Tips for working from home during the Coronavirus crisis
The Coronavirus outbreak has completely turned the world on its head and the severity of the situation is only looking to increase. One of the most drastic developments for the working world is the rise in people having to work from home. This may be new territory for many people and trading in your office for a home set-up can be daunting. The sudden change in routine can also throw many people off, after all we are creatures of habits. We’re here to try and ease employers and employees alike into a world of working from home. You’d imagine we have lots of experience in this arena from our product offering and you’d be correct (shameless boost). So, here are a few tips from us to make sure you’re getting the most out of working from home!
Trust is paramount
One of the biggest concerns employers face when they have a workforce working from home revolves around the question, is anyone working? To think that your employers work hard in the office but as soon as they’re asked to carry out their tasks at home, they turn in to complete slackers is unfair. Trusting your employees is essential and to measure how well they’re working, make sure you are setting out clearly defined and achievable targets.
For employees, make sure you’re doing everything in your power to not go against this trust. Don’t view this time as a holiday, just because you’re at home. You could lay on the sofa all day, laptop on lap, with your PJs on but this doesn’t mean you should. Use the perks of working from home as something to boost your productivity, not slow it down. The luxury of being able to take regular breaks without the fear of being judged should mean that when you are in front of your desk, you’re working at maximum efficiency.
Communication is key
One of the swell things about being in the office, which unfortunately you may not get a lot of at home, is face-to-face interactions. As an employer you’re going to want to let your workforce know that you can be reached. You’ll want to reassure your employees that they aren’t sending emails into the abyss by making sure you respond to all their messages. Make sure you’re scheduling time regularly to check in on how everyone is getting on. Remember working from home comes with many benefits but it can also be lonely, particularly for sustained periods. Use video call tech and show your face. Use these meetings to reassure your staff and keep everyone on track.
For employees this means embracing regular catch ups and voicing any concerns you may have (within reason). Let people know that although the situation might not be ideal, you’re managing it the best you can. Try your utmost to have a sense of humour about the situation, as let’s face it, people with a sense of humour are much easier to speak to. Another bit of advice is not to sit around with the news on in the background all day, this won’t do your productivity any good and will only encourage pessimism. The best thing you can do in this situation is try to remain positive!
Why not switch up your video call by introducing everyone to your adorable pet, let them take over the reigns for a bit. Have your own versions of cribs, offering virtual tours of your house. Point is, the more comedy you can gain from the situation, the saner you’ll remain.
Welcome your new routine
Carrying out your job from your humble abode certainly takes some adjusting to. Try and identify the things you like about working from home and use them to accept your new routine. This could be the fact that you avoid the daily commute, get to spend some extra time in bed, more time with the family, whatever it may be use these as motivators to stay productive. A routine is key to giving us a sense of purpose so try to craft one that you enjoy and will keep you going strong during this period of self-isolation.
Support one another
We hope these tips make working from home for a prolonged period more bearable. It’s a trying time for us all but try and remain positive and constantly communicate with one another. Supporting each other and showing empathy to one another is more important than ever!
For more advice please visit: https://www.acas.org.uk/coronavirus.
Conference call tech has been around for a while now, 1956 to be precise. It has become the go to platform when you want to gather several people in separate locations. Just like any piece of tech there are certain things you can do to get the most from it. We’ve written about conference call etiquette and making sure you’re prepared is a key part of this. So how exactly do you prepare for a conference call? Let us answer that for you.
Whatever platform you choose, become pals with it. This means understanding how to schedule and join a call. Scheduling a call is a piece of cake, all you need to do is share you details with the people you want to attend your call. To join, most platforms will require you to enter a PIN (not your credit card one, don’t worry) to get on the call. This will be a four-digit number that adds a layer of security.
