Category Video Communications

Time Management Tips For Remote Workers

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 series offers helpful ideas and resources. Below is this week’s edition. Read all Together We Can posts.

Remember the good old days when working from home meant quiet, solitude, no interruptions, and serious focus time? When we could plow through what seemed like a week’s worth of work in a day? And get the house vacuumed, dinner made, and take a walk before the kids got home from school? Bliss.

It’s crazy that it was only a month ago. Now, working from home has taken on an entirely new dynamic. Lack of focus, plenty of distractions, the Groundhog Day effect, and general worry and anxiety. Many of us also now have little colleagues at home. Bored, antsy colleagues who need our attention and invade our workspace. All of a sudden, we’ve added in chef, teacher, art director, therapist, and negotiator to our regular jobs.

There are plenty of tips about good planning, structure, creativity, and flexibility that help us better manage our time and create environments that improve productivity and maintain family harmony. We share some helpful ideas below, and they all work well. Under normal circumstances.

But in our current new norm, following any one of these tips consistently is a challenge. Managing time is difficult right now because time itself is different right now. It’s like we’re slogging our way through quicksand, each day the same as yesterday. And sharing space with other family members is frustrating, perhaps even chaotic, when we’re mostly stuck in the house.

So, the best advice? Don’t aim for perfection. Or normalcy. It may not feel like it when you look at your Instagram feed, but we’re all struggling. We’re going to have good days, and we’re going to have not so good days. Every situation is unique, so pick one or two time management tips that will fit your current lifestyle. Take advantage of those moments of high productivity and when you just can’t focus, walk away. Like literally take a walk. Clean something. Play a game with your kids. Do push-ups. Just breathe and clear your head. It’s okay, we’ll get through this together.

Below are some ideas that may help you better manage your time and share your space while working from home.

Have a Conversation

If you haven’t already had a candid conversation with your manager, have one. Talk about your personal challenges and current work expectations, and then discuss creative and realistic solutions that will allow you to remain productive. This may mean some compromise on both your parts, including working non-traditional evening and weekend hours so you can spend time with your children during the day.

Be an early bird

Avoid the urge to sleep in. Set the alarm an hour or two earlier and get a jump on the day while the house is still quiet and before ‘school hours’ begin. If possible, let your kids sleep later than normal. Getting your most pressing projects completed in the early hours will make it easier for you to take a mid-morning break to help with schoolwork.

Commute to work

Start your day by walking around the block. It forces you out the front door, signaling to your brain that you are heading off to work. At the end of your workday, walk around the block again, but in the opposite direction. When you re-enter your home, you’ll feel like it’s the end of the day and time to ease into your normal evening routine. The fresh air and exercise is a bonus.

Create a schedule and a routine

Seems obvious, right? But setting and sticking to a schedule while working from home full time might be harder than you expected. Keep at it.  Just like your “commute,” a routine creates a start and stop time for your day, allows for breaks, and helps you reduce distractions and stress. It also helps with balancing work time and school time, as you may need to set aside complete blocks of time throughout the day to help with school work. And although they’ll deny it, your kids need routine too.

Make a list

Fight the urge to multi-task, which actually decreases productivity. Instead, at the end of each day, write down your five most important tasks for the next day and prioritize them. Then, when you start work in the morning, focus on the first task, and start crossing off your items. Try to stick to this and move any unfinished items to your next day’s list. This practice helps you to stop thinking about them, which will help you relax at the end of the day.

Set a timer

It’s easy to jump from task to task or stare mindlessly at the screen without accomplishing anything. It’s just as easy to walk away from your desk and get caught up in a personal project. Set a timer for 45 minutes for heads-down work and then reward yourself with a 15-minute break (or whatever schedule works best for you). Your focus will increase, you’ll feel less overwhelmed, and you’ll get a chance to rejuvenate. Our blog on Apps for Remote Work Productivity has some great suggestions for tools that will help you stay organized and on-task.

Turn off Wi-Fi. Hide your phone.

Seriously. It’s too easy to get distracted by emails, tweets, Facebook, and Instagram Posts, the latest COVID article, or your friend’s text messages. Obviously, you’ll need to get back online periodically to check in and connect, but if you manage your online time, your productivity will go through the roof.

