Remote Working - Online Meetings

Here are some (tech) tips to improve the quality and usefulness of remote/online meetings.

The #1 problem with online meetings tends to relate to network (bandwidth) issues. Most suggestions below focus on this problem. There are also tips related to presentation - presenting a good image of yourself and your environment (which impacts others’ perception of your professionalism and work ethic).

  1. Turn off your camera except when it’s very important to show something.
    Video is usually optional. Consider if it’s really necessary to show your face by sending live video of yourself to the meeting. Video takes more bandwidth than audio, both for you to send it and for the other participants to receive it. (When video appears blurry or audio is not working well, bandwidth limitation is a common cause. Turning off the cameras can alleviate this.)

  2. Mute your microphone except when you need to speak.
    Microphone systems (in the computer or on your headset) sometimes have difficulty filtering out noise. You may not hear the noise (or you may be so accustomed to it that you don’t notice it), but those sounds will be sent to the other participants and may make it difficult to hear the person who is speaking.

  3. Pause or close apps, especially cloud/data sync apps like OneDrive, Dropbox, Google Drive, Windows Update, App Store, or any other application that is likely to be moving a lot of data to and from the internet. Most users have higher download speeds than upload speeds, and file uploads can ruin the meeting quality (since communication in both directions is necessary to maintain the online meeting).

  4. Close unnecessary apps unless you have a very powerful computer. Some online meeting apps require a lot of computer resources, so closing unnecessary apps (such as a browser that has 200 tabs open, or any Microsoft Office app) can allow the meeting app to have the computing resources it needs to work well.
    Lightening the load may also prevent the computer fan from running at high speed and creating unnecessary noise. Extra tip: install OneTab browser extension so you can easily close all the tabs but not lose your place.

  5. Use a headset or phone earbuds (ideally with a microphone) if possible. This usually provides better sound quality of your voice to the other participants. Even several year old iPhone wired earbuds work well. Importantly, this can prevent the loud thumping and clacking sounds that built-in computer microphones often pick up from one’s typing or touching the desk.

  6. Preview your camera view before joining or sharing your view with the meeting. You may not realize until it’s too late that you have something embarrassing sitting in view of the camera (messy pile of dirty clothes, personal massager, stack of dirty dishes, or whatever). Check your own face and clothes as well: you may not need to wear pants, but a shirt is a good idea.

  7. Clean your desktop. When you share your screen, it’s nice for everyone if you appear organized. And it’s nice for you if you don’t have some icon on your desktop like Indeed Job Search results from today.webloc. Related, close apps and windows you don’t need. That will make it easier to switch between apps, share the right screen/app, and otherwise be more involved and less distracted during your meeting.

  8. Respect the clock. This last point is optional; if everyone is lonely and wants to chat all day, then go for it! But if people have work to do that involves more than just talking to each other, then keeping meetings short and to the point can help.

Happy Remoting

As I’ve done remote work for a significant part of the last 10 years, I have a lot more advice and thoughts on the topic. But I’ll save those for a future (likely never) post.

Just remember - this remote working thing is new for most people, and it may take a little time for everyone to adjust. Be patient.

Remote work can be very effective, and remote workers can be very happy, satisfied, productive, and fulfilled. It cuts commute time to almost nothing, it prevents commute pollution, it saves corporate office rent and electricity costs, and it greatly expands the potential employee options to a few timezones instead of just <= 1hr commute distance.

Your pets love it too!