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Remote work diary: Video calls
Illustration by Grey Vaisius

3 min read

Remote work diary: Video calls

In this ongoing series, my fellow Jostlers and I are chronicling some of the pitfalls we've run into in this new remote work world, and offering some suggestions to overcome them. In this article we're talking about video calls.

Like a lot of companies around the world right now, Jostle's employees are all working remotely.

The transition has been interesting. In a lot of ways it's been relatively painless. As you may or may not know, our intranet platform makes remote work a heck of a lot easier, and we've been relying on it now more than ever to stay connected. 

But with an entirely remote workforce comes a whole host of new challenges. We've certainly run into a few of them along the way.

We've been doing some thinking as an organization about how to navigate the pitfalls of remote work, and we thought we'd share our findings with you as well.

This article is the first part of Jostle's remote work diary and we're talking about the trials and tribulations of video calls!

Remote work diary, part 1: video calls

If you're like us, you use video calls every day now. No matter if you're having a 1:1 with your manager, a daily check-in with your team, or an informal chat with a coworker, it's probably happening on Zoom, Skype, Google Hangouts, FaceTime, or some other video call application.

(At Jostle we typically use a combination of Jostle Calls, Hangouts, and Zoom depending on what the meeting requires.)

But if you're like us you may have also noticed there are a lot of things that can go wrong. If someone's connection is spotty, or if someone doesn't mute their microphone after they're done talking, it can side-track the conversation and run a formerly productive meeting completely off the rails.

We've noticed that once we hit around 9+ people, video meetings can get a little confusing. People might accidentally talk over one another, or a garbled transmission might require the attendee to repeat themself. Here's a few more we've encountered:

  • “Oops, I was on mute.”
  • “Hello? Hello? Can you hear me?”
  • “I think you cut out there.”
  • “Can we take this offline?”
  • "Can you repeat that?"
  • “Whoever keeps typing, can you please stop? It's very loud.”

On top of this, it can be especially frustrating when people are visibly not paying attention to the call. Maybe they're yelling at their dog, talking to their partner, audibly typing to someone else, distracted, or inadvertently causing a distraction.

My colleague Vince made this video to dramatize exactly how annoying this can be for everyone on the other end of the call.

Video Call Nightmare

 

If your organization is brand new to video calls, you've probably had a few meetings that looked like this, especially in the early days of the remote work world. But don't let the learning curve get you down. If someone is having trouble setting up or joining a video call, help them out.

Another good idea is to publish an internal announcement that outlines best practices and appropriate etiquette for video calls. That way, everyone at your organization is on the same page.

If you're looking for more tips, my colleague Sabrina put together this video to help make your video meetings go smoothly.

Video Call Tips

 

All great points! To summarize and elaborate:

1) If you can, keep your camera turned on. It helps everyone understand that you're about to talk, plus it's nice to see everyone's faces. If you want to ask a question, raise your hand or give some other visual queue and the meeting host can call on you. This seems like you're in school again at first, but it's a great way to avoid talking over someone.

Pro-tip: If you feel weird or uncomfortable raising your hand, most video apps have a "raise hand" feature which signals to everyone that you want to comment or ask a question.

2) If your video call app includes closed captioning, try turning it on. That way, you can see if what you're saying is coming in loud and clear for everyone else. This feature has definitely helped me in a few video presentations.

3) Get in the habit of muting yourself when you're not talking. This is perhaps the most important rule of etiquette for video calls. It keeps your microphone from picking up ambient noise which can interrupt the meeting. Similarly, if someone's not muting their mic, the meeting host can mute them on most apps and spare everyone further interruptions.

Pro-tip: Most laptops include a mute microphone button which makes switching it on and off a lot easier than having to click mute in the video app.

4) Don't feel self-conscious about interrupting or talking over someone. It's practically inevitable in video meetings. Most people will understand that you're not intentionally trying to cut them off.

5) Set up your video call in a quiet place where you have good lighting. If it's the only quiet place in your home, don't hesitate to take your meeting from the closet. (Yes, this has happened a few times at Jostle.)

Conclusion

Well, I hope you found the first edition of our remote work diary useful. We'll be publishing this series every two weeks, so stay tuned for more. In the next installment I'll be covering unwanted interruptions by pets, partners, and of course, children! 

We'd also like to hear from you. What are some of the challenges your organization is facing as it transitions to remote work, and how are you overcoming them? Let's all get a little better at working remotely!

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Corey Moseley

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