Ripped from the Headlines: Staying Human While Zooming

By Alice Locatelli posted 04-24-2020 15:12


DISCLAIMER: This is not an endorsement of any product or platform.

Ripped from the Headlines: Staying Human While Zooming

DISCLAIMER: This is not an endorsement of any product or platform.

With many organizations thrust into videoconferencing like never before in the midst of a global pandemic, new norms and tools are being developed by organizations across the country and the world. The first weeks were spent trying to ramp up to productivity, but as organizations settle in for what may be a long time, it’s important to consider how to thrive in this new environment. A critical element of the new norms being created is the importance of maintaining a human connection through this new set of shared experiences.

When teams are fully remote for an extended period, it can be difficult to stay connected with each other. Over time, without solid norms to maintain relationships, cracks begin to arise in the foundation, and teams can start to lose some of their ability to assume good intentions with each other. It can feel exhausting and isolating to work in a team without strong remote norms. To ensure teams and relationships maintain their connection, it’s important to consistently remember to keep meetings as close to human meetings as possible.

See Each Other

While it can be tempting to regularly turn off the camera or take calls from the phone instead, seeing facial expressions and keeping a visual connection with teammates is a critical part to the long term success of remote work, so team members should keep their cameras on. To do so, it can help to start with Host Video and Participant Video set to “on.” For many participants, it can be helpful to Hide Self view to ensure there’s no temptation to stare at themselves the whole time.

While virtual backgrounds can be funny and entertaining, they’re also distracting and remove some of the human connection from meetings. Just as you would ensure your office looked reasonable for someone stopping by for a meeting, your office environment should reflect the 5 minutes you took to tidy up. As regularly as possible, Virtual Background and Blur Background should be “off” to maintain a real human feel.

In team meetings with more than two participants, team members would normally be able to see other meeting members sitting around the table or room. To that end, utilizing Gallery View allows meeting participants to maintain a level of similarity to in-person meetings – seeing reactions, noticing people who want to speak but can’t get a word in, absorbing laughter and little moments.

Focus on the Meeting

Typically, in person, participants limit multitasking that can seem so easy when remote. Wearing headphones can help to focus on the meeting at hand and minimize occasional background noise. Muting can also be a help for minimizing distraction noise; mute should be limited to when background noise is likely, to avoid playing walkie-talkie regarding when you’re permitting yourself to speak. In a meeting, you speak up, hear laughs and noises of agreement, and all those things contribute to the personality of a meeting.

For notetaking in meetings, try to find a solution that doesn’t cover the participants or require you to look offscreen constantly. A large or second screen allowing both the view of participants and notes to be nearby each other, without overlapping, is a great way to stay focused, feel connected, and make others feel connected.

Make it Easy

In a regular office environment, when you walk into a meeting room, you immediately walk in and start talking to others in the room. The small talk enjoyed at the beginning of a meeting builds bonds and connections, and supports the flow of teamwork throughout the meeting and beyond. For that reason, Allow Participants to Join Before Host and not enabling Waiting Room are features to make it easy to maintain connection. Similarly, walking into a room doesn’t involve more than a door handle as a barrier, so avoiding a Password on meetings when security can be maintained other ways is a nice parallel, and avoids a barrier to entry for participants.

What matters most in working together as a team in any environment is the connection and trust between team members. As the team makes the shift to a primarily remote environment, be cognizant of the impact to the human connection among your meeting participants. Take little steps and set strong norms to ensure continued connection and enjoyment with internal teams, external teams or contractors, and clients.


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