The COVID-19 pandemic has been with us for over a year now. You have likely had to make many transitions in your life that you may have never anticipated in January 2020.
By now you have probably settled into a new routine of virtual work while juggling family and household responsibilities. Whether you're planning on working remotely for the short or long term, there are several vital items you need to connect consistently and effectively, and to make your virtual worktime more successful.
- Reliable/High-Speed Internet
2021 is not the time to find the cheapest option for Internet connectivity. You need wi-fi that will not fail when a gust of wind blows by, or your kids are attending virtual classes while you need to manage a global meeting. You need to be able to video conference at a moment’s notice if you’re working virtually without worrying about connection speeds.
Research the most reliable and highest speed service in your area. Fiber offers the fastest download and upload speeds with the highest rates of reliability. With fiber, you do not have to worry about the speed drags common to other connection types, and it is the best option for video. If you do not have fiber in your area, cable may be your next best option as it is faster and more reliable than DSL and satellite, but neighborhoods often share bandwidth. This leads to connection speeds being interrupted during peak hours.
Dial-up and DSL are available in most markets but are extremely slow relative to fiber and cable. Fixed wireless LTE is expensive and relies on cell phone towers. You will need a special antenna installed in your home. If you are lucky, 5G may be coming to a big city near you, and experts say it may be worth the wait as it is faster than fiber. With 5G there is virtually no pause between when you click a link and when a video appears.
- Headset or Headphones
When you work virtually, your team, clients, and other stakeholders need to hear you. You have probably spent some time trying to perfect your audio at home. The ability to hear and have others hear you online may be intensified with the use of headphones, earbuds, or a headset. There are many choices available from earbuds that come with your phone to the pricey Beats® headphones which are loved by many teenagers. Headphones may be a better choice.
Here are things to consider when investing in a quality pair of headphones for work. If being wireless is important to you, check out the Bose QuietComfort 35. They offer broad and clear sound with noise cancellation, and the battery life will get you through long meetings. Bose headphones come at a premium but could be worth the price for a wire-free desk and clear sound.
If you’re in a noisy office or home office, Bose also makes an in-ear headset style alternative with noise-canceling called the Bose QuietControl® 30. If you need something more economical and waterproof to stand up to your home office's challenges, try the V-MODA™ Forza. These earbuds sound good and are built to last.
- Video Conferencing Accounts for your Team
Meeting face-to-face in a virtual environment is crucial to effective communication. Observing non-verbal cues provides context that can be missed in phone calls, emails, and chats. Zoom won the virtual meeting wars during COVID-19 shutdowns, but it is not the only option for your team. GoTo Meeting, Adobe Connect, Google Meet, WhatsApp, and Microsoft Teams are all popular choices. The key is to choose one conferencing tool and train your team on best practices and how to use this tool effectively. Your team needs to know how to create a meeting, use video and audio, screen share, and record the session.
- A Space Appropriate for Virtual Meetings
People need to see you, not your living space. If you have a ton of clutter behind you in a virtual meeting, it can distract the other people in the meeting. Find a place with a wall behind you or buy a room divider screen to put behind your chair. A screen can eliminate distraction instantly. Some virtual meeting tools offer virtual backgrounds. You can choose from one of the company's options or your photos. Be mindful that depending on what colors you are wearing; you can fade into the background.
- Set Office Hours
The home office is always open, waiting for you to do “just one more thing.” There is no commute to transition from work to home and family time. It can feel impossible to log off mentally. The antidote is to set precise work hours and stick to them. Setting clear time boundaries lets your team know when to schedule meetings and when you are available. Office hours are helpful to your family, too. With distance learning continuing in many areas, it demonstrates time management for kids. They also know when you’ve scheduled time to help them with schoolwork, play, manage family sports and/or run errands.
Two Bonus Ideas:
The Virtual Pop-In: This concept comes from Jennifer Levy, Program Development Manager and Senior Instructional Designer for Kettering Global. Jennifer makes time for virtual pop-ins with her team. In these moments, she initiates non-work conversations through tools such as chats and video calls, as if she were popping by your desk. These virtual pop-ins about current events, culture, music, movies, and other water cooler topics go a long way in creating the rapport necessary for building and maintaining virtual relationships with her team.
Get Moving: It can be easy to get stuck in your office chair at home. Be sure to get up and out. Take a walk around the block or fold a load of laundry. Find an activity to replace the usual steps you took walking up and down the office stairs to lunch or your car.
Stay Connected at Kettering University
The Kettering Global team and Kettering University Online faculty are great examples of effective virtual teams. Since its inception, the teams have logged into work and classrooms from all over the globe. Faculty balance full-time jobs in the field, family, and sharing their experiences and expertise through teaching.
This experience means Kettering’s online graduate and certificate students learn real-world applications from an international team of professionals while learning advanced business skills necessary for the new virtual workforce.
For more information about how you can connect with KUO’s faculty as part of a graduate or certificate program, talk to a Kettering University Online advisor about master’s programs in Lean Manufacturing, Engineering Management, Operations Management, Business Administration, Data Science, Supply Chain Management, and Engineering-ECE- Advanced Mobility Focus.
Talk to an advisor about how one of these prestigious programs can take your career to the next level.