How to work online and be a human
Episode 138 - How to work online, remain productive, and connect with people
I am always giving my clients tips on how to work online. Here are the key complaints I hear from clients and friends:
It's hard to connect with people
It's hard to keep productive
It's lonely, and
There's a tendency to work too much
I feel this happens for several reasons:
We're just not that used to it - yet
We are trying to work using old routines and models that are better suited for face to face
We still have a few issues feeling comfortable in front of a camera, or with technology in general, and
For those working from home, this means working from what is/was our personal space. Considering how much of our personal space we want to share on-screen is still something many are struggling with.
But, working online is now the main aspect of white-collar working life. Many office workers who, pre-pandemic, had to commute to work now can work remotely. Even if they go back to the office, you may find it empty, and most of the work you do is still in front of the computer anyway. So for transitional office-based companies, virtual companies, working for yourself, or job hunting, I hope you will find these tips helpful.
I work from home all day, every day. Here are my top tips:
1. Be ruthless with emails
I check them every day, early in the morning and last thing at night. I don't advise everyone to do this; quite the contrary. I do it because it suits my line of work. It works for me because I have clients globally. I just invite you to consider the following: what email management routine will help you cope with your work? Then apply it daily, and stick to it.
Another email rule is that I don't answer emails after hours or on the weekend. Many of my clients email me during the weekend because if they are working, this is the time they have to work on their career plans and job search. But I need my break; otherwise, I will burn out. I will still read the emails every morning, even on weekends, because I need to keep an eye on emergencies. If it's not an emergency, it can wait.
2. GIFs and Emojis are fine
We need to find ways to show emotions when working online. I've learned to love to by observing how the millennials and Gen Z use them. I used to think they were childish.
But now, I hardly see anyone face to face, and if an emoji will translate my facial expression or emotion and make people smile, then I am a fan. It's important to be playful and have some fun during work. But keep in mind that you need to know when and who to send them to. Of course, GIFs and emojis are not for every communication. In my case, if you get an emoji from me, it's because we're already pals.
3. Videos and voice messages are your friend
I am addicted to Loom, a video messaging platform that has replaced at least half of my written emails. Below is an example: in this video, I am teaching how to disable the "People also viewed" box on LinkedIn. I always recommend that all my clients do this when they're looking for work. Click to watch this 1-minute video:
I copy-paste the link to the Loom video into an email, send it to a client, and this is how I coach between sessions. I also communicate with my family in Australia and overseas with voice messages on WhatsApp. This way, it's more personal, and I don't have to look at the screen and type all day. I can record when I'm walking. It's much more fun for me to receive a voice message from a friend on the other side of the world than read ger text.
4. Look good on video
Show up on camera as much as possible. There's nothing worse for a meeting organizer or event speaker when everyone's camera is off. I also believe it's better for your career
Invest in a camera with clear image and audio. I will link here the camera I use. It sits either on my monitor or on a tripod
Have it at your eye-level
Ensure you have a background that denotes professionalism
Avoid fake and blurry backgrounds: they are suitable for emergencies, for example, if you're traveling. Another exception is for corporate branding only, such as when you're holding a public event or conference.
5. Create fun traditions and opportunities working online
I am a fan of a Zoom open-door policy. It's like the old-fashion open door, but on Zoom, Google meet, or wherever you hold your online video meetings. I also know that some workplaces are trying new traditions such as trivia nights and drinks. And finally, make the most out of your online work environment by posting, sharing ideas, and contributing to others who take the lead and share. Please, everyone, try to give these a go.
6. Have at least two monitors
Having at least two monitors is an essential aspect of working online. It helps with so many different tasks. Drag and drop, presentation view, and working while checking the Slack activity. It's the best investment you will ever make.
7. Find time during the week to have real coffee with a colleague or a walking meeting
I know that for some people, the comfort of working from home is hard to give up. But it's really important to maintain connections with colleagues and your professional network. In a few days, I will have a walking meeting with someone I have not seen for over two years. I am happy she reached out and glad that the pandemic has made it ok for us to have a professional conversation while walking on the beach, wearing leggings.
New times, new traditions!
