How to Video Conference When Working From Home With Partners, Roommates, and Kids

How to Video Conference When Working From Home With Partners, Roommates, and Kids

If it seems like practically everyone is working remotely now, they are. Even before the global pandemic created by the coronavirus (COVID-19) unfolded, studies showed that nearly half of all employees (43 percent, according to Gallup) already worked remotely. 

Now, as the state of emergency deepens across the U.S. and world, companies are greenlighting remote work in unprecedented numbers. CNBC reports that “millions” more are being forced to work remotely, as organizations follow social distancing guidelines to try to stem the spread of the often deadly virus. In an interview with CNBC, president of Global Workplace Analytics Kate Lister called the situation a “tipping point” that she predicts will “really accelerate the trend” of remote work.

This broadening landscape for work-from-home has wide implications for team communication, especially in situations of shelter-in-place and lockdowns where government mandates require staying at home. While before many teams could mix up how they interacted—with some face-to-face meetings and some virtual ones—the new reality means that the only way many now have to communicate with their colleagues is via technology, such as video conferencing. 

Yet if video calls are now one of the key ways that teams are must meet to connect at all, there are new hurdles and additional challenges to manage in their usage.

While a quiet home office affords a nice setup for this type of communication, it’s tougher now to leverage the tool while working with kids and other family members—who have also been domestically quarantined from their own schools and workplaces—in the house and underfoot. 

Read on for some tips and pointers on best practices to help you keep your calls professional and (relatively) uninterrupted under these unexpected and often frustrating circumstances.

Brief Your Team

The first thing to recognize is that what would have been seen as a professional faux pas before the coronavirus changed the world of work likely won’t be frowned upon in the same way currently. Most managers are in the same boat with their employees, suddenly finding themselves conducting video calls from home, and often with other family members a few feet away. 

Some are better equipped for this situation than others—for example, by having a home office with a door to create some separation from the rest of the household fray. Regardless of your domestic digs, though, most employers understand that workers are dealing with this right now. So if your three-year-old makes a cameo during your video call, it’s less likely to raise eyebrows than it may have previously. The key comes down to basic communication: if you’re not in an ideal setting for your call and others are in the house, just let your team know to avoid any surprises.

Carve Out Your Turf

While it may be impossible to avoid every interruption during your video conference, you can proactively limit some of the potential distractions by setting up clear boundaries around your workspace. This can admittedly be more difficult in smaller apartments and homes. But if you can claim an area of the house that’s yours to work in—separated as much as possible from a significant other, kids, or roommates—you can mitigate the potential for embarrassing moments being captured during your call. 

Anything with a door, even a well-lit closet with wifi, can help in this effort. Let the others in your house know what your work area is, and be sure understand that you’re using it for an important work event such as a video call.

Divide and Conquer

Having two usually office-bound workers now confined to the same space to get their work done can be a recipe for stress and anxiety. This is even truer if there are kids in the mix who now need to be temporarily homeschooled. The best approach to this less-than-ideal situation is to designate hours that each spouse or partner will be “on duty” to manage childcare and schoolwork, while the other partner focuses on his or her own work—including video conferences.

Be clear about “who will do what when” by writing out a detailed schedule the night before. Begin by working around any scheduled video conferences or calls that you each have, to ensure that time is protected. If each of you covers for the other one, you’ll know that your most important video conference time slots will be accounted for when it comes to childcare.

Don’t Leave Room for the Unexpected

When you have a video call scheduled, work with your family or others in your household to manage expectations (to the degree possible under the circumstances). Let your housemates know that when you are on a call, you shouldn’t be interrupted. By communicating the importance of your virtual team meeting ahead of time, you can prevent unnecessary interruptions that might occur if you leave what happens to chance.

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By Robin Madell | Categories: Work Remotely

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