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Business Trends

9 Virtual Meeting Etiquette Tips Everyone Should Know

Surely, we are all still getting used to virtual work interactions. That said, be prepared for your next virtual meeting by following the virtual meeting etiquette tips below.

 

Virtual meetings can be productive, time-efficient, and fun. Or they can be a source of endless frustration and watercooler memes. If you’re in charge of your monthly or weekly virtual meetings, knowing the difference between good and bad meetings is critical. A big part of that difference is simple etiquette.

Be sure to follow these virtual meeting etiquette tips to avoid unnecessary time loss and turn the bane of everyone’s day into an important and effective cornerstone of your remote operation.

 

1. Dress Right from Top to Bottom

 

It’s very tempting to ignore basic dress rules and focus on what’s visible most of the time. But even a fraction of a second spent looking at a coworker’s PJs or underwear is a fraction of a second too long.

 

You don’t have to “show up to work” in your home office dressed in a full suit and tie, but keep things at least business casual, from the toes to the hairline.

 

2. Keep the Background Simple and Professional

 

A chaotic or unseemly background can be massively distracting, whether real or virtual. You might feel tempted to start playing around with (or without) green screens and meeting backdrops for a little bit of tongue-in-cheek humor. While it’s certainly an effective icebreaker, there’s a time and place for it.

 

Be sure to have a clean and professional background ready when it’s time to drop the green screen or joke background. Avoid clutter, eye-catching artwork, or too many personal items – such as family pictures, children’s toys, collectibles, and figurines. A bookshelf, a plant, a simple picture or drawing, or even a blank wall will do.

 

The same goes for noise. We’re all limited by what we have available, and there will always have to be a little leeway but avoid holding a meeting in the basement even if it’s where you have the best connectivity. Consider purchasing a long ethernet cable, powerline adapter, or WiFi extender to retain quality connectivity in a separate room.

 

If you have no way of hosting or joining a meeting at home and can’t reasonably get to the office (due to distance or social distancing measures), consider a nearby coworking space instead. Coworking spaces make for excellent satellite offices and can serve as an ideal in-between for those unable to return to the office, yet unable to concentrate or work efficiently from home.

 

3. Beware of Your Lighting and Eye Level

 

You don’t want too many shadows on your face, or to have the camera facing directly at a source of light (especially when that light is behind you). Make the most of your natural light by facing a window during your call or utilize a lamp to illuminate yourself and your surroundings properly.

 

Furthermore, consider the angle of your face to the camera, and adjust it to be around or at about eye level. Too far above or below can make things particularly awkward, affecting how you and your communication are received, especially when interacting with clients.

 

4. Run a Pre-call Tech Test

 

The last thing you should do is wait until the very last second to run a test call. You don’t want to have to spend the first ten minutes of a meeting fiddling with your setup, troubleshooting your mic, or trying to reinstall the right drivers for your camera.

 

Be sure to run a quick test of your mic, headphones, camera, and connectivity, to make sure everything is working properly, and to save yourself the trouble.

 

5. Consider Push-To-Talk or Keep the Mute Button Handy

 

Knowing where the mute button is isn’t just handy for when you’ve got to sneeze or talk to someone outside of the call but can also help you greatly reduce background noise and buzz. While we’ve come a long way with microphone technology, it’s still extremely difficult to filter out simple background noises (including interference, air conditioning units, or fans) during a live call.

 

Simply hitting the mute button when you aren’t talking can make it much easier for everyone else to hear each other, especially when you have half a dozen people or more on the call.

 

6. Don’t Split Your Attention

 

It’s not only rude to check your email or start messaging someone else in the middle of a virtual meeting – it’s also a sign that you’re likely not being efficient with your time. Meetings should be goal-oriented and quick, and not a time or place for multitasking.

 

7. Please Don’t Snack

 

This should go without saying, but it’s still a rule that is sometimes ignored or not considered: stop eating during a meeting. Even if you mute your mic, the sight of someone eating during an important call can be distracting or unprofessional, especially when it isn’t a lunch meeting or explicitly some form of culinary get-together. This rule is obviously flexible when the meeting is designed to take place during lunch or act as a sort of company meal.

