Traffic is light today, and the offices are just about empty.
As states like Indiana move into lockdown mode to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, millions of American workers are being forced to adjust to working from home, at least for the next few weeks. Meanwhile, our employers are trying to figure out how to manage dispersed teams and keep us connected and informed through all the twists and turns of this pandemic.
While many of us have used video conferencing software in the past for meetings with clients, partners, or vendors, video has now become increasingly important for internal purposes. In fact, surging demand for these online tools has prompted Microsoft, Google, Zoom, and Cisco to expand free access to their video collaboration tools.
So with all that in mind, here are some best practices for using video to connect your remote employees, keep them productive, and support their mental health. We’ll also look at some of the best options for video communications.
Communicate. Check in. Repeat.
It’s likely that at least some of your employees aren’t used to working from home. They’re used to the daily routine of driving to the office, planning out their day, and then proceeding with heads-down work, clients meetings and the like. With some breaks for lunch and water cooler chats thrown in.
As you put together your communications strategy, it’s important to keep in mind that everyone is adapting to a different routine. So find a cadence for your video communications that makes sense for your company. Then keep checking in with everyone over the course of the week to make sure that they:
- Know what they should be working on.
- Get help overcoming any barriers to their success.
- Know that you and your company continue to care about and support them.
Types of Video Communications
There are a lot of different ways that you can help your employees and coworkers connect from afar—some more serious than others. And they’re all important, as we do our best to simulate business-as-usual when it’s really anything but.
CEO Video Updates
As you shift to working in remote teams, you can create a short video where your company CEO shares their perspective on how your company will navigate the working-from-home mandate. Your CEO won’t have all the answers, and that’s okay. The main thing is to communicate that your company will continue to support you—and that you’ll get through this together.
Your all-company meeting is another avenue where you can use video conferencing to communicate how your company is handling all that continues to unfold. It’s also a place for employees to ask questions.
At Element Three, we recently held our Q2 kickoff on a Zoom video conference. While our executives addressed how we’re navigating COVID-19, the agenda also included “Baby Business” (welcoming two employees returning from maternity leave), and the announcement of our Q1 Values Winner—two things that served as reminders that E3ers are a family that’s working toward a common cause.
Whether it’s a daily morning scrum or a weekly check-in, it’s also important to keep communications open at the department level. At E3, our Creative team has continued our weekly meetings where we can crack jokes, discuss our workload, and voice concerns.
Remember that video isn’t the only tool in your digital toolbox for meetings like this. Some teams love using tools like Slack for efficient ongoing communications—things that might not be worth getting everyone together at once, but nonetheless need to be communicated and could generate a discussion.
Especially now, managers should put an emphasis on connecting individually with their direct reports to make sure that they’re on track and feeling healthy. Ask consistent questions, including how they feel about the team and what they need from you as a manager, and really take the time to listen to their answers.
After just a day or two, your employees are going to start missing their coffee break conversations. That’s why you should engineer some by adding some opportunities for people to just hang out. At E3, we have a 30-minute Zoom meeting three times a week at lunch time where anyone can join to engage in some conversation with their colleagues. We’ve also continued our monthly trivia showdown, movie club, and Dungeons & Dragons campaign.
Your Best Video Options
We’ve been using Zoom here at E3 for quite some time. It’s easy to use on desktop or mobile, has chat functionality, and you can share your screen, invite participants, or record the meeting with the click of a button. Plus, it’s easy to mute yourself or stop video sharing. Playful folks like web developers will likely turn on a virtual background so it looks like they’re joining you from the beach or the mountains.
Cisco WebEx is an enterprise product that’s now offering free unlimited usage “on the most secure collaboration platform globally” as a response to the explosion of remote working. WebEx also integrates with tools like Google Drive, Office 365, and Salesforce.
Another established video collaboration product, GoToMeeting is offering free organization-wide use of many LogMeIn products for 3 months to eligible healthcare providers, educational institutions, municipalities, and non-profit organizations. I’ve used GoToMeeting in the past, and while I prefer Zoom, this product gets the job done as well.
Google Hangouts Meet
Many of us are familiar with Google Hangouts. Meet is the business equivalent, and it’s fully integrated with G Suite. In fact, through July 1 all G Suite customers can use Meet’s advanced features like meetings for up to 250 participants and live streaming. You can also record meetings and save them to Google Drive.
Another popular option for collaboration is Microsoft Teams, which offers numerous features like chat, meetings, and video calls. Teams works across a variety of devices and can accommodate large meetings.
Workplace from Facebook
Facebook also offers video chat, instant messaging, and information sharing tools that empower remote workers. Workplace is available for free through June 30 for emergency services and government organizations.
Uncertainty calls for togetherness.
Wild market swings. Stimulus plans. Hopes for a vaccine. All of this is playing out before our eyes, and it’s easy to feel isolated when you face so many unknowns, especially when your movements are restricted.
That’s why companies must do everything they can to make everyone feel included. To build team bonds. And to make sure that everyone’s doing okay.
That could mean getting creative. Some companies encourage their remote employees to create hype videos or show off a bit of their home life. Be sure to mix in some humor, as E3 recently did when employees contributed funny memes to celebrate an employee’s 40th birthday.
However you decide to use video, be sure to keep sharing regular updates from company leadership. Your employees may sense a light at the end of the tunnel; they just don’t know how long the tunnel is—and they need some encouragement to get there.