You’ll also want to understand in-conference controls. You’ll realise that there will be points in the meeting where you or others will need to mute themselves. Background noise is a real concentration killer. There’s nothing to fear though, the controls aren’t rocket science and will usually require you to input a simple command. They’re also useful if you want to find out who’s on the call with you, want to record your meeting or just want to lock it so no pesky latecomers can join. If you must, join the call a few minutes before everyone else just so you’re comfortable with how everything works.
Just as you would for a face-to-face meeting, you want to schedule a conference call with clear goals on what you’d like to achieve. Come up with a solid agenda that covers everything you want to discuss on your call. The best place for you to outline this is in the meeting invitation. This gives everyone a chance to have a read over before the meeting and reduces the possibility of everyone hoping on the call asking, ‘so what’s the purpose of this call?’. An agenda also gives you something to refer to during the call and keep the meeting on track. A call that lacks focus will most probably be a waste of time, act before hand to avoid this!
This refers to the people you invite to your call. The more people involved, the more potential that your call will be a frenzy where everyone is fighting to get their point across. Ever had a few hundred people on one call? It’s not pretty. It’s common sense but only invite people who will be able to provide valuable input. The conference call will be much more manageable and much more productive.
Not a very long list but that’s all you need to do to prepare for a conference call. Understand the tech, set out clear objectives and invite the right people.
Here at PowWowNow we understand the importance of support and flexibility in the workplace. This Mother’s Day, we’re honouring everyone who supports you on your manic days, makes you the best cuppa in the office and champions you when you need it the most.
As such, for Mother’s Day, we are launching a competition in celebration of all the amazing things that work mums, working mums, mentors and parental figures do, not just on this day but each and every day. Give them the credit they deserve by showing them that you appreciate everything they do for you.
To nominate your #WorkMumHero, head over to our Twitter and Instagram pages, reply by tagging your nomination and include the #WorkMumHero. They could be in with a chance of winning an amazing annual subscription to Bloom & Wild, and you could receive a beautiful bouquet of flowers.
“Your work family is an integral part of your working life and wellbeing, and we can often take for granted the positive impact they have on our office experiences. So, we wanted to use this Mother’s Day as an opportunity to support those mother figures in your team and let them know that their hard work doesn’t go unnoticed.” MD at PowWowNow, Andrew Johnson
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You know what they say, there’s a time and a place for everything including when to use video calls. We’ve always stood by the notion that face-to-face is the best option but when that’s not viable, adding video to your meeting is the closest you’ll get. A 2019 survey found that a massive 96% of respondents agreed that video conferencing software is effective for improving connectivity between remote team members. So, here are some scenarios that are ripe for video.
If you work with long distance clients, then a face-to-face meeting is often reserved for those special occasions. A round journey of four hours for a twenty-minute update is pointless. Nevertheless, you want to be able to maintain a good relationship with clients, one that can be hindered by over reliance on email and phone calls. We’re not saying have a video call to discuss every tiny detail but when you want to make a meeting more personable and friendly, then adding video is a great way to achieve this.
More tips on managing long-distance client relationships with video are waiting for you (oh-don’t mention it).
Whilst telephone interviews are great for getting an initial feel for a potential candidate, a video interview is fantastic for developing a better picture of how someone communicates by looking at body language and mannerisms. Someone could come across extremely professional on the phone and then rock a dressing gown in their video interview (absurd example, but you get the point). You can also cast your net much further by using video calls for interviews. You don’t have to rely on candidates who can easily commute to the office but rather look at remote workers. Using a video interview is the perfect way to assess how well they’d be able to communicate when working remotely. Today employing someone less suitable for the role for the convenience of location isn’t necessary.
Want some tips for conducting interviews with video? Again, we’ve got you covered.
A downside to remote working is that communication can be difficult. Being in the office means it’s a lot easier to have a quick catch up over a coffee or even spin round on your desk chair for an update. Face-to-face communication is vital for productivity. Use video to keep remote workers in the loop and prevent any feelings of isolation they may feel working away from a social environment, such as the office. After all we are social beings.
