Muting your mic and switching off the video give rise to umpteen possibilities.
The pandemic has brought our work into our homes, and to maintain the standard work rhythm, video calls and online meetings have replaced face-to-face office meetings and reviews. The jury is still divided on whether productivity has gone up or down online, or whether remaining confined to home and working from home using online tools has enhanced the work-life balance or detracted from it. All the same, one can try to make the most of once online presence in a number of ways.
Online engagements are manna from heaven for multi-taskers. Muting your mic and switching off the video while not speaking gives rise to umpteen possibilities of utilising the time at hand in better ways. Finishing a meal or a quick snack, reading the newspaper, and checking and replying to mails are some of the commonest things that people are doing, besides taking power naps in the middle of important meetings. Of course, one needs to have a dog’s sense of alertness so that if you are called out in the middle of the conference, you should be able to join in the flow of the conversation as if nothing has happened.
Another audacious thing to do is to participate in two conferences simultaneously. This obviously requires access to two devices and a sharp skill to be able to listen to both the conversations with one ear each, and with dexterity, switching on and off wherever you are required to participate. Or even send a pre-recorded message at the appropriate time, possibly giving the impression that the speaker is speaking live to the audience.
Occasionally, the meeting protocol may require that your video camera is turned on all the time. This may ruin the possibility for significant multitasking; however, there is one important task that one can manage even during such difficult occasions. Wear your mask, which, apart from protecting you from the virus, conceals lip movement. Use the speaker phone to make your pending phone calls, of course, with half-a-ear also listening to the videoconference.
Managing your essential commute in between the calls is also a smart practice. The commute can be planned to coincide with those online interactions in which you can leave the video off all the time. If you are reasonably sure that the 4G network will hold all throughout your commute, you can take the brave decision of completing your commute while also finishing the online interaction.
Many people, particularly seasoned conference speakers, rue the opportunity of networking that used to happen during in-person events. I have discovered a tactic that, in my experience, has turned out to be more effective for networking. Almost all the conferencing tools have the facility of simultaneous chat, which can be addressed to everyone present, or can be targeted individually. I have seen that in the middle of the conference, a few personalised chat messages to people with whom you genuinely want to network or bond is extremely effective. Practically everyone with whom I have exchanged chats in this form has responded very positively, and the innocuous chat has led to subsequent interactions with greater outcomes. On the few occasions when I have been the recipient of such messages, I have also responded very warmly to all of them. I guess this happens because, devoid of face-to-face human interactions, this is the nearest of getting personalised attention and recognition. Since these are few and far between, the recipient responds both emotionally and logically to the sender.
It may be a while till technology and the videoconference hosts catch up with all these “multi-tasking”. But till then, why not make the best of your online time.