Working from home sounds like a dream for so many people. After all, you can sleep in a little later, you don’t have to deal with traffic and a road rage first thing in the morning. Bye bye chaotic commute! And of course, you can work in your pajamas! Who wouldn’t want to work from home?
It might sound like a dream, but remote working is trickier than it appears at first glance. With this in mind, I have compiled an little cheat sheet for you to use as a meeting prep checklist, so you can be professionally prepared to participate in your next remote meeting. Now of course you have to take notes and do the actual work, but prep is more than reviewing the agenda.
A Beginner’s Guide to Participating In Remote Meetings
- When you’re working from home, get fully dressed and comb your hair – do not stay in your pajamas all day. Now, I’m not saying you have to suit up everyday, but definitely put on some clothes. If you stay in your pj’s you are guaranteed to binge watch Netflix and snack all day – from the bed or the couch.
- If you have poor lighting, try a ring light. I use this one and it is affordable and portable.
- You will usually need to prop up your laptop (or phone) if you’re not sitting at a table. A stack of books, or a sturdy box will work just fine. Remember, no one will see this part:-)
- Be sure to wear pants – you might forget that you’re not wearing pants and go to stand up! People get caught sans pants all the time!
- Clean out a space or corner in your home so that your background is neat and uncluttered.
- Always clean off your camera lens BEFORE joining a call – both your phone and laptop camera lenses.
- Go to the bathroom and get something to drink before any scheduled meeting. This is so obvious that you’ll forget to do it.
- Close the door before you get on a call.
- Turn off notifications on your phone. Nobody wants to hear those Facebook beeps and text message dings. Better yet, put your phone on silent. Not vibrate. Silent.
- Tell all members of the house (kids included) when you have scheduled calls/meetings so you can all prepare for no interruptions. I like to give my family at least 24 hours notice as the first step.
- Tell all members of the house (kids included) that you are taking a call at the allotted time. I usually send out a household reminder at least an hour beforehand, and then about 10 minutes before actually joining the call.
- Do not hang a sheet as your background – they always look wrinkly and crappy. Trust me.
- Check the angle of your camera before the meeting starts. That turkey neck looks terrible on camera, even if you don’t think you have a turkey neck. And the right angle can make you look fabulous. (There’s a reason why those Instagram influencers look so good in their selfies – they practice angles!)
- Do not wear a hat or anything funky on your head to look cool – it will only make you look like you’re too lazy to comb your hair. (And would you wear a hat at work?)
- Be sure to use a headset/headphones during meetings – you don’t want to have the awkward echo or background noise. Make sure your headphones work before the call.
- Don’t be afraid of the mute button – nobody wants to hear your kids hollering or dog barking in the background (it is not cute). And that is rather unprofessional, wouldn’t you agree?
- If you need to move from your spot, turn your camera off AND mute yourself first.
Just because the actual meeting has ended, it does not mean that your meeting time over. Remember, you’re home with a million and one distractions.
- Officially leave the meeting.
- Compile notes, follow ups, and next steps right away. Before you get up. Before someone needs you for something. While “I”ll do it later” may sound great, in theory, it won’t happen in a timely manner. Compile all of your notes right away while they’re still fresh on your mind. If you need to send follow up emails, send them right away. This is part of your meeting time!
A Moment of Transparency
Here’s the thing few people are willing to admit when it comes to working from home: Many people do not have a dedicated home office. And with our current crisis, many people have been forced to work remotely. Who the hell was prepared for this? Nobody!
Therefore, if you have to improvise and make the best of a closet or bedroom or corner then do it. Don’t feel bad if your background isn’t as pretty or fancy as you think everyone’s else’s is. Did you know you can create a custom Zoom background? If you’re self conscious, check it out.
Full transparency moment: I personally haven’t bothered with a custom background, ever. There have been times when I took all my meetings from the bed because I didn’t have space to create a decent corner in the house. I have taken Zoom meetings from coffee shops when I knew they would be slow and quiet. I have rented office space for virtual meetings. I have sat on the floor and made the best of it. And I have taken meetings from my plush home office. I have worked from home for years now, and during this time I have moved all around, up and down.
So don’t worry about what you can’t do. Simply focus on the work at hand, and presenting your best self, right now. With practice, you’ll get the hang of this remote work / meeting thing.