Timestamps to guide your listening
7:43 - Be ruthless with emails
12:13 - GIFs and Emojis are fine
14:31 - Videos and voice messages are your friend
16:18 - Look good on video
20:24 - Create fun traditions and opportunities working online
21:37 - Have at least two monitors
22:33 - Find time during the week to have real coffee with a colleague or a walking meeting
Transcript of this episode
Renata: Hello, everyone. Welcome to another episode of the job hunting podcast. I am so glad that you're here. I feel like the previous episode 1 37 was so long and I spoke for such a long time. So today let's try hard for you know, a shorter episode this time. Tell me what you prefer. If you were a subscriber to my newsletter, reply back and let me know. Oh, I prefer a longer one or I prefer a shorter one. I would love to know what you prefer. I plan to, this year at some stage, do a survey with all of you and really hope that you get back to me because it will be great to have those statistics and those requests from you for new topics. I really want to get your opinion, so I'll make sure I organize that for the future.
Renata: But for now, let's talk about working online, how to do it the best possible way tips from me. I work online all day. Let's listen.
Renata: So I'm always giving my clients tips on how to work online from several perspectives. Some professionals find it really challenging. The key complaints that I hear is that, it's hard to connect with. It's online. I'm not there face to face. I can't see how they're reacting. I don't know what they think.
Renata: The second complaint is that I'm not productive. You know, I can't keep productive. I'm sitting in front of a computer all day, every day and it feels like Groundhog day. And I Muluzi my, inspiration, my motivation, my mojo, then people also tell me it's lonely and you know, there's. Disconnected from the world in front of a computer all day.
Renata: And I also find that there's a tendency for us to work too much. And this fourth issue is my personal issue. I tend to work too much because I'm in front of my computer and I sometimes just getting to a flow and I find it really hard to get out of it because I want to finish a task or finish a project.
Renata: And. I feel that this happens for several reasons. We're just not used to it yet. It's kind of new to me for some people like my husband, who has always worked in tech and has worked from home most of his career for him, it's normal. And I find that he has much better. Routines and daily habits than I do because he's been doing it for longer.
Renata: And at times I remember him making fun of him that he would dress up, you know, jeans and belts on, I used to make fun of him that he, he used to wear a belt to work from home and now I totally get it, you know, like for me and for him, we need to dress up to work from home. So I don't think we're used to it yet.
Renata: We're just frightening. I also think we're trying to work from home and online. And by the way, when I say online, I don't mean just from home. You can be working in an office and being in front of a computer all day. But I think we're trying to use old routines and models that are better suited.
Renata: For a different type of working environment. And as a kind of hybrid generation was still adjusting those different models into this new virtual office world. We still have also a few issues with technology and how to use it. Why. And when to use it. And there is an etiquette in all of this that we're still establishing as we go.
Renata: And I know that like even working with my clients as I'm onboarding them, I. give them the etiquette of how to work with me. And I, feel like with every working environment, you also need to establish those routines, that culture of how you want people to work in this new virtual office space.
Renata: It's our personal space as well. So if you're working from home, I think we still have a few issues. What some believe is like an invasion of your privacy, because you're in your home office and people can see your home. And some people are still iffy about that. Have you noticed, are you one of those people I'd love to hear from you?
Renata: Let me know, reach out to me via DMS or reply to my emails and let me know. So working online is now a main aspect of white collar working life. If you're a corporate professional, a professional working in the nonprofit sector, or even in public life, many office workers. Who pre pandemic had to commute to work now can work remotely.
Renata: But even if you go back to the office and now people are going back to the office two days a week, three days a week, four days a week, or full-time, you know, there's a bit of a battle there happening between employees and employers. About all of that, but you may go to the office and find it empty. A lot of my clients tell me that they've been told to go back to the office two, three days a week and they get there.
Renata: And it's not the same vibe, but people aren't there yet, or maybe they will never be. And we find that most of the work you do, even if you are in the office still is in front of the computer. Anyway. So for. Transitional office based companies, virtual companies, working for yourself or job hunting. I hope that you will find the steps on how to work online, useful to you.
Renata: Now I work from home all day, every day, and I am trying really hard to go back to one day a week, driving into Melbourne CBD, you know, the inner city area and working from a lounge area or club or, Oh in an office. So I, I been saying this since January and then Amir Chrome happened, and then I got really sick.
