March 23, 2020
Hey, your mic is on: Telecommuting tips
Submitted by Stephanie Jacques
K-Staters are relearning how to function in a virtual work situation. These guidelines will help employees telecommute better and find a new — yet temporary — normal. But, if anyone is having trouble coping during this time, please take advantage of the Employee Assistance Program.
Minimizing distractions is sometimes easier said than done, but it is possible.
- Kids will be kids so set up a dedicated area as your home office to try to separate yourself from housemates and kids while they are out of school. Also, be forgiving of others as they balance kids at home with work.
- If a separate space is hard to come by, get creative. A laptop and a chair on a porch might be a good quiet spot. A small table and chair in a bedroom may also give some degree of separation.
- Set a schedule. Make sure your "new officemates" know when you are at work.
- Use earbuds or headphones to play music and eliminate background noise.
Less face time means more diligent communication is required.
- Let your K-State-associated counterparts and colleagues know when you are leaving for lunch or for the day and when you are back "in the office." For example, you can change your status to "away" in Teams.
- K-State has several options for telecommunicating — whether by email, Microsoft Teams or Zoom. Stay plugged into your teammates and review all the services that are used to communicate so to-do items are not missed.
- You may have to be more flexible with breaking away from immersive tasks to keep communication channels open since the option for stopping by a desk or office isn't available.
- Tired of typing? Never underestimate the value of a quick phone call. It can replace 30 minutes of texting chat. Teams has an app for cell phones that can be valuable if you need to quickly move to a quiet area.
There is a certain unspoken etiquette for teleconferencing — just like capitalizing all letters in a sentence of a text implies you are YELLING. Be forgiving as people are adjusting to the changes but here's what you need to know if you are new to this type of meeting.
- Mute your microphone unless you are actively talking. A convenient way to temporarily unmute yourself by pressing and holding the space bar can be activated for Zoom through settings.
- "Mute" or disable video if not absolutely needed. This helps reduce the bandwidth needed and a clearer picture/audio call.
- Assume you are always on camera and that you are always audible — even if you think you're muted or the video is disabled.
- Avoid side-conversations if you are physically next to someone. Cross-talk is especially distracting to remote participants.
- Be careful not to talk at the same time as others. Politely wait your turn and if you are talking for more than a minute at a stretch, pause to let others ask questions or seek clarification.
- Do questions on chat so there is no "overtalk."
- Try to refrain from tapping pencils, moving papers around, rattling ice, setting coffee cups down on table-tops, tapping on keyboards, and other seemingly innocuous sounds. These sounds are heightened to others on the call.
- If conducting a video teleconference, warn others in the house not to wander behind you; some home-attire may not be appropriate for work.
- Make notes on what you want to say before the conference starts. Take notes on "action items" during the conference whenever you are asked to work on something. Don't ramble on; be succinct and short. If it is a question that can be addressed outside the group meeting then do that.
- If available, use polling options for web conferencing. Zoom has this feature.
- Other internet services in the house — online gaming, streaming services like Netflix, security systems — can slow bandwidth and result in a spotty connection. Consider limiting those in the house during worktime. Information Technology Services has a blog entry about managing internet expectations.
It is a stressful time so make health a priority.
- Don't sit in one position for more than 30 minutes. Take short one- to five-minute breaks to stand up and stretch or walk around the room.
- Eye strain is a thing. You may need to adjust the lighting or the computer's screen brightness.
- Find a way to leave work at "work" during nonwork hours.
- Remember, we are all in this together. Human Capital Services encourages employees who feel anxious or worried about friends and family because of the coronavirus to contact our Employee Assistance Program, or EAP. K-State's EAP may be reached available 24/7 at 888-275-1205, press option 1.
Additional resources to help with this unique situation include the Keep Teaching website, Keep Learning website and K-State's Remote Work Guide.