 

8. Keep a Consistent and Clear Audio Level

 

No one likes a mumbler, and no one likes a screamer. Most video conferencing tools and VOIP software give you basic audio levels for your microphone, so you know at what volume you begin peaking. Run a test call with a friend to figure out how loud you should be speaking and project your voice consistently.

 

Consider speaking slowly as well and be prepared to repeat yourself. Virtual meetings will be hindered by whoever has the weakest connection, and chances are that you may be asked to repeat yourself more than once if at least one of the people in the call is struggling with connectivity issues. Don’t get louder or become annoyed – just repeat what you said calmly, and slowly. Sometimes it is what it is.

 

9. Be Patient

 

There will be issues, grievances, and problems. Be prepared to deal with them calmly. A lot of the problems and hang-ups with virtual meetings can be solved via proper etiquette and preparation, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be perfect. You will have to prepare yourself for some frustrating moments.

 

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Work Environment

5 Ways Networking Opportunities Improve With Coworking

Networking is an essential part of building a business, whether as a company or as an individual, and creating networking opportunities can be difficult. Yet, it’s made easier through coworking.

 

While fortune smiles on many a leader and entrepreneur, most opportunities have to be made, forged through incessant communication and a thick hide against potential rejection.

 

But aside from the shrewd nature of networking for survival, it’s important to create networking opportunities for success. The top dogs only stay on the top so long as they strive to update and innovate, and that’s only possible by talking to (and working with) all sorts of professionals.

 

One cannot deny the importance of networking, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s not exactly a free or always profitable action – it takes time, money, and even more time, and it’s especially hard for freelancers and lone workers.

 

Coworking provides an opportunity to do more than be trendy – it improves a business’ abilities to cooperate and network with other professionals, fosters a more positive work environment, and takes advantage of one of the most powerful human social mechanisms: the power of community.

 

Does Coworking Promote Networking Opportunites?

 

Whereas networking is the process of meticulously gathering contacts and establishing bridges, coworking is the process of working between, on, and around these bridges.

 

If traditional offices are individual towns, coworking tries to bring villages together into urban sprawls, fostering both a sense of togetherness and the potential for new growth and innovation.

 

At first, it might sound like coworking spaces are ill-equipped to deal with businesses and individuals working together – a certain perceived lack of privacy and the distracting elements of working in an open space sound antithetical to productivity and competition.

 

But time and time again, the popularity, effectiveness, and growth of the shared workspace all around the world has proven that it not only increases productivity, but helps businesses thrive despite working in such close quarters.

 

From massive corporations like Google to small businesses looking for a cost-effective alternative to leasing office space, coworking has helped countless companies of all sizes establish that a cooperative atmosphere that fosters networking opportunities and communication leads to better results.

 

1. Open Spaces Create an Open Atmosphere

 

The success of the coworking space cannot be overstated. Among top offices in the US, growth surpassed 60 percent in 2017 to 2018.

 

In part, this is due to the nature of the coworking space as an open office. Businesses and freelancers alike are free to rent their respective spaces and take advantage of a myriad of different amenities.

 

2. A Casual Work Experience Fosters Cooperation

 

One of the main changes in a coworking space is the removal of strict and stifling hierarchies. While the manager is the manager, and the boss is the boss, there’s much greater accessibility between members and an increased level of communication.

 

It becomes easier to ask questions, collaborate, and organize projects. Separate teams come together much more smoothly, and a malleable workspace makes for a much less rigid definition of ownership. Instead of owning a single space, there is an emphasis on sharing all spaces.

 

While this might not seem conducive to business, the reality is quite the opposite. This approach to working has led to greater levels of productivity in many cases, and it is one of the reasons why coworking continues to grow and flourish as it does.

 

3. Coworking Space Generates a Sense of Community

 

If nothing else, a coworking space always evolves to become something greater than simply the sum of its parts. When professionals converge and find ways to cooperate on projects they enjoy working on, in an environment that doesn’t attempt to stifle them, true magic can happen.

 

It doesn’t always happen, of course. Partnerships can break, ideas come and go, dates may be set but not always followed up on. But despite how ephemeral these bridges might seem, it remains an ideal place to come across the right professionals at the right time, or get the right idea with the right person.

 

Shared office spaces do this, all while maintaining that while we may work on different projects, there’s a sense of community in a coworking space that isn’t found in a traditional office, much less in working from home. Coworking quashes loneliness, creates networking opportunities, and helps workers feel like they’re part of something greater. That feeling of community is an essential human need.

