Ah, the infamous conference call. What was once a technology touted for its ability to connect people without the convenience of distance, now bears the brunt of many jokes, like this gem from McSweeney's Internet Tendency. It sounded like a great concept, but unfortunately, too many conference calls are riddled with confusion caused by people speaking over each other. Being invisible also makes it easier to goof off. According to a 2014 study from Intercall, 65% of respondents have admitted to doing other work while on a conference call. What's even more frightening is 47% have said they've been going to the restroom and 43% were exercising. Without visual cues, it kind of just invites us to zone out. Here are some tips to help making your conference call run a lot smoother.
Get the time right, and confirm with all parties involved.
We can't tell you how many times we've heard of foiled conference call plans, especially when overseas parties are involved. Make sure you've correctly established whether time was in PST, EST, CST, or alien time. The best way to make sure you're right is to send out a calendar invite. At least 24-hours prior to the call, confirm by email.
Get the right number and pin.
It seems pretty hard to mess this up, but we've borne witness to random people joining our conference call because they sent out a conference line that was already in use. If your company uses one or two conference lines, make sure they will be clear before you schedule your call. Dial carefully!
Have an agenda beforehand.
Saying, "We're having a conference call to discuss X" leaves the whole line open to a free-for-all. Instead, designate a leader to prepare an agenda and send it to all parties. This person will then lead the discussion and act as moderator. Divide the agenda by parties who will be speaking on certain topics, and give them a devoted amount of time, like in presidential debates. This will ensure that people know when to talk and are not talking over each other, to much frustration.
Set a time limit.
The best meetings are brief ones. When you have an agenda, there is no room for tangents and diversions. People tend to get carried away when they don't see the bored faces of their compatriots yawning back at them. It's the moderator's job to help move things along and keep efficiency in mind.
Choose your party wisely.
Do you really need the whole 35-person marketing team on the phone? We highly doubt it. Choose only key players that have decision-making power to be included in the meeting. They can then relay the information to others. The more cooks in the kitchen, the more difficult it will be to get your point across.
It's super easy to be doing other things while on a conference call, but we urge you to focus. Close your laptop, even close your eyes if need be. Excess stimuli will make it harder to concentrate and listen to the voice on the phone. Check your social media on your lunch break. You're working now.
Instead of asking a general question to the group, always address people by their names. This will lessen the confusion over who should be speaking at any given time. It's like calling "I got it!" in volley ball. Otherwise, everyone rushes into the ball and ends up on the floor.
If you have something to say, say it. Don't pepper the room with "excuse me"'s and "I'm sorry"'s. Own it. Also, speak loudly and clearly, so you don't have to keep repeating yourself.
Audio conferencing is somewhat a thing of the past, considering the new use of video conferencing at offices. But if you're going old school, do it right.
For more on the best conference call systems, click here.
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Working from home, or "WFH" as the kids say, is one of the miraculous benefits that a lot of modern offices are granting to employees. Since a large majority of work can be done remotely—thanks to the innovations of web-based filing systems, online communication, and widespread laptop and mobile device ownership—just because you're not "in the office" doesn't mean you're not "at work." Get what we're saying?
The problem comes when employees misinterpret the privilege of working from home and think it means "sleep from home" or "do other errands while occasionally checking work emails" or "go to your kid's ballet recital" or "sleep until four." While you're not under watch when you work remotely, that doesn't mean it's a free for all.
Being at home can be distracting, though, as we all know. The dog is barking, your room needs cleaning, and someone's grilling a feast next door. Mmm. Here are some tips on how to make your work from home days just as productive as your office days.
1. Whatever you do, do not work in bed.
If you set up your office in your bed, chances are, you will shortly be asleep, your papers will be a mess, and you'll have an unsightly crease on your forehead from where it landed on your laptop keyboard. Being in bed tells you it's time to go night-night. So if you're planning on going through that 10Q report, you should probably be sitting upright.
2. Tell anyone around you that you are working, so you don't get random interruptions.
"Hey, everyone, I'm working from home today, so please don't bother me." Yeah, that should do. Find a room with a door to close and keep it closed. But that doesn't mean you have to lock yourself up all day. A vital part of productivity is taking time for a lunch break and other breaks throughout the day. When your kids start asking you to build a treehouse at three, resist. You'll have a good excuse to put that off until the weekend.
3. Stick to your schedule.
If you're usually in the office by nine, today shouldn't be the day you just open your computer at eleven after your spin class. In fact, you'll spend less time commuting, so if you really want to impress your boss, send an email at seven! That'll show them that you take working from home seriously. Working from home also means that you don't have to be working all night. When it's quitting time, it's quitting time.
4. Get out of your pajamas.
Working from home gives you the benefit of no necessary human interaction, and it may be tempting to stay in your pajamas all day. But we always find that getting showered and dressed makes us feel fresh and helps boost productivity. Staying in our comfies all day makes us just want to curl up in a ball. Dress for success, even when you're not leaving the house. No need for a suit.
5. Get your work space just right.
Open those windows! Natural light will help you be more productive and stay awake longer. If your abode is a basement, you may consider taking your work to a lively coffee shop or a (less lively) library. Being surrounded by productive-seeming people will be inspiring.
6. Don't sleep through your calls.
We can often lose track of time when we're working from home and not constantly looking at the time on our computers at the office. But make sure you don't neglect any calls that have been scheduled. Also, if you're on a call, it might be a good time to feed the dog so he stops barking while you're trying to have a professional conversation.
7. Don't go AWOL.
Just in case your boss calls! You can run out for a bit, but keep it only to what you would do at the office if at all possible. If you need to be out for an extended period of time, give everyone a courtesy head's up. But you know that already.
We all love working from home once in awhile. And who knows, maybe the better you work from home, the more opportunities you'll have to work from home! Want to find out where to find the best remote jobs? Check this out!
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