So, there you have it, three (the magic number) ideal scenarios for when to use video calls. Remote and flexible working is something we are seeing more and more companies coming under pressure to adopt and this tech can make that step a little easier. As this tech continues to evolve and improve, we will see it becoming a crucial communication tool across the board and the distinction between a face-to-face meeting and a virtual one will only become less obvious.
The flexibility of conference calling means that interviews over the phone have became increasingly popular over the years. They get rid of the need to travel absurd distances and encourage recruiters to widen the net in search of talent. Just like a face-to-face interview they can induce a bout of dry mouth alongside the occasional tumble over words. To keep any nerves at bay and make sure you come across as your most fabulous self, we’ve got some tips on how to use the tech and master conference call interviews.
This one is as basic as it gets but doesn’t make it any less important. If you find out that you’re going to be hopping on a conference call, then make sure you are familiar with how they work. Most are straightforward, so this tip is no biggie. You will most likely get an invite from whoever your interview is with, this invite will include a dial-in number and a PIN you will need to enter when prompted.
That’s all there is to it (told you), you just need to be aware of this, so that you’re not frantically panicking wondering what on earth a PIN is, or what number to dial. Arriving ten minutes late to the interview because you don’t know how the tech works isn’t the best first impression.
If you’re feeling particularly tense leading up to the interview, then call someone close to you and riff off them. You’d be surprised how just having a casual conversation before your interview can loosen you up. It will also hopefully take your mind off things for a bit and depending on your friend they can act as a calming influence. Try to pick a friend who has experience with telephone interviews. They might be able to give you some useful pointers.
I’m sure you’ve heard loads about the dreaded handshake and the so-called perfect handshake. Did I apply too much pressure? Am I meant to have a bit of sweat or be bone dry? Did my handshake personally insult that person’s family? The list goes on. As outdated the idea of the perfect handshake might be you still want to introduce yourself with confidence. On a telephone interview this means answering the call fully prepared. State your full name with a ‘hello’ and wait for your interviewer to respond. Also don’t overthink it, like you might a handshake.
An advantage of a conference call interview over a face-to-face is that you get to carry out the interview where you feel most comfortable. However, you still want to choose a location that inspires professionalism. What we’re getting at is don’t have an interview on a rollercoaster or with your favourite music blaring at a million decibels in the background. Choose a location where you feel calm and comfortable, but most importantly one that’s quiet. This will ensure you’re not causing any distractions for yourself or the people interviewing you.
With an interview over the phone, you want to try and replicate the situation of a face-to-face interview where you can. As tempting as it is to sit there in your PJs, or do a half shirt, half pants combo getting dressed is essential to keeping a professional mindset during the interview. Sure, no one on the other end of the line will be able to see that you’re covered in toast crumbs, this still doesn’t make it a good look. Dressing for your interview as you would for the job will help you envision working at the company. The power of visualisation and all that.
The fact that your interviews can’t see you can also be spun into a positive. If you turn up to a face-to-face interview and are consistently referring to your notes, you most likely won’t get the job. Make the most of your notes when on a conference call interview. Be aware though, it’s a fine balancing act. If you rely too heavily on your notes this will be apparent to your interviewers. It will come across as rehearsed and unnatural.
Use your notes as handy prompts, that will trigger you to think and talk about the wider point. If anything, having your notes in front of you will help calm your nerves. They’ll offer reassurance that if you really do lose your way your notes are there to guide you back.
The reliability and ease of use that comes with this tech means they’re a great tool for interviews. You no longer need to travel however many miles, with no guarantee of success. There’s zilch wrong with feeling nervous before an interview, it’s a good thing as it shows you care. Just try to put these tips to use so that you can use your nerves to your advantage, rather than letting them overwhelm you and master conference call interviews.
