – If you’re using a headset, make sure it’s selected on your virtual meeting platform you are using. Sometimes this is selected for you automatically. If you can, use a wired headset since they are more reliable than Bluetooth headsets. Bluetooth headsets signal sometimes skips or lags and your voice may sound funny, or the sound of your voice gets quiet for a few seconds. You can use your headset that came with your smartphone, which works just fine. However, these days, most newer laptops has a built-in microphone, and they sound just great.

 

Balance Life and Work 

 

Setting Boundaries

 

Because we work from home, doesn’t mean we work all hours of the day and night. Let your clients and colleagues be aware of your working hours.  So, set your “working hours” and adhere to it.

 

Figure out the best time to be working in your business, whether it’s to meet your clients online, or working on client tasks.  For example, you are open for business 9a-3pm. Include which days you will not be available, like weekends, holidays, or vacation time. Some people will work a dedicated 6 hours per day for client work; They answer emails, work with a client, or do client tasks during the set hours of 9am and 3pm Monday thru Friday.

 

Most solopreneurs wear many hats, such as doing their own administrative work, finance and budgeting, content creation and marketing.  If you have a couple of hours free or don’t have client work, use these free times to work in your business, such as marketing or writing a blog for your business.

 

Similarly, if you are completely busy during your set business hours with client work, then spend 2-hours each day before you “open your business” to marketing or promoting your business, whether that is creating social media, designing flyers or images for a brochure, or preparing a follow-up email to your potential clients, looking for prospects online.

Email

 

Don’t get overwhelmed by too many emails that are coming in during the day. Check it only 3x, morning, lunch and right before you end your day. Respond to emails only during your business hours. I know most of us read our emails way passed our working hours but unless you see an emergency, refrain from responding until the next business day.

 

It can be tricky if you have clients you work with globally, since their time zones are different. You and your client need to figure out the best times that work for you both. Use World Time Buddy to find out the hour differences between time zones, here’s a link:  https://www.worldtimebuddy.com

 

Also, respond to your email in a timely matter and in most circumstances the longest to wait to respond is no more than 48 hours. If you cannot respond right away because you are too busy or need time to think about how you will respond, be courteous and send a quick reply, acknowledging you read their email and you will respond to them in xx number of days.

 

Take Breaks and Lunch Times

 

Just like you would take breaks at a physical workplace, you need to take your breaks. Get up and stretch or move around for 15-minutes. You can do quick stretches, declutter a room, prep food (slice veggies, fruits, make marinade). Throw laundry in the washer, vacuum quickly or anything that you need to do around the home that requires a short time.  The point is to take your mind off the workload and your eyes off the computer and get off the chair.

 

Speaking of eyes, staring at your computer for many hours is not healthy. Every 30-minutes, look away from your computer screen and focus your vision on something far for a few minutes.  Sometimes it’s hard to remember that 30-minutes have gone by very quickly, so use your smartphone and set repeat alarms or use a kitchen timer for 30-minutes at a time.

 

At times you realize your eyes are dry, so try to remember to blink. Sometimes we just don’t realize that we don’t blink during tedious work on the computer.  This is especially true when you’re doing graphic work and you need to look at very fine details.

 

Do you remember when you worked in an office and use part of your lunch break and walked outside instead?  Well, now that you work from home, why not do the same thing. When it’s your lunch time, go outside and walk! The fresh air and new sights are a nice change of pace, and again giving your mind a break from work.

 

Use a Calendar

 

Make sure you use a calendar to set appointments and don’t overbook yourself. If needed, share your calendar, and publish it so others can see when you are available.

 

Need someone to book a time with you? Use an online calendar scheduler such as Calendly or SimplyBookme. (There are other many other scheduling calendars online.) When you use one of these scheduling online calendars, it’s very flexible and customizable. You set up the times that you are available and block the times you are not. This way, people see your calendar and book online with you according to your availability.  Here are two free calendar appointment schedulers for online use.

