Top 5 Tips for Working from Home and Productive Virtual Meetings

By Louisa Trackman

Louisa (center) with East Africa staff at 2019 EAGLS

Our global community has entered a very different reality than just a few weeks ago and many of us find ourselves working from home, having many more meetings via phone and video conferencing. At Creative Action Institute, video conferencing for our global team is a norm. But we’ve all been at virtual (and in person) meetings that are not as productive as we would like. Here are our five top tips for working from home and having productive meetings.

1. Get ready for work! Maintaining routine in these unprecedented times is hard. But finding a rhythm and trying to stick with it helps. It’s important to get up, get dressed assuming that at some point there will be a video call, eat breakfast, (and maybe take care of your kids who are now at home too or your pets who are overjoyed that you’re home) and enter into “I’m now at work” mindset. Whether your physical workspace is the kitchen table or a home office or a cozy corner, mentally knowing that you’re “at work” for specific blocks of time helps to keep you focused.

2. Have an agenda. We have an agenda for every meeting we have. Every. Single. One. Whoever is leading the meeting shares it in advance and it is added to collectively, so everyone is heard and knows what to expect.

3. Show up on time and be accountable. We have a team that spans ten time zones. But in order to make team meetings work, some may be up early and others up late, which makes it imperative to show up when you say you will. This simple act of showing up at an agreed upon time signals that you value everyone’s time (Of course sometimes things come up unexpectedly, in which case clear communication and flexibility are key!). I’d say about 99% of our meetings are on time and everyone shows up ready.

4. Make space for sharing. At the beginning of each of our meetings, we leave space for personal connection. Asking how everyone is, celebrating birthdays, laughing over meme we saw, saying hi to each other’s children who are also at home. At out monthly team meetings we incorporate a quick creative opening that gives us a chance to exercise our creativity, learn about each other, and get ready to be present. It might be as simple as a question like, "if you could be any animal, what would it be and why?" It might pull us out of our comfort zones like, having to make a full body gesture and sound that represents how you’re feeling. It might be taking a minute to draw a portrait (without looking at the paper) of someone else on the call and then sharing them. The possibilities are endless.

5. Be accessible. Since we don’t share an office space - where we run into each other or grab lunch and catch up or peek over our cubicles to ask a question - as a team we have agreed to all be on Skype when we’re working so it’s easy to send a quick message or call. Whether it’s Skype or some other platform, having a culture of accessibility means that communication is better. We use video whenever possible, because while we might be meeting virtually, seeing each other’s faces, expressions, and body language helps us stay connected.

That’s all for now, but please stay tuned for our upcoming webinar on building teamwork and collaboration with virtual teams. Stay safe! Wash your hands! Practice social distancing!