Renata: Now I'm about to go overseas, but you know, before the end of the year, I really want to have maybe a day a fortnight where I am in the city. And I can see my, business collaborators, maybe some of my Melbourne based clients. And that will be really fun for me. But for now I work from home all day and I also have clients that ask me.
Renata: How do you do this? And how can you help me? I've even had consultations people that book a time to talk to me, not about job hunting, but how do you connect with their new colleagues? If they've just started a new job and they've never met them face to face, how do you connect with new colleagues who you may never meet?
Renata: Okay. So here are my key tips for you. First of all, I am. Ruthless with my emails, ruthless with my emails. I checked them every day. I do. I checked him very early in the morning and last thing at night, when I say very early in the morning, it's the first thing I do. This may not be the thing for you. I'm not telling you to do what I do.
Renata: Okay. Quite the contrary, you have to be very careful with emails and technology. I do it because it suits my line of work. I am a career coach. My clients are looking for jobs. Some of them are very anxious about it, and I have clients all over the world. When I wake up in the morning, it's the end of the day for some of my clients checking my emails is essential for me to help those private clients that count on me for support.
Renata: So it works for. And I just ask that you consider what will help you cope with your inbox and your work and manage it in the best possible way. Find a pattern and a routine and stick to it, stick to it for a few weeks at least, and see if it helps you. So my priority. My first priority at, at work, my private clients followed by my new prospects.
Renata: So those clients that are trying to work with me in coaching, my private clients are instructed to call or text me when something is urgent. You know? So when somebody pays me to be their career coach for three months, six months to a year, I am on call and if something is urgent, I need to be involved.
Renata: If it's not urgent, then email me. I will always reply to clients emails early in the morning. First thing that I do, you know, Yeah, unless it's urgent. I have my breakfast. I exercise. Then I sit at my desk and I reply to those emails, everything else, all the other emails they can wait and it needs to fit within my schedule to answer a damn I don't, sit and answer every single email and clean up my inbox.
Renata: Now I don't have time for that when I have time for it. When it's allocated in My daily schedule, my weekly schedule, that's when it gets done. So, for example, unless the sky is falling, I will not answer emails after hours or during the weekend. Many of my clients email me during the weekend because if they are working full time in their job, searching on the side.
Renata: The weekends are usually the time that they have allocated to the work that we agreed that they need to do, you know, in our previous coaching session. But I really do need my break. Otherwise I will burn out and I won't be able to help them. So I read the emails just to make sure there's no emergency.
Renata: But I don't reply to emails on Saturdays and Sundays. I really need to take a break. If it's not an emergency, you can wait. And if it's not an email from a client on a weekday and I have a busy day ahead, it also needs to wait until such time. One in my calendar, it says, check your emails and answer emails like today, for example is not such a day today.
Renata: It's a Monday as I am recording this. I had maybe four important emails from clients, three of them from overseas clients. And I replied to all of them. I answered all of their questions. And then I got straight into podcasting. So I recorded three episodes. I released another episode. So Mondays, I usually podcasting days and I'm not going to check or reply to any of the other emails in my inbox.
Renata: And I am suggesting that you find what works for you and be ruthless because otherwise my friend, you will be inside your inbox all day. Yeah. If I remember, well, you know, in my corporate days, it was really hard to break that habit of just answering emails and you're not really paid to answer emails.
Renata: You're replayed to get the job done. It may require you to answer emails, but you know, check what's really important for you and stick to it. The second thing that I would suggest that makes my, Working online, really enjoyable is emojis and gifts. You know, emojis and gifts are fine. People.
Renata: We need to show emotions. We need to be playful and have fun with your colleagues. In my case, with my clients, with my collaborators, we used to think that these things were childish, but now we don't want. Our faces are not showing anymore, almost ever. And you know, it's a zoom meeting, but you know what I mean?
Renata: Like we need to show our emotions and be playful and find ways to have some fun. And I do find it funny to use gifs and emojis. You don't send them to everyone. There's an etiquette there that I want to talk to you about. Need to know who can receive them and who can understand it may be that it's something that you start doing.