We all love a face-to-face meeting (if it’s worthwhile) but unfortunately the reality is they’re not always possible. The surge in demand for flexible working means that face-to-face meetings will become more of a rarity. Recent research found that in the UK, 92% of Millennials identify flexibility as a top priority when job hunting and most over-50s want to ease slowly into retirement through reducing hours and working flexibly. So, if the demand for flexibility is rising, there needs to be tools that accommodate this rise. Well, what do you know! That’s where video enters the mix. One of the many benefits is that video meetings enable flexibility.
Let’s face it, commutes can be a bit of a Debbie downer. A survey of 2,000 UK workers found that over two in five (43 per cent) think their commutes negatively impact their stress levels. A great benefit of working flexibly is getting a break from the hustle-and-bustle associated with commuting. Video calls negate the need to commute to the office in order to attend face-to-face meetings. Not commuting to meetings that could have been carried out just as easily using video means you’re also doing the environment a favour (win, win).
If you’re companies workforce is made up of dispersed teams then you’re aware that productive communication can be difficult at times. Video calls provide remote workers with efficient communication methods. You’re not tied down by location, if you have an internet connection you can attend the meeting. You can work wherever you feel most comfortable and productive, whether this be your favourite coffee shop or a snazzy home office set-up.
Video also means higher engagement rates. Instant messaging apps and phone calls are great for those quick back and fourths but when you need to discuss something more complex then video is a blessing. With a phone call, it’s easy to multitask behind the scenes as you can’t see what people are up to. Video demands your full attention as you can see other people, so it’s apparent when you’re not fully engaged.
With a rise in demand for remote working and research showing that working outside the office can make you more productive, the tech available needs to compliment this shift. Video calls are a comforting companion for remote workers. If you work in a job where a lot of time is spent outside the office, then you can start to feel slightly out of the loop. Use this tech to your full advantage by scheduling regular catch ups and updates. This will help you make the most of working flexibly, without any feelings of isolation creeping in.
There are many advantages, one of them being video meetings enable flexibility. Creating a healthy work/life balance is essential to one’s happiness and we’re happy there are tools out there that ensure this doesn’t have to mean sacrificing productivity.
Where are we going with this one? Surely, we wouldn’t put down webinars, it’s one of the products we offer. That’s right we wouldn’t. Instead we’re going to be a beaming advocate for the product and use this as an opportunity to counter some of the articles we’ve been seeing online with titles such as ‘Do webinars still work?’. The answer is yes, they do. Here’s why.
An argument without evidence isn’t a very good one, so feast your eyes on some stats, demonstrating just how effective online events can be:
We could offer even more stats, but we don’t want you getting too excited. If the platform is still regarded highly by marketing experts, then why is the platforms effectiveness being called into question? The answer could lie in failing to leverage online events properly, either through dull content or using the platform for the wrong reasons.
It’s not webinars that are outdated, it’s the content we associate with them. The issue is the middle-of-the-road online event often consists of unnecessarily lengthy slide decks that don’t exactly excite viewers. The platform encourages using a variety of content. You can upload slides, present curated videos, add polls, surveys and Q&As. If used properly webinars can be a fantastic tool for interacting and gaining valuable insights from your audience.
Our attention spans are decreasing, so the pressure to create stimulating content is increasing. The question is, what content works best? According to a recent report it’s content that features a compelling narrative combined with stimulating visuals and dialogue. An online event is a great opportunity to showcase this form of content. Rather than viewing webinars as outdated, consider how you can evolve your content so that is resonates most with modern audiences.
Online events provide a cost-effective solution to reach widespread audiences and gain valuable insights into what they want to hear from you as a company. A common mistake made on the platform is to hold events that come across as overtly promotional (hey look at this wicked new product we want you to buy). Save this sort of promotion for your advertising and use online events as a channel to educate your audience, showing them insights exclusive to your company as experts in your field. You’re much more likely to convert leads if you provide your customers with value beyond the products you offer. Using the platform to simply promote is an easy way to deter potential customers.