Socialize

When you’re at the office, chatting with people happens naturally. When you’re working remotely, interactions with colleagues may be all work. Downtime is important, and social bonds improve productivity and well-being. So, it’s important to find the time – even if you have to schedule it – to keep personal relationships alive. Go for a walk and call a work friend, schedule a virtual lunch while your kids meet up over Minecraft. The quality and quantity of your work will improve if you make time to stay connected and have a little fun in the day.

Divide and conquer

If there are two adults in your home, divide the day into blocks so that each person has time to concentrate on work and time to help with schoolwork or play with the kids. If it’s just you at home and you need to oversee your children throughout the day, conquer your most critical projects when there is quiet time. Save tasks like answering emails for times when your children are playing or you’re watching TV and distractions are okay.

Define your workspace

Set up a dedicated workspace in your home to reduce distractions and maintain a work-life balance. Try to make this space off-limits to your kids unless there is an emergency or it’s a scheduled break time. Likewise, set up dedicated ‘school’ spaces and play spaces for your children. If they have a space of their own, they may be less likely to come into yours.

If you have to share a space, keep your area tidy and organized to maximize your effectiveness. Plan ahead and find ways to keep kids happily occupied when you are virtual meetings, allowing you to maintain a professional appearance – and your sanity.

Get with your manager asap if you still need tech to improve your remote work experience. Noise-canceling headphones are a great option to help you zone in, stay focused, and tune out playtime. Read our Ideas to Stay Positive and Productive blog for more inspiration on how to create an effective workspace.

And finally…

Resist the urge

Just because your computer is in the next room doesn’t mean you have to be on it. It’s 8:00 pm. Relax. Watch TV. Hang out with your family. Take a moment to celebrate your accomplishments for the day.

 

Something to Celebrate! Virtual Commencement and Remote Job Search Tips

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.

During these uncertain times, it’s heartwarming to lift our spirits with something to celebrate. While college seniors canceled internships and parties, and face a challenging job search, they don’t have to miss out on graduation. You can help them celebrate one of life’s most memorable milestones by hosting a virtual commencement.

See details below on how to host this remote event, along with tips to help seniors start a virtual job search after graduation.

Host a class of 2020 virtual commencement

Even with in-person events prohibited right now, you can still recognize your class of 2020 graduates’ hard work and commitment. Instead of canceling the commencement ceremony, deliver a virtual event that creates memories that will last a lifetime. To prepare for a remote celebration, review the 5 Keys to a Successful Virtual Event.

When you’re ready to get started with your virtual event production, choose an on-site location or a studio equipped to satisfy social distancing requirements. You’ll need cameras and microphones along with streaming and broadcasting technology. You can include a mix of live and recorded video in your virtual event to recognize graduates and awards, then present your guest and valedictorian commencement speeches.

No worries if you don’t have the in-house staff and technology you need to host a virtual commencement. The teams at AVI-SPL and our video production and broadcast arm VideoLink are ready to help you deliver a memorable experience for your class of 2020 graduates.

Three ways to help graduates start a virtual job search

After celebrating their virtual commencement, graduates must get down to the business of finding a job.  Follow these tips to support their remote job search in these uncertain times:

Promote your job placement programs

graduation tassel celebrates virtual commencement

Remind graduates of any job placement assistance your school provides. Promote your programs on your website and social media channels. Reach out to graduating seniors who opted-in to receive text messages or contact them via social media direct messaging or email.

Help seniors connect with counselors

Make sure seniors know how to contact job placement counselors who are working from home. Provide different ways to get in touch with staff, including mobile business numbers for calls and texts, email, and video conferencing appointments.

Remote meetings will also help graduates prepare for the next step in their job search, the virtual interview.

Share virtual interview tips

While students will connect virtually with prospective employers, the same guidelines apply as if they were meeting in person. Students should also take a few extra steps to ensure remote interviews go smoothly. Share these notes with your graduating class:

  • Prepare for the interview by researching the company and reviewing the job description. Have a few questions ready to ask the interviewer.
  • Know which meeting platform the prospective employee uses for meetings and test your device a few days before the interview to address any technical glitches. Know how to share your screen or documents. The interviewer may ask you to share your resume, your website, or your portfolio of work.
  • On meeting day, join the session a few minutes early. Don’t be late!
  • Wear earphones with a microphone or a headset to stay focused on the meeting.
  • Avoid the video freeze! Ask family and roommates to limit streaming movies and music, so your interview isn’t interrupted or stopped by a shaky Internet connection.
  • Find a quiet place with good lighting. Don’t sit with bright light behind you to avoid showing up in silhouette to your interviewer.
  • Turn off all mobile phone sounds, including your ringer and notifications. If you’re not using your phone for the interview, turn it off to avoid distractions.
  • As with in-person interviews, dress your best. Wear a complete interview outfit even though you may not be seen from the waist down. Looking your best can boost your confidence.
  • Send a thank you message in the meeting chatbox, then follow up with a thank you email too. To show your continued interest in the job, include a question about the company or position in your email.

