Category Video Collaboration

Work-From-Home Reality: Ideas to Stay Positive and Productive

AVI-SPL wants to help your teams stay connected and productive during this difficult time as most of us are working, collaborating, and leading from home. Our Together We Can series offers helpful ideas and resources. Below is this week’s edition. Read all Together We Can posts.

If you’re one of the millions of people working from home for several weeks, you may find that the reality of full-time remote work is less than ideal. I reached out to coworkers and friends to chat about the work-from-home reality that’s setting in. This week in our Together We Can series, I’m sharing remote work challenges along with ideas to upgrade your workspace and stay positive and productive.

Homemade standing desks

One office item you may be missing is your standing desk. If you don’t want to invest in a standing desk for your at-home workspace, simply improvise. A sturdy box or crate top put your laptop on is one DIY solution that takes no time at all. Your kitchen counter may do the job too. Try that option during non-mealtimes when this family space (hopefully) isn’t crowded.

Have a second workspace

After weeks of working from home, you may need a change of scenery during the day, a different space due to natural lighting changes in the afternoon, or a quieter area for important calls. Finding an alternate workspace can be challenging if you’re sharing space with spouses and children who are also doing work and classes at home. While you don’t want to spend the day in your bedroom, that space may be a short-term option for essential calls. A large closet works in a pinch too for those times when privacy is a must. Just remember to turn your camera off.

Change the lighting

The lighting in your home is softer than the fluorescent bulbs used in the office. The warmer light from your lamps and overhead lighting could be a welcome change. If, however, you find your workplace light makes you too relaxed and unable to concentrate, switch to bright white LED bulbs to help stay focused and alert. For reading-intensive tasks, add a desk lamp with different hues and brightness levels.

Upgrade your work-from-home equipment

Most of us have mobile phone earbuds that work for video meetings. If they are comfortable to wear all day and provide quality sound, you’re all set. If you’re like me, earbuds are less than ideal since they tend to fall out of your ears, and you never get the mic in the perfect spot. In addition to earbud woes, your laptop’s built-in webcam may not work well, or perhaps the desktop in your home office doesn’t even have a webcam.

Crestron Remote Executive Zoom Bundle
Crestron Remote Executive Zoom Bundle

Those are signs that you’re ready for a work-from-home equipment upgrade to fully participate in virtual meetings. Try a quality headset with an attached microphone. Also, if your shared workspace is less than quiet, noise-canceling headphones can help you stay focused. Now you can shop for remote-work bundles that make finding the right equipment fast and simple. Managers and executives may need a more complete remote collaboration package to lead their virtual teams.  AVI-SPL Quick-Shop bundles include various headsets, cameras, and webcams for each team member’s needs.

Try to limit distractions and interruptions

Based on my conversations, distractions and interruptions are the most common work-from-home challenges. Working at different times of the day can help. Lately, I’ve been receiving emails and Microsoft Teams notifications rather early and late in the day. I’m guessing those are from parents who are making the best out of working from home with children who need attention and help with digital classes during traditional work hours.

Flexing your work schedule could be beneficial for you too. Since few of us are commuting, that gives us a little more time to work with each day. Tackle emails and project tasks before little ones are awake, while they nap, or after their bedtime. That leaves you time in the middle of the day to supervise your children’s online classes.

Of course, you can’t avoid all midday meetings, and some uninvited guests could wander into the home office looking for a snack or help with homework. It’s not feasible to constantly keep your finger at the ready to turn off your video feed during an online meeting. A virtual background is a better solution. When your virtual background is displayed, coworkers won’t see little ones peaking into the meeting until your visitors get close to you. That gives you a much-needed few seconds to turn off your webcam.

Avoid the potato syndrome

Take time to learn the nuances of how your video conferencing software works. If you do use a virtual background or other fun meeting tools, make sure you know how to turn those enhancements off. Otherwise, you could get stuck as a potato for the remainder of your work-from-home tenure. MS Teams rolled out virtual backgrounds, and you can upload your own photos and videos to Zoom. Make sure the image you choose is work appropriate or ask if your team can provide a virtual background with the company logo.

Banish procrastination

Even though business casual is the norm, you are still at work and have goals to reach and projects to get done. To stay on track, set a schedule, and monitor your daily tasks. Use collaboration software such as MS Teams to keep track of projects and steps.

If your team doesn’t utilize a shared project application, add tasks to your calendar, or try the free versions of Asana or Monday. List your daily goals, and stick to them. It can be satisfying and motivating to mark your items “complete.” If your mobile phone is a temptation, try an app that blocks access to social media channels and games during specific hours of the day.

