Category Video Conferencing

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.  

 

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.

Suddenly Remote Due to Coronavirus: 6 Ways to Help Staff and Students Adjust

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.

The rush to control the spread of the novel coronavirus, known as COVID-19, is on. Canceled events and self-quarantines are the norm. Companies and schools are acting too by sending workers and students home to meet remotely. It’s likely organizations like yours already utilize video meetings. However, if most of your teams and students are suddenly remote every day due to coronavirus, virtual meetings are playing their largest role ever in achieving your business goals.

Keep in mind some team members and students will be new to working or studying from home. Before you send your teams, students, and teachers into the virtual meeting world, and help fight the spread of COVID-19, follow these steps to help people stay engaged and productive during video meetings.

6 ways to help staff and students adjust to working remotely

1. Grant access

Make sure employees and students have remote access to all networks, software, and files they need to do their work or teach and attend classes. Since you’ll have a spike in video conferencing usage, contact your IT department to review your meeting software licenses and available bandwidth. You don’t want to send everyone home, then realize 1,000 people must share 200 software licenses.

Global companies should encourage staff to utilize cloud video connections vs. dial-in options to limit international calling charges. Even toll-free lines can have hidden call charges. It’s helpful to offer backup call-in options in case of slow home internet connections or local outages too. However, encourage staff to call in only when online connections are not available to control phone charges. Another tip is to encourage remote participants to turn off their camera feed to save bandwidth while benefiting from the online audio conferencing service. 

2. Offer online training

It’s likely your staff is already meeting online. If virtual meetings are not the norm, though, users may not be aware of all collaboration software features. Offer live and recorded video training to ensure everyone knows how to utilize the tools available to them. Show users how to schedule and start video meetings, record sessions, share files, chat, make online calls, and start impromptu meetings.

3. Have extra tech support available

Since tech support calls may increase with more people suddenly working online, get your tech support team involved early. Have your IT team review common tech challenges, so they are ready to help video conferencing attendees connect quickly. Consider creating a dedicated support team to help run your newly-minted virtual offices and classrooms.

Don’t forget to send tech support contact information to your virtual team members, so they know who to call for help. Also, since support staff will likely work remotely too, make sure they can still access employee laptops via remote control when needed.

4. Provide quality headsets for video meetings

It’s essential for meeting participants to see and hear everyone in the video conference and be seen and heard. Most laptops include cameras suitable for video calls. For audio, external devices often improve the remote meeting experience. Provide quality headsets with microphones to ensure all attendees can collaborate and share ideas during meetings.

Note that your staff and students may have to contend with noise and distractions. Children and pets may be at home, and traffic noise can seep through windows. Consider noise-canceling headphones to help tune out background noises and ensure everyone stays focused on the meeting.

5. Share Video Conferencing Best Practices

Share video meeting best practices with inexperienced users. It won’t hurt to give veteran remote workers a refresher too.  Top ideas to share include:

  • Choose a dedicated, quiet well-lit area with as little noise and distractions as possible
    • Avoid sitting in front of a window with bright light behind you
  • Dress like you would on a typical workday
  • Join the call a few minutes early and greet your coworkers, say goodbye when leaving the meeting too
  • Mute your microphone when you’re not speaking during meetings to limit noise
  • Turn your camera on for face-to-face communication
  • Check your surroundings that the camera will display
    • Clear the breakfast dishes from the table and remove anything hanging on chairs, etc., move any personal photos or other items you don’t want to be seen during the meeting
  • Share any documents you’re discussing via screen sharing
  • Stay focused and avoid multi-tasking during the meeting
  • Record the session and share the recording with meeting attendees
  • Make sure family and friends know you’re “at work” to prevent interruptions
  • Manage unexpected distractions as quickly as possible

6. Check in regularly

Encourage supervisors and teachers to ramp up online communications and feedback via chat and one-on-one video meetings. They should check in often to see how teachers, staff, and students are doing in the virtual world.

Reactions to work from home schedules can vary. Some people may love to skip the commute; others may feel lonely compared to coming into the office every day. Regular communication can help remote workers, and students feel connected to the rest of the group.

In addition to addressing current health concerns, work from home options provide flexibility, and can reduce stress. You may find the students and staff are more efficient and engaged while working away from the office. When your organization returns to normal working conditions once the spread of COVID-19 is under control, track your virtual meeting results. If you see happier employees and students, along with increased productivity, consider offering permanent options to work and study remotely a few days a week.

Get expert video conferencing help

Our teams at AVI-SPL are here to help. While the coronavirus outbreak has created a sudden exponential reliance on video meetings, helping teams connect online through video conferencing has been our core mission for years. If you need assistance launching or upgrading your digital workplace collaboration tools, contact us now or find your local AVI-SPL office.