 

Virtual Meetings Software and Apps

 

Below are just a few virtual meeting platforms to try. The ones I’ve listed below have free accounts not just a “trial free period” but free to use right now. They are not in any order of preference, just listed them as it came to mind.

Zoom

 

Most of us have used Zoom, for meetings. For many years, if you were in a Zoom 1:1 meeting you can use Zoom past 40 minutes, even though it said it was limited to 40-minutes.  Not anymore!  In May 2022, Zoom announced it is really limited to 40-minutes and it made some people very disappointed.

 

Just know that from now on, Zoom is only free for 40-minutes period; and you will be disconnected. However, with the free Zoom version, you can still use the blur feature for your background and the screen sharing as well.

 

Skype

 

It’s free for meetings and you can also record for free. I’ve used Skype to stay connected to people globally for many years.  Also, with Skype, you can send a chat to someone and answer the chat when you are available. This is by far my very favorite feature to use, because with Skype you can select your availability. What I mean by this is how others know if you are live online or not.

 

In Skype, on the right side of your profile picture (on desktop) there’s a ring or dot.  When you put your cursor and hover on the ring/dot, you have the option to select whether you’re “Active”, “Away”, “Do Not Disturb” and “Invisible”. If you are Active, the dot becomes a solid green color, if you are invisible, the dot becomes a green ring, if you are in a “Do Not Disturb” mode, the dot becomes red.

 

What’s cool is that it doesn’t matter if you are “Active” because when someone types a message in the chat, you will see it when you open Skype again.   Most of the people I connected with on Skype are from all over the world in different time zones.  So, when I message them, they see it when they get into Skype.   Recently a new meeting feature has been added.  Now, when you invite someone to a Skype meeting, they don’t need to download Skype or even have an account. You simply provide them your invitation link.

 

Butter

 

They also have a free account and it’s 60-minutes of meeting time. I tried Butter and the integration and usage is easy enough. It’s intuitive and not much of a learning curve. We played around with Butter Basic (free) features; the only thing is you cannot record your meetings unless you sign up for their paid version. However, with the free version you can use the whiteboard and share screen features. Here’s the link: https://www.butter.us

Free Tele-Conferencing Call

 

This service is for a free telephone conferencing call and I have used it many times. When you sign-up, you get a toll-free phone number (plus conference ID number) and that’s the number you provide to your clients, and they call in. When they call the number, it will prompt them to enter in a conference meeting ID number. Super simple and easy to use and you don’t have to use your own personal phone number.  Here’s their link:  https://www.freeconferencecall.com/free-teleconferencing-service

Webex

 

The company also has a free online meeting for up to 50-minutes. If you don’t have Webex and invited to join a meeting, just enter the meeting id and voila, you’re in. Check them out here: https://www.webex.com

 

Google Meet

 

Free for Google users and reliable. Conduct a meeting for a 1:1 session with unlimited time but no recording with the free version. For group meetings however, you are limited to 1-hour. They also have a screen share feature which is nice when showing someone what to do in a workshop or lesson setting for example.

 

Hopefully these tips will help you get ready to join an online meeting by first making sure to locate controls and adjust your camera angle and mic, background, and being aware of etiquettes.

Plus, since you are working from home 100% of the time, to find balance, by sticking to your working hours so you won’t get overwhelmed. Leave the office room (if using a spare room) and shut the door, leaving all your work there. If you’re using the kitchen table, close your laptop at the end of your workday. Take time to unwind and have fun with family and friends.

 

I’ve been using online meetings and webinars for approximately 8 years. As a previous Director of Education for a non-profit organization, I trained virtual assistants on how to use online meetings and webinar platforms as well as co-authored a manual on how to use GotoWebinar.

Over the years, I’ve helped clients get their businesses online and manage their webinar launches from scratch, providing them online trainings, tech support, checklists and timelines. If you have any questions or comments, here’s my info. https://linktr.ee/lourdesigns

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