Take physical and emotional breaks

Taking a walk and getting fresh air can revitalize your body and mind during a long workday. Don’t wait until you can take these long breaks to get out of your chair, though. Try taking microbreaks throughout the day to stretch and rest your brain for a few seconds. Microbreaks are a healthy habit you can take back to the office with you too. If the stress of social distancing and isolation is affecting your positive mindset, try a meditation app.

Be patient with yourself and others

Finally, cut yourself and your teammates some slack. We’re all in the same work-from-home boat making the best of it. Expect to hear the occasional dog barking or see children coming into the room during virtual meetings. We may miss those lighter moments once we’re back at the office. It’s a stressful time, but we’re all working on getting through this together.

What does your work-from-home reality look like? Do you have any tips to share? Share your thoughts in the comments.

If you need assistance outfitting your remote workspace, you can chat with us while you shop our work-from-home catalog, or call us at 888-881-0812. Remember to visit our Together We Can page for weekly updates and work-from-home resources. Follow us on social too. #TogetherWeCan

Online Learning Update With Jay Bosch: COVID-19 and Beyond

AVI-SPL wants to help your teams stay connected and productive during this difficult time as most of us are working, teaching, and learning from home. Our Together We Can online learning series offers helpful ideas and resources. Below is this week’s edition. Read all Together We Can posts.

This week in our Together We Can online learning series, AVI-SPL’s Jay Bosch shares feedback from educators on coping with a full-time virtual class schedule due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Bosch explores how organizations deliver online learning now, common challenges, and future classroom design trends. 

During my interview with Bosch, he covered how teachers are working from home and how they have adjusted to using virtual classroom tools. Our conversation also touched on digital classes extending into summer sessions and the fall semester for some organizations.

Additionally, digital learning and online collaboration may become a permanent part of delivering an interactive student experience. It’s possible that the online learning expertise gained during the pandemic may influence the design of the classroom of the future. 

Online Learning Trends With Jay Bosch

Class of 2020 Virtual Commencement

Insights include Bosch’s thoughts on what commencement could look like for the class of 2020. Some colleges are postponing ceremonies, while others are looking to deliver a memorable experience through virtual commencement ceremonies. For schools that don’t have in-house staff to set up and provide a live streaming commencement broadcast, AVI-SPL’s video production arm VideoLink is ready to help.

Virtual 2020 summer sessions

Jay explores possible summer session trends where teachers will return to campus, but still deliver digital classes to remote students. He talked about AVI-SPL’s lecture capture carts, a bundled solution designed to be shipped and installed quickly. 

AVI-SPL lecture capture carts provide schools and universities with an easy-to-use lecture capture system. This technology enables you to record, share, and manage all your video content for classes through your existing lecture capture software, which integrates seamlessly with popular Learning Management Systems.

Online learning beyond COVID-19

Bosch noted that at some schools, administrators are discussing extending their digital class curriculum into the fall semester, or even building permanent classrooms designed to host virtual classes. Solutions like Barco’s weConnect Virtual Classrooms include interactive whiteboards and large video walls that display each student. Using the video wall, teachers can see when students raise their hands and maintain personal connections while delivering classes online. 

Until next week, check our Together We Can online learning page for more resources and weekly updates.

Follow AVI-SPL on LinkedIn and Twitter. #TogetherWeCan

AVI-SPL Experts Share Their Favorite Tools for Collaboration

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 ever 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.

Favorite Tools for Collaboration

At AVI-SPL, we know the value of digital workplace transformation, and we practice what we preach.  We’re grateful for the ability of many of our employees to work remotely and stay engaged, especially during this difficult time.  Our teams and employees use a variety of different tools and methods to keep up with their projects and collaborate with their team members – many of whom may be across the country or elsewhere around the world.

We recently surveyed a handful of our staff for insight into their favorite collaboration tools. Here are their responses, which I hope you’ll find enlightening:

Michael Rombouts, project manager, San Francisco

I generally find a lot of success with Microsoft Smartsheet. It’s nice since it’s basically a live spreadsheet that multiple users can interact with simultaneously. It isn’t polished, but it doesn’t really have to be since it’s mostly for internal communication and task lists. The fact that it’s live means the team doesn’t get caught up in logic loops of “what version are you looking at?” and/or “that’s not what my document says.”

I love Microsoft OneNote for my stream-of-consciousness note taking. While it doesn’t provide something for me to directly share, it is awesome to catch everything, as you can add docs to it and snips of drawings. Think of it as a digital old-school whiteboard.

My compatriots swear by Trello. It is useful for the integration team and boots on the ground. It’s easy to use and a great way to quickly share brief information among technicians, engineers, and commissioning agents.

