Working with a pandemic: video based communication in the brave new world of work

Posted 17th Jul 2020

The coronavirus/Covid-19 has shook an unprepared world so thoroughly there is hardly a person on the planet who has not had to adapt their behavior as a result of the virus. Some countries have been able to take control of the issue and others are still struggling. Until there is a viable vaccine, or a combined international master plan in lieu of a vaccine, working from home has become and is going to be the new normal for a great number of people who, until a few months ago, had never considered being home-based for work.

The biggest surprise has been how well the general population have adapted to working from home. Zoom, for example, describe their mission to “make video communications frictionless” and since February, the app, and other similar ones, have been bringing the workers of the world together online. These online, virtual communication tools have been one of the biggest beneficiaries of the stay-at-home boom with their respective share prices, in some cases, skyrocketing.

Unfortunately the pandemic has become too politicised to discuss the nuance of the reasons why some countries are doing better than others and why some countries are still struggling to formulate a coherent plan, months after the first case were reported and casualties continue to rise. As a result there is going to be continued confusion about what you should do, what you will do, and what others will do. The best thing to do: the best for yourself and everyone you interact with.

Confusion will rise as businesses are forced to open despite the coronavirus continuing to rage. Some will allow employees to work from home, others will cut their workforce significantly and let’s not forget that many experts predict further and repeated, if only localised, lockdowns in the near future, leading some businesses to close again and then re-open again and so on. Flexibility and rapid adaptability will be key for many from here on. We are entering a brave new world and the best thing you can do is arm yourself with the skills the future workforce will need, when it’s needed. Pay attention to the detail, your work life and personal life are inevitably going to intertwine more than they have previously.

The good news is preparing the first steps for the future of recruiting, job hunting and indeed working couldn’t be easier and you’re probably already half way there. There will be times when you see other humans face-to-face, but it is expected that you will be spending the majority of your working day at home. To that end, here’s our essential guide to video based communication for those often very important interviews, meetings and key collaborations.

• At the risk of advising the obvious, get the best broadband you can afford - bandwidth is the one thing you don’t want to have to worry about but it could also cause you the most problems if you don’t have a solid Wi-Fi connection or a fast, reliable fibre-optic internet connection

• Invest in a decent microphone and set of speakers and/or headphones - problems with video and sound quality can easily hamper or even ruin your chances in a video interview or meeting with a potential employee or employer. Invest if you can in a microphone that gives you a crisp, sharp voice and good quality speakers, headphones, earphones or earbuds that allow you to hear every word of every conversation you take part in. It can be all too easy to misunderstand someone when you communicate via video conference using inferior technology

• Choose your location wisely - the new favourite background for Zoom and other video based calls seems to be the library or bookshelf; sometimes stocked carefully to portray a desired level of intellect (or in  my case right now, many of my 10 year old daughter’s books, hmm…). Others opt for a blank wall or, if available, their company logo and strap line. If your desired physical background is not readily available there are, apparently, loads of options on Amazon for virtual library backgrounds, and a thousand others besides, though probably best to avoid using palm trees and beaches for business based meetings. A private space, without the risk of your audience also having the pleasure of inadvertently watching your partner hang out the washing or wander around in the background half dressed, is also highly advisable

• Learn to look at the camera - if your camera and screen aren’t aligned, it’s easy to stare at the screen and miss the camera completely. Not only does this look amateurish (and no one what’s to look amateurish) but it could, albeit falsely, imply you’re distracted or even engaged in another activity simultaneously, which could certainly count against you in an interview or other important video interaction

• …and hey, make sure you look presentable, it still matters! You may be comfortable sitting at home in your favourite ten year-old t-shirt (and we’ve heard numerous examples of far worse attire offences), but colleagues, clients, interviewers and interviewees won’t be.

When you’re not in the same room as the person(s) you’re having a meeting with, it is easy to miss the nuance of human interaction, which makes it doubly important that you get it right when you take part in video calls. The future of work may be a little uncertain right now but paying attention to the little things will make a huge difference.

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