After virtual commencement, prepare for summer and fall semesters

online learning tools

As graduates move on to their next steps, your educators must prepare for summer school and next semester. While teachers are headed back to campus, they may still be presenting virtual classes to remote students. Outfit your classrooms with online learning technology that’s easy to install and use, such as bundled lecture capture carts and room solutions.

Contact us now or call your local AVI-SPL office to learn more about hosting a virtual event. Pass on my virtual job search tips to your graduating seniors.

Don’t forget to check our Together We Can page for more online learning resources and weekly updates.

5 Keys to a Successful Virtual Event

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.

While the COVID-19 pandemic response has sent everyone home to work, companies are also seeing their in-person employee and customer events canceled or indefinitely postponed. However, there is an alternative that can keep communication and revenue flowing in these uncertain times. Turn your all-hands meetings and customer seminars and gatherings into virtual events.

Virtual events let you stay in touch with employees through live-streaming Town Halls, and host customer seminars to showcase strategies and solutions. Before you get started, though, consider these five keys to a successful virtual event.

1. Make your virtual event interactive

Start by building choosing your presenters and building your agenda. Try to select a host who is comfortable using online tools and can engage a virtual audience. For example, someone with experience leading webinars is a desirable choice for your virtual events. If your team hasn’t presented online in the past, just allow time for practice so they can get comfortable with the technology and engaging the audience online.

Since your attendees will be remote, it’s essential to work interactive elements into your virtual event agenda to encourage participation. You’ll also discourage participants from attending in listen-only mode while multitasking. Some ideas include:

  • Allow attendees to ask or submit questions on the materials
  • Take polls about activities related to the presentation
    • The presenter can ask the question and ask attendees to respond in the chatbox
  • Include an open Q&A Session
  • Share downloadable content via the chat window
  • Add a mix of material such as a live speaker with slides, and recorded video

For smaller events, include a live Q&A session where you can turn the audience’s mics on. For larger meetings, ask participants to submit written questions in the chat or Q&A boxes. Allow the presenter to focus on presenting while another team member monitors the chat and Q&A window and passes questions on to the host. Add a few minutes at the beginning of the session for the host or event coordinator to review the question procedure with attendees.

End your session by thanking everyone for attending and reviewing how you will follow up with the audience. 

2. Encourage virtual event or Town Hall attendance

Once you have your virtual event plan, it’s time to invite guests to register and attend your event. Your plan can include sending out regular communications, ensuring invites have your contact information, and offering incentives to attendees.

Schedule a regular cadence of invitation and reminders emails

While everyone has good intentions to attend your event, they may forget or lose motivation when other issues consume their day. It’s helpful to build an email invite and reminder schedule to encourage people to attend your virtual event. It may look something like this:

  • Invite 1: four weeks prior
  • Invite 2: one week prior
  • Invite last chance: one week prior
  • Confirmation email with session instructions: ongoing upon registration
  • Reminder to attend 1: one week prior
  • Reminder to attend 2: one day prior

Include contact information

Potential attendees may have questions about your event content or technical issues with the online registration. Include a contact email and phone number in all your email communications. Assign a team member to answer calls and check emails to respond to questions quickly. Be prepared to take phone registrations if need.

Office incentives to participate

If your budget allows, consider offering an incentive to attend the event. Use items that are easy to deliver electronically after the event. Some ideas include:

  • e-gift cards for coffee or online shop
  • Long-form, value-added content such as an eBook or White Paper

3. Choose your virtual event solution

For complex sessions, such as an all-hands virtual Town Hall live stream, you may want to enlist the help of a video production partner such as VideoLink. Your partner can manage the production and quickly resolve any technical issues.

You can host smaller events on your preferred meeting platform like Microsoft Teams, Cisco Webex, or Zoom. Be sure to activate all privacy features for your meeting, such as requiring a meeting password and restricting who can share content on the screen. Also, check your app subscription to ensure you can host the expected number of attendees and record the event. Upgrade your platform if needed.