Lastly, Microsoft Teams, is how I communicate daily within my team for informal communication. While there are several tools that are available for chat, file sharing, or conducting video conferences, Microsoft Teams is simply more intuitive to use. If I need engineering clarification, I could send an email and add to the digital pollution of an inbox, or I can use the chat feature and get an answer quickly. It is as effective as looking over a cubicle and asking my neighbor a question. I use it to conduct page-turn meetings with engineering and technicians, sharing drawings and SOWs. The meetings are seamless, there’s not a busy signal –as when I connect via telephone — and the call quality is stellar. I probably have three or four Teams meetings a day, with no hiccups. 

Doug Seaman, account manager, Omaha:

I love the ability to video chat.  As much as face-to-face contact is the best for sales, video chat is the next best alternative right now.  Personally, I call clients using both Microsoft Teams and Zoom.  A friendly face and the ability to chat brings a level of normalcy to our lives and allows us to get done just as much as we would in an in-person meeting. With background-blurring or background-masking abilities, I can maintain a professional appearance.

Rich Daugherty, solutions architect, Chicago:

When collaborating on a project within Microsoft Teams, I like that certain Office applications like Word, Excel, and PowerPoint can be edited within Teams. This ensures that the shared file is the most updated version, so colleagues working on the same project will have access to the latest and greatest version.  We can even edit together in a group call, so everyone is on board with the final product and fewer revisions need to be sent out later.

Thomas Luczywo, programmer, Calgary:

In my case, a good sound-isolating wireless headset, such as my Plantronics headset, is a key tool.  It allows me to collaborate with team members with solid quality, and it’s much better than speaking into a laptop and listening to my laptop speakers alone.  This experience immerses me into conversations and helps me to focus so I have a better quality experience with them and also with clients.  The headset can also isolate out environmental sounds (such as traffic or common noises experienced when working from home or at a client’s site) so that I can better focus on my programming projects.  Better focus is the key to being more successful in our industry.

Get expert advice on choosing your collaboration tools

The AVI-SPL team is here to help you find the collaboration tools that will keep you connected and productive. These efforts are paramount during the coronavirus, but they will be just as important as we get back to our workplaces and incorporate a liberating way of working into our daily routines. As businesses, schools, and government agencies get back into the swing of running at full capacity, you want your organization to have the resources that make that process as efficient and effective as possible.

Our mission is to provide the tools, experience, and support you need to connect teams between the offices and remote locations. Because when your talented individuals work together, you can reach your business outcomes. If you need assistance launching or upgrading your digital workplace collaboration tools, contact us now or find your local AVI-SPL office.

Leverage Video Meetings to Lead Your Team Remotely Through Disruption

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:

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.

Leaders always juggle a myriad of responsibilities, priorities, and challenges. The COVID-19 pandemic has magnified these commitments almost beyond comprehension. Protecting the bottom line. Driving revenue. Security. Maintaining culture. The well-being and safety of employees. Transitioning overnight to remote work models. The list goes on. Thankfully, the modern workplace was ready to embrace full-time remote work.

Use video conferencing to manage disruption and maintain productivity

As the business climate changes on what seems to be a daily basis, leaders at every level face continuous decisions, each as critical as the next. The natural inclination for many is to retreat into the work itself. But this is the exact moment when employees need to see and hear from leaders. And this is the moment when leaders can show up, speak up, and help employees navigate this challenging time.

There is good news amidst all of these challenges. We have video conferencing. While the days of water-cooler chats, in-person town halls, the impromptu office drop-by, and casual lunch meetings are gone for the near future, virtual communication has never been easier, even for businesses that weren’t initially set up for remote work. Leaders can continue to have face time with their teams, whether in large virtual town hall scenarios, all-hands video meetings, or more personal one-to-one touchpoints over Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Webex, and other applications.

Communicate, communicate, and then communicate some more

The cadence and method of communicating and collaborating with employees are important. It needs to be more than a one-and-done task. Establish specific work-from-home routines and distribution platforms for executives. Set expectations for weekly communications from senior leaders and cascade daily communication responsibilities down through your organization and across cross-functional teams. It’s also important to carve out regular one-on-one virtual meeting time with your employees to check in and see how they are doing. Doing that from home has never been easier thanks to simple yet robust meeting and team collaboration tools.

Tailor your message for your remote workforce

Executives and senior leaders should share your organization’s strategy for navigating through these changes, as best you can. Emphasize priorities and how you’re going to meet those priorities. Be clear, confident, and realistic. And be real and transparent; employees need to feel like you have things under control.

By reaching out frequently and using video as a way to connect, your leadership and visibility can lead to a more engaged workforce who is better able to handle the new working conditions while also balancing the stressors of the “new norm.” Now is one of the most important leadership moments of your career.

Your team needs to see you. They need to see each other. Video conference calls, emails, and texts are great ways to communicate under normal circumstances. These formats can now supplement virtual communications to reinforce key messages during this time of crisis.

