Many of my PMs have mentioned that their companies are allowing them to work from home until September. This measure is sure to be a great help to everyone with family responsibilities. So many aspects of our lives have been turned upside down, and juggling dependent children, elderly relatives and a job is a challenge.
Skype, Zoom and FaceTime meetings give friends, colleagues, and clients a peek into our homes and our appearance outside the work setting. For example, TV shows that are usually filmed live before a studio audience have continued to broadcast from their hosts’ homes. The guests, who typically sashay onto the set dolled up to the nines to the sound of live music are calling in for a video chat from their homes wearing sweats. Now we know what everyone looks like on a bad hair day!
The talking heads appearing on TV news shows seem to prefer sitting in front of bookshelves, presumably wanting to give the impression that they are avid readers. At the same time, late-night talk-show hosts have set up makeshift studios in attics and other corners of the home, which reveal little or a lot about their personalities.
In the United States, the Supreme Court Justices heard arguments telephonically from the comfort and safety of their own homes for the very first time. They streamed it live so that everyone could listen. Many Supreme Court lawyers said they would still stand up while making their arguments, as if at the lectern in the Supreme Court. Very grand! The lawyers presenting the arguments noted that this was an unnerving experience because normally they take visual cues from the judges’ facial expressions and body language. Although this was a landmark moment, I could not help laughing out loud when a toilet flushed during one of the justice’s speeches! I wonder if he was dispensing justice from the bathroom?
Another comedy moment occurred when a young news journalist, wearing a very smart suit jacket shirt and tie, was addressing the camera. At the bottom of the screen, the audience could see his bare leg and that his office attire was strictly from the waist up. He was wearing nothing but underpants on the bottom half… thank goodness!
Seriously though, if you do need to video conference, there are some precautions you should take. First, save your work and close any apps you do not need so that everything runs more smoothly. Pick a bright spot with a neutral background and plenty of natural light. You don’t want to give anything away and to sit in front of a neutral wall is just fine. Position your camera at eye level so you will not be looking down or up. Nobody wants to see up your nose, and you will not look distracted!
If you want to give the right impression, combing your hair and changing out of your pyjamas is also a good idea. This practice is always a good idea. Other tips include muting yourself when you are not speaking to help with background noise, focusing on what other people are saying rather than shopping for a new bra when the discussion gets boring and doing your best to keep kids and pets out of the way.
All this will soon be second nature because working home is going to be a big part of the “new normal”.