Coronavirus: How HR Can Help Employees Stay In The Game As Business Travels Reduce
Supporting the bottom line during the unprecedented challenge
Many businesses are making the difficult decision to cancel trips and conferences in response to the coronavirus. Here are some tips for how HR professionals can help support the bottom line during this unprecedented challenge.
When a face-to-face meeting is impossible, a video conference can be more effective than a phone call.Google and Microsoftare providing free use of their video conferencing software in response to the coronavirus outbreak. Projecting a professional image by video takes some preparation. Whether employees are foregoing a flight overseas or a trip to the office, you can help them prepare their space, project a professional image, and unite their team.
Prepare the Space
If employees are gathering in a conference room at work to connect with other locations, make sure they have the camera facilities and lighting to make the best impression. That is a lot better than having them squeeze together into the view of their phone or laptop camera. Consider putting up a media wall that shows your organization’s logo and blocks out background distractions or windows that create a negative backlighting effect.
At home, an employee’s background should be neat and professional. They might want to feature a conversation starter, such as an award, a diploma, or a unique item from their travels. Recommend that they check for clutter and distractions behind their workspace. They should also anticipate possible disruptions from children, dogs, and others, and take steps to prevent them.
Employees at home may also want to make sure their lighting is right at the time of day when they will hold their video conference. They may need to close their shades and turn lights on or off in their work space. If they have a key role presenting through a video conference, they may want to dress as they would for a television appearance. Black, white, busy patterns, and distracting jewelry may not show well on the screen.
Employees should determine how close they need to sit to the camera for the best view. They can adjust their laptop or home computer to hold the camera at eye level so they can look directly at their colleagues. If they have the opportunity, they might want to push the record button on a practice video conference and review it to see how they look and sound. Once they are satisfied with how they are presenting on the screen, they might want to stop looking at that little box that shows their own image. Wondering if they have a double chin can be terribly distracting.
Project a Professional Image
Remind employees that people may be watching them on the camera even when they are not talking. That means no eye rolling, checking phones, or multitasking during a video conference. They should act as they would if they were in the room with their colleagues or clients. To avoid risks of a hot mic, employees should use mute when they are not speaking. It improves the conference’s sound quality and saves them from being heard making an unfortunate comment. It is also good to silence their ringer during a video conference, just as they would do in a meeting.
Team members should set up their connection early so they don’t spend conference time trying to log in. They should also have a backup plan to share documents or slides in case their technology fails. Employees who are presenting on a video conference may want to practice ahead of time like they would for any public speaking event. Every engagement is an opportunity to establish credibility and advance their message.
Unite the Team
If the video conference is anything more formal than a team check in, choose a moderator. This might be the big boss, or not. The moderator will make sure participants on all sides have a chance to talk and will direct questions to the right person. This is particularly important if team members are not located in the same room when presenting to a client.
Team members should sort out a way to signal when they want to talk, either through body language or technology, so everyone has the opportunity and people aren’t talking over each other. When one team member is speaking, the rest of the team should look at the speaker with admiration and enthusiasm. Body language and facial expressions make an impression across the miles.
There is no substitute for being in the same room with colleagues and clients. However, if coronavirus is keeping your teams apart, they can stay focused on the bottom line through a well-prepared video conference. The good news is even a computer virus won’t land you in quarantine.
Eileen Smith is the Founder of Spokesmith. Her expertise is built on a career in diplomacy and her extensive study of using public speaking, executive presence, and body language to deliver your message.
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