But the sense of togetherness and humanity is vital, and video conferencing with platforms like Microsoft Teams, Zoom, and Webex make this possible. It’s the closest thing we have to a sense of normalcy – a face-to-face way to collaborate, brainstorm, coordinate, give and receive feedback – and also to smile, laugh, and even commiserate and share frustration. We can get your team set up and running. This resource guide has a library of tips and an online shop of tools essential in the new work from home paradigm,

Lead by example

The more your employees see you adapting to the remote model and utilizing video platforms to meet, communicate, and get work done in different ways, the more likely they are to do the same. Even if you or some of your employees are still in the office, start adopting video technology as your primary meeting platform to increase confidence, usage, and experience. Be sure to use your laptop camera or webcam so your team can see and connect with you during virtual meetings.

How you show up matters – use the right online tools and devices

When everything seems like chaos around you, it’s easy to let appearances slip. But it’s still critical to portray a sense of professionalism and calm and position yourself to look your best. Your team needs to see that sense of normalcy from you. Are you set up to do this? Headsets, proper lighting, professional attire, and limited background noise all help keep video meetings productive.

Make sure your employees are set up for success too – do they have what they need to be effective and efficient from their home office with tools like desktop monitors, noise-canceling microphones, and speakers? This is not just an investment for now, these are all items that can be used when everyone is finally back in the office and able to travel again. We’ve set up this online shop with shortcuts to the best work from home tools.

Humanizing the virtual world

Of course, we’re all living and working under new circumstances, and it’s okay for employees to get a glimpse of your “life behind the curtain.” It makes you more human and relatable. So if the dog barks, there’s a burst of laughter from another room, or your video suddenly crashes, make light of it and move on. In fact, sharing work-from-home “bloopers” can become a great ice breaker when kicking off your meeting.

With visible leaders communicating face-to-face every step of the way, organizations can get through this time, and carry these best practices forward. Together we can. And together we will.  

 

How to Manage Your Remote Teams

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.

How to Manage Remote Teams

With so many of us still working from home full time for at least the next few weeks, we talked to Daniel Rogers, AVI-SPL VP of global channels, for his advice on how he manages remote employees. Here’s what he has to offer to help with your challenges at this time:Daniel Rogers, VP of global channels, AVI-SPL

The ability to collaborate in real time when working remotely allows for a feeling of being connected with your coworkers, partners, and customers. This is vitally important. Remote workers need to feel connected to their company and their coworkers, and tools for instant messaging and video (e.g., Microsoft Teams) are key in helping achieve this.

I personally manage a global team based on three different continents, and the use of video and collaboration services makes me feel aligned and connected with all my team members, as well as with our customers and partners. The ability to share and present content in real time makes for valuable and more meaningful internal and external meetings.

In our team, we operate a mutual open-door policy, where the green light denotes you are available to answer a question or share a thought — as you would when you walk to someone’s desk to speak with them if you were working in the office. I also encourage everyone on the team, no matter their geographic location, to connect with each other as well as myself in order for them to feel that connection and still have those virtual water-cooler conversations.

In some cases I could speak to a member of the team every day if the situation or opportunity needs that level of focus: e.g. when working on a major project or RFP. This is not a micro-management process; it is simply utilization of the tools to collaborate and work in real time as you would if you were in a physical office environment.

We have a scheduled weekly team call on video, where all members from around the world join and share their weekly updates on projects, opportunities, etc. It’s also where I share an update from the company/management level. I am confident the team gets a great deal out of these sessions as this is an opportunity to share updates that are relevant to all members.

We also have monthly 1:1 sessions and quarterly business review sessions, all of which are scheduled and planned for the full year ahead.

It is different managing people who work remotely as it takes a certain discipline to work away from an office environment. Everyone must treat it with the same level of discipline and professionalism you would exhibit if you were in the office, where you practice good time management and present a professional appearance and working environment. Maintain the same levels of professional conduct as you would in any meeting. Once you have established routines, standards, and trust, then managing people becomes straightforward. Great productivity and results can be achieved.

Get expert advice on managing your remote teams

AVI-SPL is here to help you find the collaboration tools that will keep your team connected and productive. These efforts are paramount during the coronavirus, but they will be just as important as we get back to our workplaces and incorporate a liberating way of working into our daily routines. As businesses, schools, and government agencies get back into the swing of running at full capacity, you want your organization to have the resources that make that process as efficient and effective as possible.

Our mission is to provide the tools, experience, and support you need to connect teams between the offices and remote locations. Because when your talented individuals work together, you can reach your business outcomes. If you need assistance launching or upgrading your digital workplace collaboration tools, contact us now or find your local AVI-SPL office.