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Team Work During COVID-19—What If Virtual Collaboration Was More Efficient Than Face-To-Face Meetings?

Friday, August 5, 2022

In spring 2020, quickly moving to a work-from-home model became the top priority for companies in order to keep operations running and stop the spread. Three months later, there’s no one-size-fits all approach to going back to a physical office. Google and Facebook opted for a remote work model until 2021. Amazon headquarters employees will work from home until at least until January 2021. Microsoft is flexible—employees can go back to the office if they want to. As for Twitter, employees who can work remotely are welcome to keep on doing so for as long as they want.

In this new environment, virtual meetings are a critical component of all companies’ workflow, including in your own business. Sure, it’s a challenging paradigm shift, but managing online collaboration could actually be more efficient than sticking to traditional face-to-face meetings.

The Biggest Benefits of Virtual Meetings

For all remote employees, virtual meetings set the pace for a productive workday. Regardless of whether the team is fully remote or if a blended mode is in place, these virtual meetings bring serious benefits:

  • A lot of time saved: No more time wasted commuting to a meeting, and these extra hours can be used to better manage your day. 
  • Integrated cross-platform tools: Join a meeting using any connected device or computer—start on your laptop and wrap up from your smartphone.  
  • Better time management: Enjoy centralized and accessible briefing notes everyone can share and read, then seamlessly switch from one meeting to the next.
  • Documented meetings: Meeting can be recorded and shared online, which is very useful to anyone who couldn’t join or need to review specific points to the agenda.
  • Candid contributions: Some features allow for anonymous comments submissions, which can be a great way to gather honest feedback and ideas without peer pressure.
  • The best personal protective equipment: It’s your best PPE in times of health crisis, as COVID-19 cases surge again.

Best Practices for Great Virtual Meetings

Virtual meetings can be a catalyst for change and engagement. However, proper etiquette must be mastered and best practices followed—brief and train your team!

Never Underestimate the Power of Eye Contact

Facial expressions and body language cues are always trickier to read on screen. Participants tend to look at the screen rather than at the camera, and people seldom make direct eye contact. Technology can help here too—you may be able to drag the video of the person you’re talking to close to your own webcam. 

Get Used to Different Home-Office Setups (And Polish Yours)

Despite physical distancing, you may end up feeling closer than ever to your team, prospects and partners since you get to see people in a more personal environment, pictures and memorabilia on the walls included—and the occasional spouse, child or pet in the background. Embrace this opportunity to see the person behind the job title. Remain professional and be forgiving if you witness one of these “working from home” moments. Meanwhile, keep in mind the visual aspect of web conferencing when adjusting the light and setup. Your new home office is now an extension of yourself and part of your professional image.  

Virtual Backgrounds Are Available (but Proceed With Caution) 

Personalized backgrounds are becoming a cultural phenomenon—you’ll find libraries, bookcases and even animated backgrounds. This communication trick is often a subliminal way to show a polished image and boost credibility. Backgrounds can be used if you’re not in a professional environment at the time of the meeting and your company may even offer a set of corporate backgrounds for branding and consistency. You’ll even find augmented reality apps—perfect for an Instagram- or Snapchat-worthy brainstorming moment, but probably best saved for the right time with the right audience. 

Watch Your Body Language

Your typical computer posture—hunched over, head resting on a hand, gazing off into space at times—probably doesn’t look great on screen. That’s right, participants can all see you. Don’t do in a virtual meeting what you wouldn’t do in a face-to-face meeting. Your body sometimes speaks louder than your words!

Invest in Reliable Equipment

Don’t even consider using your smartphone camera—hint, shaky hand plus that weird double-chin angle if you’re holding it too low. For professional meetings, you need a bright and quiet place with a static webcam, good-quality speakers or headphones and a microphone optimized for speech. If possible, check your gear before the meeting to make sure it’s working properly and have a plan B ready in case of tech failure.

Both efficient and personalized, virtual meetings have become an integral part of the new “work from home” normal in every organization. Even though the shift was triggered by the pandemic—and regardless of eventual back-to-the-workplace plans—remote work could very well be the future in a world where flexibility and digital nomads are becoming the norm.