From the creators of 2020: A WFH Odyssey and Lockdown comes the sequel anticipated by practically no one… 2Lockdown2Furious. Coming to a home office near you soon.
It’s a cinematic universe more complicated than DC, lapsing more time than the extended cut of the entire Lord of the Rings franchise. Starring an anthropomorphic raccoon and a houseplant, the villain an eccentric madman obsessed with exotic creatures, set to an eighties music soundtrack, but there are no Guardians in this Galaxy. There wasn’t a lot topping the box office in 2020, but we had this:
And now it seems that we’re getting a sequel. And like most follow-ups, it’s set to be a letdown. Prepare to spend autumn/winter in your WFH get up, trying everything to perfect a homemade pumpkin spice latte to avoid masking up and facing the cold for your Starbucks fix.
While some have been in your spare room-cum-office since March, others (including us here at digital media team) have been in and out of our Northern Quarter digs as if it were the hokey cokey. As we prepare to saddle down and set ourselves up for another six months of Zoom meetings and Google hangouts, we wanted to compile a list of pro-tips for making your online meeting presence the best it can be…
Learn how to silence your notifications when screen sharing
Because there’s nothing more embarrassing than a personal text from your best friend or your mam calling you by your cute childhood nickname while showing a client their monthly report. If you’ve got Windows 10, there’s a nifty built-in feature called Focus Assist which allows you to silence notifications, and you can also use Do Not Disturb on your Mac.
If, like us, you’re prone to forgetting, there’s an app called Muzzle which toggles DND when screen sharing. Even if you’re not likely to forget, take a look at their home page – their embarrassing notifications had us laughing out loud for a solid ten minutes.
Soften your camera for those harsher morning video calls
A little-known feature of Zoom is the ability to switch your camera filter to a more softer-looking lens. In the “Video Settings” menu, simply check the “Touch up my appearance” box. It’s a subtle feature, but it’ll make all the difference when you’ve just risen from your bed and need to look spritely and ready to work.
If you fancy going the whole hog, make sure your computer is facing away from the nearest window or lighting source to avoid making your face look dark and dreary, and have the camera eye level to get the best look if you’re trying to impress the people on the other side (we’re big fans of lockdown love).
Be a little more creative with your lockdown surroundings
After half a year of Zoom quiz Fridays, you’re probably well aware of the ability to green-screen your background into something else. If you’re not already doing these in your meetings, it’s probably because you’re a) a fully fleshed-out grown up, or b) been told not to do so by management.
If, like us, you work in a “fun office”, we encourage you to mix it up as best you can and try out new backgrounds. Without an actual green screen it can be pretty difficult to chroma key your living room out, but here’s a real pro-tip for you: it works much better on phones. Try it out when you get a chance, and you’ll realise it’s super easy to disguise your messy bedroom.
Make sure, as a host, you’re muting everyone you need to
Distractions are easily the biggest enemy of lockdown life, especially when said distractions are affecting the whole team. You can’t help having a young child, a barking dog or a pissed-off other half in your home, but you can certainly stop them from interrupting the meeting. If you’re not muting yourself, it’s up to the host to make sure everyone’s muted.
There are other helpful shortcuts to avoid participants from getting accidental and unwanted audio in your Zoom meetings, such as pressing spacebar to temporarily unmute yourself or using the “raise hand” function.
Download the apps for on-the-go meetings
One of the worst parts of WFH, you’ve probably noticed, is how much longer you’ve spent “at work” when work is in your living room. If you’re sitting at your computer until way later every night, you’re probably forgetting to do the important things like popping to the shop or running errands. If you didn’t already know, however, most video conferencing software including Google Meet and Zoom have handy apps that you can download. If you really need to get to the post office and your lunch break isn’t long enough, jump in the first five minutes of that meeting while rushing home. If a meeting overruns and you really need to be somewhere, don’t stress by telling everyone that you need to dip out, just switch to mobile and start the commute.
Schedule everything – and remind everyone
Most tools have the ability to schedule your meetings and have them perfectly sync up into whatever calendar you use. If you like being extra careful, jot everything down in a physical planner and use that too. Of course, it’s a lot easier to forget meetings when there aren’t your colleagues surrounding you to give you that in-person reminder, but that shouldn’t be an excuse!
It’s also helpful to send out email reminders to all parties ahead of time – we’ve had our fair share of clients miss meetings and it can be a tremendous waste of time.
Keep out unwanted guests
Believe it or not, “zoombombing” is a thing now. Any excuse to cause chaos.
Although it’s pretty difficult to accomplish, people are still managing to break into other people’s chats and get all up in their business. It’s a good idea to use tools from Zoom like meeting rooms to filter out who can and can’t access the conversation, or controlling who the invitations are sent out to through emails and other private access channels.
We hope that these tips help you turn what is an unfortunate and kind of scary experience into something more tolerable, or even a little bit more fun. While the term “the new normal” has been said to death recently, it’s true that this is a weird time for us all and something it’s taken a while to get used to. And then a while to get over, and now another while to get used to again.
Hope you have a safe, and possibly even splendid, Lockdown 2: Pig in the City.