Renata: One system. Feeling a connection with a colleague or a coworker. It also needs to be in good taste. And of course it's not for every communication, sometimes a new client or a collaborator and myself, we need to kind of grow into our connection before I send them an emoji. But it's really funny because when I was doing research for this.
Renata: Item here of the episode. I had some gifts open on my monitor, and my husband walked in. It was this little girl who was making this face, and she was feeling very miserable. And he said, oh, this is you last week. And I thought, yes. That's exactly how I was feeling last week.
Renata: Like last week, for some reason, it was such a great week in so many ways, but I was so overwhelmed and I had so much on and I. Telling him, I feel grumpy. I feel like I'm in a bad mood. so if I find that gift again, I will definitely add to the blog. So you can go to the blog for this episode and see the gift.
Renata: Cause it's quite funny. So consider, you know, adding some fun and joy and being playful with your work life and your connections. When you think it's appropriate. And the third tip I'm going to give you is to use videos and voice messages, videos, and voice messages are your friend. I use a platform called loam L Dubbo M to replace emails.
Renata: So instead of writing a very long email to someone explaining what to do, I will record myself showing them what to do. So I might be on a website or. Dean or I have a PowerPoint presentation on, and then there's a little circle with my face on it. And I'm explaining what's in that screen that I'm sharing.
Renata: And then that link is created. And I added to the email and said, let's say, John, John, I've recorded a video showing it to you instead of writing it to you. And people love it and it's easy to access and it's free. Why don't you test them now, if you have Microsoft teams or other platforms, you may already have something like that, are you using it to benefit you in, to make your life easier and more fun and add more of a human connection with your colleagues?
Renata: Think about it. Yeah. Use it, I also like voice messages. So for me, I use WhatsApp, but there could be other types of voice messages in your workplace, like slack or discord, whatever your team is using. Use it don't write emails or write text all the time, use videos and use voice messages to connect with your team.
Renata: You are going to benefit from this and they will benefit as well.
Renata: The fourth thing that I was going to recommend this for you to look good on video. I think people underestimate the power of the camera being on and the etiquette as well. So for example, if you're invited to be on a webinar or a zoom call or an online conference or master class or a meeting with your boss, whatever it is, if the video is allowed, turn it on.
Renata: Be there and show your face. If you're an ambitious professional, not showing your face is a sin. Let me tell you it's a total sin. Not only that, but the camera needs to be crisp and clear. I've mentioned this before that I have a great laptop with a terrible camera. It's don't buy it. It's an HP spectra.
Renata: You know, it has a bang and Olufsen sound system. It's quite fancy. It was expensive. I did not expect the camera to be so shit, to be honest. So I bought a logic tech kit. I will put the link below. I've mentioned before. A lot of my clients have it. All my kids bought it. Like everybody has the same camera because it's good.
Renata: And it's a great investment if you're going to be working from home. So consider having a crisp and clear image, put it at eye level or slightly above island. And, for that, you may have it sitting on your monitor or if you use a laptop, maybe have it on a tripod, which is what I have at the moment. So even though I have a monitor, I think it looks best when it's on this desk, tripod that I have, I'll put the link below in case you want to buy it as well.
Renata: All of these things don't have to be expensive by the way, my tripod, I think, was like $19. This camera. I don't know, 200, which is expensive. I'm talking about Australian dollars by the way. So it could be less in the U S so they are investments, but I don't think they need to be super expensive. I think there are logic tech cameras.
Renata: There are a half or a quarter of that price and still agree. I also think you need a great sound that is clear a good microphone. None of this needs to be expensive background. That denotes professionalism is really important. So I strongly recommend all my clients to avoid fake backgrounds and blurry backgrounds.
Renata: They are good for emergencies that say you're in a hotel room or at your house. In-laws place and you know, it's not the best setup then. Okay. Or if you, are required to buy work, some workplaces require the branding to be in the background. Let's say if you're talking to clients, I understand that that's okay.
Renata: But other than that, yes. Your own background of your home office or your office, if you are at work is the best. It's good for the eyes of the people looking at you. I think that the fake backgrounds for me, I have dry eye syndrome. It's really bad. I don't like it. Sometimes. Background with a photo of your recent holiday so that, you know, let's say you've been away for two weeks and you went on a holiday, you're back then put some photos on a screen behind you so that, you know, if it's your first day back, people can see where you at.
