While remote working isn’t a new concept to most, it’s not the norm. That is, it wasn’t the norm until we were all faced with the need for social distancing. As we face predictions of economic recession and potentially even economic depression, it is more critical than ever to continue business as much as possible within a remote capacity; but, how can you maintain your professional integrity and authority in a remote working environment?
We sat down with Heather Hansen, motivational speaker, award-winning attorney and author of The Elegant Warrior to learn just that. Here’s the best tips we’re taking away in our day-to-day business practices:
Use video conferencing as much as possible. When working from home, it's tempting (or sometimes necessary) to avoid being on-camera, but research shows that people are more likely to feel engaged and connected when speaking face to face. That doesn't have to mean in person, this applies to video as well. In addition to better communication and engagement from your audience, appearing on video shows leadership and communicates a sense of physical/emotional hospitality to your colleagues/clients. Especially at a time when in person meetings are not possible, this is a great way to build deeper relationships despite the hardships we’re all facing in our personal/professional lives.
Optimize your on-camera professionalism. We’ve all seen or been at the center of a professional on-camera blunder. While those are bound to happen here and there with entire families working from home, here are a few tips on how to maximize your on-screen professionalism:
- Find a private, quiet place. In the event that something out of the ordinary does happen (ie. a child walking in, dog barking, etc.), don’t get flustered. If it seems like something that can be resolved quickly, just make a joke and then regain control of the room. If it is something that will require more than a quick moment of your attention, tell the person you’re speaking with that you need to place them on a brief hold. Then, mute your microphone and turn off your camera until you are able to return with full composure.
- Dominant light should be in front of you. Often we try to sit near a window to ensure we have maximum lighting and a stable view behind us; however, computer cameras focus on the brightest light. So, if that brightest light is behind you and not on your face, then you will be backlit and difficult to see. Choose a place where a dominant light can be in front of you and a professional background can be behind you.
- Face the camera head-on. It sounds obvious, but it’s not as easy as it sounds and may require some maneuvering. Especially when using laptops, the camera is not facing you head-on; rather, it is below or above you. Being filmed from below is not an attractive angle for anyone and being filmed from above can be intimidating or distracting to viewers. Knowing this, it’s important to test how you look on camera before joining a video call. If you need to, place books underneath your computer so the camera is at eye-level, or choose a lower seat if you’re too high up already on camera.
- Position so your hands are visible when you speak. Research shows that humans feel most uncomfortable with video conferencing when they can't see the other person's hands. However, once their hands become visible and are used in expressive speaking, that feeling goes away entirely and people feel more connected. Research also shows that when you actively use your hands while speaking, you are 2x more effective/relatable to the person you're speaking with. Be sure your camera is far enough away from you that your hands are visible when you speak, but also not so far away that your facial expressions are difficult to decipher.
- Demonstrate on-screen active listening. Again, sounds obvious, but it is common for people to zone out during video calls. It’s tempting to get distracted by your phone, something in the room, or even the video of yourself! Be sure you are using active listening such as nodding, smiling, laughing, an inquisitive expression, etc. to show you are engaged and invested in the conversation.
- Respect the video time lag. Often people speak over each other on video due to the sound delay that occurs. This coupled with the fact that highly intelligent people tend to interrupt others when they are speaking anyway can present a major issue with remote working. Respect the time lag on video with choiceful pauses. If you find yourself wanting to interrupt a colleague, don't. Instead let them finish and think about why they are saying what they're saying and how you'll be clear and concise in your response.