4. Hold a dress rehearsal

It’s helpful to do a complete run-through of the presentation before your live virtual event. Have all presenters and staff ensure all technical elements are working. A dress rehearsal will help you:

  • Show the host and presenters know how to log on, take control of the session, and share content and video
  • Learn how to mute and unmute all attendees to avoid noise
  • Test everyone’s mics, cameras, speakers, and Internet connections
  • Time each part of the session to see if you need to streamline your content, and ensure you allow time for audience Q&A

5. Follow up after the online seminar or live stream

As with any event, it’s essential to follow up with attendees after the session to keep the conversation flowing. Town Hall virtual events can include a survey or an email with the recording. Customer event follow-up can be managed by marketing or by sending qualified leads to your sales team.

Provide email templates with any slides and content that the host shared during the event. Offer attendees the option to subscribe to your e-newsletter program and send content relevant to the event presentations. If your virtual event promoted a solution, consider adding an incentive to purchase in your follow-up communications.

Follow these ideas to hosting successful virtual events that help you connect with remote staff and drive customer revenue. If you need assistance with a company Town Hall or another virtual event, the AVI-SPL team is ready to help. Contact us now or call your local AVI-SPL office to get started today.

Don’t forget to check our Together We Can web page for updated work-from-home resources.

Microsoft Teams and Surface Hub 2S: Collaboration Tools for Today and Tomorrow

Today, nearly five million people in the U.S. are working remotely. Well before the coronavirus disrupted work as we know it, we were being told that remote work was an essential part of doing our jobs and that remote workers would dominate the workforce. The proliferation of remote work articles popping up in the wake of COVID-19 have made this an even more salient feature of our work lives. Millions of people around the world have had to adjust to a new way of working — a way that requires them to be at home but perform as if they were in the office. 

One of the tools getting high-profile coverage is Microsoft Teams. Whether I’m in the office or working from home, I use Teams many times a day. It’s how colleagues chat me up with ideas and suggestions. It’s how I share editable documents that a specific work group can view and edit. It’s where I can scroll through a conversation to refresh my memory about where we left off a certain project or deliverable. And it’s where I attend video meetings with colleagues to brainstorm, share ideas, and get work done in real time. Let’s look in greater detail at how Microsoft Teams helps me — and can help you — work from home and anywhere else.

How to Work Remotely With Microsoft Teams

For the past couple of weeks, Microsoft Teams has taken on more prominence and importance as my colleagues and I work outside the office. Working remotely doesn’t have much meaning or benefit unless we’re being productive. And Microsoft Teams is supporting that productivity. Since so much of the work we produce is the result of collaboration, it’s easy to see why Microsoft calls Teams its “hub for teamwork.” You could click a link and see the kind of features and capabilities it offers. But for me — I hope for you as well — the best way to share what Microsoft Teams can do is to speak from experience.

Like you, I work on a lot of projects that involve collaboration with a wide range of colleagues. Within Microsoft Teams, I can create (or be added to) a group that is named for a particular project. For example, we formed one project to gather content for our forthcoming podcast. Within these dedicated virtual spaces, we can add files that anyone can edit and download. We also added a section for conversation topics. To those topics we can attach our names and notes so that we know who has responsibility for recruiting guests and scheduling their appearances. It’s a great way for me to remind myself what I’ve done, still have to do, and my deadline. 

Another great reminder is the Posts tab, which includes the typed chats we’ve had about a topic. I frequently reference these conversations if I need to refresh my memory about what was discussed so that I know to work on a task or follow up with someone about theirs. This persistent chat is visual proof of our brainstorming, questions we’ve asked and answered, and announcements we’ve made to each other.

And speaking of visuals: It’s easy to jump into a video call with anyone in my contact list, which includes everyone in the company and anyone that I add. Once in a call, I’m two clicks away from recording the session, an essential tool when I’m interviewing a partner for one of AVI-SPL’s white papers. For most of these meetings, at least one attendee needs to share their content in the Teams window for all to see and understand. Another great feature: how easy it is schedule a Teams meeting from Outlook. I can schedule meetings from within the Microsoft Teams window, but I’m a creature of habit and I’m used to using the Outlook calendar. Whichever way you prefer, know that Teams accommodates your work style.

It’s worth noting that I’ve used only a fraction of Microsoft Teams’ capabilities. There’s plenty of apps that you may find helpful to support your work style or needs, including Stream, Wiki, OneNote, and a host of other built-in Office 365 applications.