 

 

4. Networking Opportunities Keep the Office Sociable

 

Communicating is key to coworking culture. But it isn’t always easy to communicate between coworkers, let alone between businesses.

 

There is a lot of complexity to proper communication at a coworking space because you have to remember that the people working together there are:

 

    1. Usually working on very separate projects
    2. Working with very different specializations
    3. Utilizing varying levels of experience and competence

 

This makes the most of the oft-eclectic members of a coworking space means knowing what to do and what not to do.

 

For one, the most important thing is to focus on your work. One of the few challenges coworking spaces pose is a certain lack of routine. It’s not entirely your space, and there’s bound to be something different going on each day.

 

You share the space with many other people and must deal with potential opportunities to network with other professionals, potential distractions or interruptions, and other unplanned changes.

 

Coworking spaces often feature weekly or monthly events, which may or may not interest you. Finding the time to crystalize all you’ve learned and harvest the progress you’ve made communicating with others by turning it into tangible progress on any given project is important. It is, after all, still an office. 

 

5. More Time Spent Around Other Skillsets

 

Understanding how someone does their job in an entirely different department will not only give you a greater understanding of what they’re doing, but it can help you get a better insight on your own responsibilities.

 

Maintain a sociable attitude. Prioritize your work when you need to and give yourself time each day to truly be undisturbed and concentrate entirely on the tasks at hand but take your time to catch up with your coworkers, with freelancers, and with professionals in entirely different fields.

 

Conclusion

 

The networking opportunities coworking spaces present also help workers further broaden their horizons and potentially discover new facets to the industry they’re working in, maybe giving them the incentive to pick up a new skill or diversify elsewhere.

 

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Business Trends

How to Onboard New Hires in a Pandemic World

Onboarding new hires look a little different now as we work in a more virtual setting. So what’s the best way to welcome them to the company? Read below for details.

 

The onboarding process is very important for establishing a positive bond between a new employee and their employer. In addition, helping new hires learn everything they need to know about a company’s culture, day-to-day structure, and organization.

 

Successful onboarding can help new hires feel at home and massively boost their productivity in both the short-term and long-term, by ensuring that they become a part of the company from day one.

 

A poor onboarding process – or having none at all – can be a surefire path towards high employee turnover and low worker engagement. Companies that fail to connect with their employees are wasting talent and potential. Moreover, sinking substantial resources into a working relationship that is ultimately subpar.

 

The recent COVID pandemic has thrown a wrench into onboarding processes everywhere. Its has left companies at a loss for how to effectively help new hires feel like they are truly part of a greater family of talented individuals and passionate workers. It’s hard to get a sense of how a company works or what kind of culture it propagates when working purely virtually.

 

However, that doesn’t mean onboarding is impossible in the peri-pandemic world. With adjustments to account for each crucial element of the process, companies can continue to build strong and qualitative relationships with new and existing hires and make the most of the talent they bring on board.

 

The Elements of the Onboarding Process

 

In order to make the most of the situation, it’s important to dissect the onboarding process. In doing so, figure out how to adapt each element into a remote concept that is safe, effective, and scalable during the ongoing pandemic.

 

Onboarding consists of incorporating a new hire into the following:

 

1. Culture and Social Elements

 

A company’s culture is entirely dependent on the people in it, and the way they engage with one another socially. This can make conveying company culture remotely very difficult. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.

 

New hires could be introduced to a company’s culture through a welcoming gift, such a collection of notes from each existing employee. Safely bringing new hires to a satellite coworking office to interact with staff and get a sense of what people are like at their new workplace can also help new employees feel less distant to the company they’ve started working for.

 

Consider an early adjustment period wherein new hires are brought to a physical coworking space to work and train with mentoring employees before continuing remotely, or through other coworking locations.

 

2. Communication and Day-to-Day Workflow

 

While helping employees fit in and better understand who they’re working with, helping them work efficiently and incorporate their talents effectively is still the top priority of the onboarding process.

 

New hires might feel tremendously left out and confused as to how to best leverage their abilities when given as few details as possible or onboarded purely remotely.

 

A short face-to-face onboarding process facilitated through a safe coworking environment can help bring new hires up to speed. This allows them to begin quickly and adapt to the needs and requirements of their new position.