Coronavirus Highlights Value of Remote Work

With the recent news of the coronavirus dominating world headlines, this is a good opportunity to evaluate your company’s emergency plans. We’ve already seen the effects of the virus, also known as COVID-19, on the global markets. On Thurs, Feb. 27, the Dow fell almost 1,200 points, its highest one-day point drop in history. Much of that is being attributed to the effect of the virus on supply and demand. As a result, some of the largest companies in the world are restricting their employees’ business travel while also allocating more resources for virtual work

At around the 3:40 mark of this TechCrunch podcast, the speakers discuss Zoom and its ascent in price from the low $70s just a month ago to reaching over $120 in early trading on Friday, Feb. 28. That notable rise is occurring as video conferencing has become not just attractive but necessary. The TechCrunch discussion notes a number of major conferences – including Facebook’s F8 – that have been cancelled out of caution against the coronavirus.

Whether the cause is a virus, natural disaster, or some other disruptive event: How you will handle interruptions and minimize a negative impact to your business?

Uninterrupted Workforce Collaboration

Branch office locations need to function even if a main office is closed, and employees need a reliable, agile collaboration environment to enable them to work from home without missing a step.  AVI-SPL’s digital workplace solutions can ensure your workplace has the collaboration tools to handle any challenge and keep your talent and operations connected even amidst a crisis like the one we’re currently facing. 

By deploying a solution such as Microsoft Teams or Cisco Webex Teams, your workforce can continue to communicate regardless of distance or time zone.  These platforms also provide video conferencing to enhance the collaboration experience.  Popular cloud-based solutions like Zoom and Pexip can be easily integrated with these collaboration platforms.

A Better User Experience of Collaboration Technology

Some offices may have to close because of an event like the coronavirus.  But that circumstance only underscores the need to support those offices that are still open for business. AVI-SPL Symphony enables you to keep your operations functioning and your workforce productive – even when some of them can’t be at the office.

You can remotely monitor and control all collaboration technology from any of your locations. By leveraging Symphony, either as a managed service or Symphony as a Service, organizations can manage their meeting scheduling and launching. They can also monitor their meeting health status while it’s in progress by monitoring connection status and giving staff the information they need to provide in-meeting support without being in the room. You will know what rooms and devices are ready for use and can make fixes before the participants are impacted.

Be Prepared – And Reap the Benefits at the Same Time

Digital workplace collaboration can’t just be part of a contingency plan in the face of rare – we hope — emergencies. This is the way we work today, and it’s a big reason why companies can so easily expand into locations and markets and attract the talent that drives their success.

How can you ensure that your investment in collaboration is having the desired impact? The key is having the data. AVI-SPL Symphony provides tactical and strategic business intelligence through analytics as customized insight through Build Your Own Reports. You can then make informed decisions about room construction/repurposing, technology refreshes, and addressing issues like technology adoption.

Not only will you gain more insight into your environment, but AVI-SPL digital workplace solution deployments will help your organization save time and money.  In 2018, Forrester Consulting’s “Total Economic Impact of AVI-SPL’s Digital Workplace Solutions” found a meeting productivity increase worth $11.9M over three years for a large enterprise organization, and savings of 122,500 hours per year due to meetings that start on time.  In an uncertain economic environment, these savings will help your organization maintain its agility to meet the ever-changing climate.   

While we all hope that no emergencies ever impact our offices, events like the coronavirus bring into sharp relief the value of collaboration technology. Build your digital workplace, and your company will have more than a set of just-in-case tools; it will be equipped to compete in today’s business environment by empowering your people to share the ideas and create the value that leads to growth.

How Small Collaboration Spaces Deliver Big Results at Work

Sometimes you just need a quick get-together to organize a plan of attack. At other times, you’ll want to gather a few people to work on a project. Or you may need to consult right now with colleagues who are at another location.

What solves the challenges in each of these scenarios? The value of having a small collaboration space where core members of a team can share ideas, work on documents in real time, and connect with colleagues and clients at remote locations. In “Small Spaces, Big Outcomes,” find out why small spaces like huddle rooms have become popular and will continue to be an essential part of the workplace. This guide also explores other benefits of small collaboration spaces, including:

  • Better use of your real estate (large meeting spaces are rarely used to capacity).
  • Attracting and keeping the employees that drive your business success.
  • Efficient use of technology. Equipping a series of small spaces with unified communications technology leads to better collaboration than experienced in large conference rooms.

Technology for Your Small Collaboration Spaces

This guide includes a look at specific Poly technology solutions and their benefits to your workplace collaboration efforts. You’ll get concise explanations of the benefits and features of:

  • Polycom Studio
  • Polycom + HP SRS Bundle
  • CCX Business Media Phones for Microsoft Teams
  • Polycom Trio

You’ll also learn about the advantages you can gain when integrating Polycom room solutions with Alexa for Business.

If you have any questions about what you’ve read, or you’d like to read more content that will help you make an informed decision about improving your workplace with collaboration and AV solutions, we’re here to help. Visit the  AVI-SPL Resources page for more content (you can narrow your results by focusing on technology type, the content format, and vendor partner). 

You can also connect with AVI-SPL via web form by going to the AVI-SPL contact page. Prefer talking to someone? Reach out to AVI-SPL at 866-708-5034.

Get your copy of “Small Spaces, Big Outcomes: Trade Office Spaces for Engaging Collaboration Environments”  >