I know I’ve given only a taste of what Microsoft Teams can do. Talk to one of AVI-SPL’s experts and you can ask about a host of other features like third-party solutions, the ability to integrate workflows, and the Teams developer platform that works with your business apps. If you choose, we can also take a deep dive with you into important benefits like security, manageability, and compliance, along with the room devices from our manufacturer partners that bring Microsoft Teams into the meeting space. With all I’ve shared, I’d be remiss to not include this overview of its key features:

  • Works across desktop, mobile, browser and a wide range of devices
  • A digital whiteboard (which I’ve never used til I started writing this post. It was a breeze to start.)
  • AI capabilities
  • Interoperability with other video systems
  • The features that ensure a quality audio and video experience
  • Actionable IT analytics

There’s much more to cover, but here’s the takeaway that I hope resonates with you: whatever industry you’re in, Microsoft Teams can improve your operations and processes when it comes to work and collaboration.

How to Be Productive in the Office With Surface Hub 2S

As we get back into the flow of on-site meetings and collaboration sessions, we’ll want to be in the same conference rooms and huddle spaces to connect with people who are in those areas or working from other locations. I don’t have the personal experience with Surface Hub 2S that I have with Microsoft Teams, but I’ve seen the demos — enough to know that it’s the kind of tool that you want in your office when it’s time for groups in and out of the workplace to get together on a shared, high-resolution canvas. And it’s not just any digital canvas, but one that has all the power of the Windows 10 operating system and has the great Microsoft Teams software built in. Going back to what I said earlier about the value of familiarity and comfort in the way we work: This is another way that Microsoft is delivering that kind of experience.

Surface Hub 2S is an interactive device that acts as a meeting platform, digital whiteboard, and so much more. Bring it into a conference room, huddle room or open area and you’ve created a space for teamwork. That includes the ability to use Microsoft Teams to collaborate with remote workers, replicating the great experience you’re used to from your PC. It also includes video conferencing so you can see your teammates while working on shared content in real time. Here are just a handful of the features that make the Surface Hub 2S so valuable:Surface Hub 2S image

  • 4K camera and 4K screen
  • Wireless content sharing
  • Microsoft Whiteboard
  • Window 10 OS
  • 50-inch display size
  • Cart or wall-mount installation

The Surface Hub 2S is the tool you’ll want to have to bring your remote teams together, work from anywhere in the office, and have an easy, fluid collaboration experience among the talent that drives your company’s success.

Talk to AVI-SPL’s Advocates About Microsoft Teams and Surface Hub 2S

If you’re new to Microsoft Teams or Surface Hub 2S, or you’re new to remote collaboration, there are experts at AVI-SPL who are ready to answer your questions and give you guidance. Whatever questions you have, ask them, as our representatives can discuss:

  • Product demos
  • How to migrate from Skype for Business to Microsoft Teams
  • Planning and designing an enterprise-wide Teams launch (including network assessment, device strategy and migration planning)
  • Microsoft Teams meeting-room configuration with certified devices (Crestron, Poly, Yealink, Logitech, and others)
  • Training and adoption services
  • Room system and device management
  • How Microsoft Teams can help your specific industry
  • Integrating the Surface Hub 2S into areas across your enterprise

It can seem like a lot to take in, but keep in mind that all of these features and benefits are meant to serve your clear goals: better team collaboration and a better way of organizing you and your teams’ work. I would venture that a lot of us are looking forward to the day we can get back into the office and have that in-person experience. But for those of us who are set up to collaborate from home, we know how easy it is to be just as productive and contribute just as much from wherever we choose to set up our personal devices. Our current circumstances will pass; what will remain is the freedom, flexibility, and support that tools like Microsoft Teams and Surface Hub 2S bring to our work lives.

How to Choose the Right AV-over-IP Solution

Find out why AV-over-IP technology is becoming the new standard for distributing AV signals within the workplace.

AVI-SPL and Crestron collaborated on this guide, which helps you understand AV-over-IP and its advantages over traditional ways of sending audio and video signals. After reading this succinct, informative paper, you’ll understand:

  • Why AV-over-IP matters
  • Its ability to interact with your existing infrastructure
  • How to choose an AV-over-IP solution
  • Why Crestron DM NVX is an outstanding network AV solution 

Download your copy of “Choosing the Right AV over IP Solution” >