 

Aside from introducing new hires to their workflow, setting expectations for how tasks and projects are managed and completed, troubleshooting the basics, and providing detailed on-location mentoring through a safe facilitating office location like a coworking space, companies should continue to help these employees adjust to their role in the company remotely.

 

Examples for doing this include daily virtual mentoring sessions, and an individualized testing process to ensure that new hires have fully acclimated to their respective duties and responsibilities.

 

Part of enabling this involves helping new hires with acquiring and setting up all the appropriate hardware and software, walking them through the use of company communications and collaboration tools, helping them understand and properly navigate company security, and learning the basics of how to interact with company tools and information, and who to ask for more specific instructions.

 

 

3. Organization and Company Structure

 

While not as urgent as helping a new hire feel comfortable with their co-workers or become aware of their responsibilities and expectations, understanding how a company is structured is still part of the onboarding process. This helps new hires understand who to come to for work and department-related questions and considerations, and who to speak to when confronted with very specific issues and problems.

 

Once a new hire is familiar with each of these three critical elements, they have been successfully welcomed into their new work family. Ensuring the line of communication remains open at all times is very important. The onboarding process doesn’t just stop after initial orientation is done.

 

New hires will certainly come up with questions they might not have had initially or run into unexpected roadblocks in their first few weeks at a new position. Ensuring that the door is always open for them and their questions can help them feel welcomed and cared for, and can help speed up their integration, further improving productivity.

 

Addressing the Primary Challenge

 

Ultimately, the greatest challenge when onboarding new hires during the pandemic is distance. Virtual communication tools such as screensharing and instant messaging allows for near-seamless interaction and collaboration and can help facilitate a virtual mentoring program. But it is still no substitute for a face-to-face onboarding process.

 

Safe working environments outside of the main headquarters, such as a satellite office utilizing a coworking space, can help facilitate face-to-face onboarding. New hires would be provided with their own sanitized workstation and can maintain a safe distance from their co-worker(s) while still being introduced to some of the people they will primarily be working with, especially in the area.

 

Benefits of Coworking During the Onboarding Process

 

Coworking spaces have emerged as a unique solution for companies looking for safe spaces to enable remote employees to collaborate physically without violating social distancing, eliminating or mitigating many of the issues surrounding prolonged remote work. This includes the feeling of being isolated from others, and remote work-related burnout and stress.

 

Coworking spaces can act as satellite offices for companies who have reopened their main offices, but are only allowing a skeleton crew in their headquarters to ensure every employee maintains a safe distance and doesn’t need to share any of their physical equipment.

 

Via a hub-and-spoke model, companies can leverage coworking spaces to help co-workers physically collaborate in mutually near locations. This makes it a viable option for businesses with employees spread across an entire region or country.

 

The onboarding process is a perfect example of how companies can leverage such spaces to enable face-to-face collaboration and reap the benefits of a safe coworking environment during the pandemic.

 

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Work Environment

6 Employee Recognition Ideas for This Holiday Season

The end of the year is here, and it’s important to acknowledge all the hard work given from your employees. But how so during a pandemic? Read below for some employee recognition ideas.

 

This year has taught us a lot about communicating virtually and leveraging available technologies to make the most of a tough situation. Companies have sought alternatives to business models that relied on human interaction.

 

Whether they’re in the fitness industry offering online classes, in the tourism branch turning to virtual experiences, or developing and relying on new hygiene protocols and delivery mechanisms to survive in the hard-hit food and beverage world.

 

Yet at the heart and soul of every step of innovation and success throughout this difficult year is the workforce that makes it all possible – the employees that have gone above and beyond, often adapting overnight to help keep things afloat. That’s why it’s more important than ever to recognize the people who help us make our dreams come true.

 

Why Employee Recognition is Critical This Year

 

It’s been a hard year, but more than that, it’s been a year punctuated by intense social isolation and the looming threat of burnout. Stress and anxiety have been at an all-time high for many. And countless workers have had to not only lose their jobs due to strained budgets and exhausted coffers, but due to the demands of balancing workplace pressures and a quarantined family life.

