23 Mar Working From Home: Combating Conference Call Calamities
The face of conference call catastrophes might just be Professor Robert Kelly, whose remote video interview with BBC News was ambushed by his dancing toddler, curious baby, and horrified wife. Over the last 3 years, Kelly’s hilarious video has generated over 36 million views on YouTube. Kelly has also spawned numerous parodies, including this gem showing how an overachieving mom might handle the same situation, which has racked-up 22 millions views. Conference call interruptions in the Berman household are a little less cuddly, typically involving 2 teenage boys barging into my home office to bicker about whose turn it is to play Fortnite on the Xbox. With that as context, here are 5 field-tested tips for combatting conference call calamities while working from home:
For those without a home office, it’s time to get creative. A helpful guideline is to identify a space with internet access, plenty of light, electrical outlets, room for a small desk+chair, and a door that can be barricaded! Got kids? Try to avoid the kitchen or living room, given these are often the busiest and noisiest spaces in a home with children. It’s also a smart move to stay out of your bedroom if possible, given the importance of preserving that space as a soothing sanctuary for sleep and other nocturnal activity. With that said, it may not be a bad idea to retreat into a walk-in closet for critical conference calls. Just be aware that your colleagues might get distracted by your colorful holiday sweater collection.
- Schedules & Rules
The best way to pre-empt a conference call catastrophe may be to solidify structured schedules with your spouse and children. While outlining activities for kids will maintain a sense of school-like order, it will also help ensure that your children are busy precisely when you’re on a call. Nothing quite freezes frenetic kids like a replay of Frozen…for the 100th time. It’s also a smart thing to switch off with your spouse in keeping an eye on the kids. That allows each adult to break away for calls as needed. You might also take a cue from radio broadcasters by creating a simple “On the Air” sign that can be posted to your home office door, signaling to spouse and spawn alike that you shouldn’t be bothered.
- Look the Part
It’s hard for family members to take your protestations for privacy seriously when you’re still dressed in PJs. So, take direction from the denizens of remote work gurus who advise home workers to wake-up, shower, and dress for a regular day at the office. That guidance not only helps you feel professional and productive, but it signals to roommates that you actually mean business. Of course, there may come a day (or two) when you decide not to shower. In that case, put on a company logo shirt and ballcap to hide your lack of hygiene while simultaneously showing your team spirit.
- Tech Up
I happen to share a home office with my wife, Elizabeth, who previously preferred the echoing joys of speaker phones. Of course, that meant a nuclear arms race of me strapping on noise-cancelling Bose headphones. I soon introduced Elizabeth to the beauty of Apple AirPods, which she now swears by. Peace and quiet have since reigned throughout the kingdom of Bermania. So, indulge in a pair of high-quality headsets. I happen to be a fan of the Apple AirPods Pro, which include noise cancelling technology that is pretty solid. You should also ensure you’re visible on video calls by shining a light on your face be it from a window or lamp. That’s especially important if there’s a strong light source behind you, like a window, that will cast a shadow on your face worthy of Darth Sidious from Star Wars. In addition, raise your monitor and camera up so that they’re level with the height of your face. Otherwise, you may be inadvertently creating a Blair Witch effect from a low camera filming up at you, thereby showcasing your nasal passages to video call participants. You’re welcome : )
- Video vs. Audio
It’s easy to default to audio-only calls when you’re setting-up a virtual meeting with colleagues or clients. I certainly understand plenty of people don’t like to look at themselves on camera or are embarrassed by their home surroundings in the background of a Zoom frame. However, there are a number of reasons to avoid the temptation of audio-only. First, a significant amount of successful communication comes from the non-verbal cues of facial expressions and body language. Afterall, a colleague calling your suggestion “interesting” while smiling, nodding and leaning in, is quite different than the same colleague saying “interesting” while tightening their lips, shaking their head, crossing their arms, and leaning back in their chair…especially if they fly the bird at you : ) Second, the knowledge of being on camera during a call acts to curtail colleagues from multi-tasking, given how easy it is to spot distracted colleagues. Third, seeing your colleagues on camera helps solidify team cohesiveness and camaraderie at a time when many co-workers may feel isolated and lonely.
So, there you have it – 5 tips to transform your home office communications and avoid conference call calamities. Yes, I will be scouring YouTube to confirm those desk jockeys not heeding this advice. The good news is home office door deadbolt locks are now on discount at Home Depot for the rest of the week!
About the Author
Jordan Berman is the Founder & CEO of OFC (ofc.tv), a creative agency and video production studio that injects storytelling into employee communications and training to earn attention and inspire action. OFC lives by the words, TYPICAL IS INVISIBLE™, and resides at the intersection of pop culture and office culture to build multimedia campaigns that create buzz, drive engagement and maximize results one cubicle at a time. Clients include PepsiCo, AT&T, Bristol-Myers Squibb, and Motorola Solutions. Jordan previously held senior marketing positions at MTV, Showtime, AT&T, Black & Decker, and the DDB agency. He has a BS in Industrial & Labor Relations from Cornell and an MBA from NYU.