Again, ensure you make the most of the features and interact with your audience, an involved audience is an engaged audience. If you show your customers that you’re genuinely interested in what they have to say then hey ho, they’re much more likely to build a connection with your brand! Using the platform to keep your audience fresh and up to date with your company is a brilliant way to keep the platform relevant.
One of the main concerns surrounding online events is what if we create all this fabulous content and no one shows up? A way to make sure that you get people tuning in to your event is to go big when promoting it beforehand. If you start promoting your event a couple of days before then you’re simply not giving enough notice. You need to plan your strategy weeks in advance and use all your channels as a way of highlighting the importance of your event. Whatever approach you decide to take make sure you lead with the benefits that your audience will receive by attending!
So, hopefully this helps answer the question, are webinars still relevant? Like all tech platforms it’s how you utilise that platform that determines whether you’re successful or not. As a finishing touch here are just some examples of relevant online events.
By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail (what a classic). It’s true though, preparation and productivity go hand in hand, after all they do both begin with the letter p. The average employee wastes nearly 13 working days a year in ‘unproductive’ meetings. This seems a teeny bit excessive and fundamentally avoidable. Video calls are a brilliant piece of tech when you find yourself away from the office but still need to hold productive meetings. There’s a knack to preparing for a video call, so here’s our top tips!
A lot of unproductive meetings are a result of poor prep, they lack a purpose, so everyone uses it as an opportunity to vent and riff on various unrelated topics with an hour (more or less) of valuable time going down the drain. By setting clear objectives for yourself beforehand you are setting a promising precedent. Note to yourself what exactly you want to achieve with this meeting. Even if it does go a bit off course, you can use your objectives to steer it back (winning).
Some of us are still wary when it comes to including video in our meetings. Showing your face on webcam feels very different to showing your face in real life, a potential reason for this is simply unfamiliarity. The more familiar you become with something the less you fear it. That’s why we’d recommend practising with the tech before your meeting. This will not only bolster your confidence around using the product but also make you more comfortable with your digital self. If you’re working from outside the office, make sure you choose a location with good lighting and void of any distractions. Lastly, using the product will give you some useful foresight and help you identify and resolve any tech issues that might happen.
Setting clear objectives is crucial but a bit useless if its only you who knows what they are. Let attendees know what you hope to achieve with the meeting. This will encourage everyone to bring their A game, as they know exactly how they can contribute. This point isn’t specific to meetings with video but still applies. Approach it just like you would a face-to-face meeting, they can be just as beneficial.
Video call products help with scheduling a meeting by making it easy to send out calendar invitations with all the meeting details and what you need to do to join. Use this invite as an opportunity to outline an agenda. Be sure not to overwhelm fellow attendees with too much information. Make your agenda as succinct and clear as you can, no one wants to read a mini epic before attending a meeting. An agenda that promises too much is a reliable indicator of unrealistic expectations.
Part of preparing for a video call is acknowledging the limitations. Features such as screen share and present document make it easy to share content but the content you share on a screen may not be as engaging as it would be presenting face-to-face. Therefore, you need to ensure that the content you present is digitally engaging and easily digestible. People will have a shorter attention span in an online meeting, so your content should cater to this.
If you’re working outside the office, or inside the office and need to communicate with peeps outside the office (bear with us) then a conference call is a simple and reliable way to do so. The flexibility that they offer is brilliant, however there are certain locations that conference call etiquette demands you avoid. Anywhere full of distractions and noise is not only going to annoy your fellow callers, but it’s also going to prevent you from being your most productive. Here’s our list of the best locations for a call.
The most conventional option on the list, that’s right, who would have thought it? The office, more specifically a meeting room. If the name meeting room wasn’t a dead giveaway, it’s an ideal location for a conference call because it’s often a focussed environment with minimal distractions and background noise. Everyone knows why you’re in the meeting room and everyone knows it would be rude to disturb you, unless it’s an absolute emergency. Depending on the office, you might even have a spider phone (lucky you), meaning call quality will be excellent.