 

Employees need to be recognized and appreciated this year through personalized messages and gifts; through bonuses and privileges tailored to their needs and situations; through a gesture that shows you understand what they’ve been going through, value the sacrifices they have made, and wish to reciprocate in a way that shows you want them to stay on, and continue to feel like a part of something greater, even at a long distance.

 

Below are six employee recognition ideas during this difficult holiday season. Ideas that are both meaningful and helps foster greater bonds and connections.

 

1. A Virtual Holiday Party

 

Now that we’re approaching the final few weeks of the year, it’s to be expected that most companies who have been relying on virtual communication technology up to this point have learned a lot when it comes to throwing a good virtual meeting. There are a few do’s and don’ts, and an important learning curve when working with new hardware and software.

 

Here are few important tips:

 

      • Make sure everyone is on the same page. The last thing you want in the way of a good time is confusion, misunderstanding, and frustration. Make sure to do one or two test calls beforehand, check and double check that everyone knows when the party starts, and pick a program everyone is familiar with at this point (or leave ample time for them to get familiar).
      • Make the booze optional or eliminate it altogether. Alcohol can be an easy way to loosen up, but some people don’t want to drink it, and others shouldn’t. Making it the norm to get buzzed at every major company occasion might not be the best idea for promoting an inclusive and healthy team culture.
      • Tie the party together with a hands-on event or activity. Consider ordering and delivering some form of craft to everyone, from paper folding to cookie-making, or even a culinary class disguised as a virtual teambuilding activity.
      • Consider a theme for costuming. Things are always a bit more fun with a little dress code, especially when it encourages a creative outfit.

 

A virtual party might not beat the real thing, but it can be much less of a burden on the company bank, which means you get to invest more heavily in other forms of appreciation. This includes coordinating deliveries to help make virtual events and activities more interactive, or preparing fancy personalized gifts that cater to each employee’s wishes, hobbies, and interests.

 

2. An Unforgettable Experience

 

One way to make sure your employees know that you appreciate them is by funding a trip or experience they’re likely to appreciate. Rather than investing in teambuilding activities that require interaction, you can help improve employee morale by individualizing these experiences. Instead, offer that they take their loved ones with them to enjoy them together – whether it’d be a weekend at a nearby resort, a fancy spa, a once-in-a-lifetime local culinary experience, and so on.

 

3. Unique Gifts That Suit Your Employees

 

This year, why not compensate for the expenses of arranging fancy business catering, venue costs, hiring talent, and paying for travel by investing in individualized gifts?

 

If you know what your employees individually value and appreciate, then you might already have an idea of how to best fill their holiday stocking – alternatively, you can ask around. A personalized gift like a pair of designer shoes, a self-cleaning water bottle, a musical instrument, or a top-quality climbing kit would far outlast a single experience.

 

 

4. An Opportunity to Learn

 

Once an employee reaches a salary they’re happy with, money often no longer motivates them as much as other, far more substantial motivators – such as the opportunity to earn recognition, and the opportunity to learn. A learning experience, especially one that relates to an employee’s career goals and personal goals, can be even more valuable than any other kind of gift.

 

Consider what kind of an experience your employee might be looking for as a way to advance to the next level – be it a specialized training program, a coaching or mentoring experience, or something else. Helping employees fulfill their personal goals isn’t just about doing something for them. That experience in turn helps them bring new things to the table at work.

 

5. A Virtual Leaderboard and Achievement Tracker

 

In companies that thrive on fostering a competitive spirit among their employees, a lot of that interaction and competitive edge goes missing once a team becomes completely virtual.

 

It’s important to keep up the pace by introducing new ways to challenge your employees and capitalize on their competitive drive through virtual leaderboards, hidden and scored achievements, and tiered prizes to be given out each month or quarter. Not only is it a great way to recognize each employee’s individual achievements, but it can help a culture built on a competitive team spirit stick together and create memorable experiences even over vast distances.

 

6. Some Much-Needed Time Away (from the Computer)

 

Because it’s been such a tough year, the best gift for some people is as simple as offering a little extra leeway, and some more time off. A break from the computer and a chance to fully recuperate may be much welcomed, and will show that you want to ensure that your employees put their own health and wellbeing first. And that you recognize their value as long-term members of the company.

Final Thought on Employee Recognition

 

Helping employees feel recognized and valued is ultimately what company gift-giving is all about. Especially now, when the topics of isolation and extreme stress are more relevant than ever.