Renata: And I think that that's fun. Or if it's a particular day, let's say it's Valentine's day or St. Patrick's day or Christmas, have a FA a fake background for that day. And that's it. Then go back to your professional setting and it's essential that your background reflects your professionalism. So think about what can be in the background to showcase your home office in a way that showcases you as a serious professional.
Renata: That's really important. Number five, create fun traditions and opportunities for working online. I am a big fan of a zoom open door policy. Now I use them. You can use other, other environments, but the idea is that there were times when I would set up a. For my coaching clients, for example, my, my group coaching clients, I would say, look, I am going to be on my zoom office space all morning.
Renata: This. You can come in and out. It's an open door policy. There's no appointment, right? Like it's a group coaching. So they all knew each other anyway. And whoever wanted to come in for a chat would come in. It was an open door policy. I could have two people there. Three people. Zero people there, if no one showed up, I would just be working away.
Renata: If somebody showed up, I'm like, yeah, yeah, let's let's chat. So that's what I call a zoom open door policy. And I really liked that idea. I like that some people have special trivia days. They have like a trivia during lunchtime or a late afternoon drink together. I think having those fun traditions are important.
Renata: So find one that works for you have at least. To monitor. That's the best idea. Idea, number six, I think people underestimate how great it is to have a second monitor. It helps with presentation. So for example, if you're presenting to clients, if you're presenting at a board meeting, you can have your PowerPoint on one monitor and your notes on the automatic.
Renata: And that is so much easier to help with presentations, or you can have your work on your one monitor and the office slack or Microsoft teams happening beside you, so that you still sort of seeing what people are saying. And you might step in and, and, you know, interact in the same way that you would if, the, the office was full of people and there was a great conversation going on.
Renata: And finally find time during the week to have a real coffee with a colleague or a walking meeting. This is so good. Like if you can, let's say there's a colleague that works near you. Why not organized to have a coffee every now and then, or, you know, go for a meeting, which is a walking meeting.
Renata: And sometimes I do that with my clients. I say, yes, I can take your call. Do you mind if I do it while I walk? And we do that and just getting out of the house, hopefully with somebody next to you. But if not, at least with somebody in your ears, I use ayou're bad for that. And I love it. It's so seamless from my phone to my computer.
my husband and I live with those Jabora ear buds all the time, so much. So we don't talk to each other during the day, if we do, we physically need to touch each other. Cause we're always, either listening to a meeting or to a client or podcast or music or whatnot. So, you know, I find that that really helps me get out of my desk and go out.
Renata: But. Be participating in a meeting. If I need a break from the screen. I hope that these seven tips have helped you reconsider how you work online. And please let me know if you have another tip to add to this, we can add it to the blog. No problem at all. To send me an email or reach out to me via. Direct message on any of my social media platforms.
Renata: You can follow me on Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, of course. Where else? YouTube, you can, you know, if you're listening to this on YouTube, just write up a note below, take talk, just find me in, send me what your tip would be. If you could add a tip to this list and I'll edit to the. All right. That's it from me, it's much shorter one than the last one.
Renata: So I'm very happy with that. And I will see you next week with another episode of the job hunting podcast. Don't forget to subscribe, give it a five star rating. If you are on apple podcasts, I would love to get a review from you. It will mean the world to me. If you could leave a review and, yeah, I'll see you next time.
About the Host
Hello, I’m Renata Bernarde, the Host of The Job Hunting Podcast. I’m also an executive coach, job hunting expert, and career strategist. I teach professionals (corporate, non-profit, and public) the steps and frameworks to help them find great jobs, change, and advance their careers with confidence and less stress.
If you are an ambitious professional who is keen to develop a robust career plan, if you are looking to find your next job or promotion, or if you want to keep a finger on the pulse of the job market so that when you are ready, and an opportunity arises, you can hit the ground running, then this podcast is for you.
In addition to The Job Hunting Podcast, , on my website, I have developed a range of courses and services for professionals in career or job transition. And, of course, I also coach private clients.
Contact Renata Bernarde
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