Or not so humble, depending on your modesty levels. Your home is most likely a place you feel comfortable and secure. A comfortable and secure environment is a great location for a conference call. If you’re nice and relaxed this will hopefully transfer to how you behave on the call. Obviously, you don’t want to be uber relaxed, to the point where you’re falling asleep. We’d recommend avoiding your sofa or bed. Try to plot up at a desk (some form of table), or any place you associate with productivity, so that you can come across as professional and engaged on your call.
“According to the Journal of Environmental Psychology, just twenty minutes a day outside is all you need to allow your brain to refresh, restore and start functioning again”, that’s right, science says the outdoors is good for brain function. If you’re working outside the office why not hop on a call outside? We understand that this is heavily reliant on phone signal, trying to take a call on the peak of a mountain might be slightly counterproductive. Although, if you find yourself outside and have got strong signal, then immerse yourself in nature whilst discussing performance KPIs. Just make sure you have something to take notes with, otherwise it’s probably just a waste of time.
For all those coffee connoisseurs out there. If you fancy getting out of the house and visiting your favourite café then go for it. If it’s not super busy, to the point where you can’t hear yourself think, then a café can be a great location for a conference call. Again, being in a comfortable and familiar environment can help increase your productivity and ensure your engaged on the call.
You ever been to a pub in the daytime on a weekday? Completely different environment, some would say surreal. Many pubs are lovely places to be, with grand furnishing, lots of space and typically have an abundance of choice when it comes to beverages. We wouldn’t suggest always going to the pub for a call, but once in a blue moon it can act as a nice treat. Maybe save this option for those late afternoon Friday calls.
So, there you go, our suggestions for the best conference call locations. Let us know in the comments your top call locations.
We’ve talked about conference call etiquette an introductions play an important part. Getting the most out of your conference call is a learned skill – But one of the most important things to get right straight off is the way you say hello. Without the visual and physical cues like smiling, shaking hands or eye contact to fall back on, you’ll have to rethink the way in which you come across when introducing yourself. Follow our list of must-do’s and you won’t go wrong.
‘Hi, I’m Jane!’ might work when you’re greeting people face-to-face, but on a conference call, it doesn’t quite work the same. It may feel awkward, but you should always fill in a few of the gaps if you’re talking to people outside your company. You should introduce yourself and your job role or relation to the topic of the call. For example, ‘Hi, I’m Jane Smith, Marketing Director at Fictional Company,’ or ‘Hi, I’m John and I’ll be leading this project.’ This way, people can put you in context of why you’re on the call.
On the flipside, it’s just as easy to suddenly develop verbal diarrhea when introducing yourself, along the lines of, ‘Hi, it’s Jane Smith here, Marketing Director since 2013, working across the Example and Standard accounts. I’ve helped amplify our brand strategy across the print sphere and am really looking forward to moving across into digital as we begin cultivating our new online clients into Q3…’ Droning on during your intro is a sure-fire way to give the wrong impression.
If you’re the most senior person from your company on the call – or hosting the call – then it’s good manners to introduce those you’ve brought along. Again, follow the format above in introducing your colleagues briefly and simply and most importantly, give them a chance to say hello, too. Voice recognition is hard enough on a conference call – even more so if the person speaking hasn’t had a chance to identify themselves.
If the call’s been scheduled to get a particular task done, you should incorporate this into your intro to ensure things progress as you need them to. “The other people on the call should know what you want from them right away,” says The Muse. For example, ‘Hi, this is Jane Smith, Marketing Director at Fictional Company. I’m here with Marketing Assistant John Jones, and we’re looking forward to locking down the new brand strapline this morning. John, would you like to introduce yourself?”
And you’re off! So now you know how to make the best start possible to a call, see which package is right for you.