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Tag: tech tips

The Secret to a Successful Remote Work Experience

Here’s my #1 insight as an employee who never physically met a colleague during the pandemic.

I just left a great job where I worked with a lot of talented people. I always felt connected to those colleagues. We talked regularly, explored the creative process in real time and produced strong video storytelling together.

But I never met any of them in person. Not once.
(Well, I actually did meet one in the New York City office during my interview process right before the world shut down.)

That, of course, was due to the pandemic and some coincidental timing during this chapter in the journey of my career.

Connectivity Denied
I came on board a few weeks into the pandemic.

Like many employees during the forced separation of our Covid-19 experience, my colleagues and I worked from home and relied on the magic of technology to stay tethered.

In many ways, it was remarkably straightforward. Email and instant messaging have been in place for years as the main way to communicate in the corporate environment. So that translates perfectly into any work-from-home scenario.

Using the phone can certainly keep you connected, but the art of the phone call has been on the decline. Many people prefer not to use voice comms when tapping down their thoughts and using an emoji or two will do just fine.

But, of course, I experienced no in-person group meetings in corporate conference rooms. No one-on-ones in the same space. No water-cooler chats.

All of that in-person connection opportunity. The ton of visual communication cues. The raw physical experience. It never existed.

Initiating a video conference meeting (like Zoom, Teams or Webex) was really the only tech tool available to replace the massive gap.

The Power of Video Conferencing
It’s not like remote work and video conferencing from home never existed before. But often, there was an in-person meet-and-greet along the way.

But remote employees hired after March 2020 have been part of this unscheduled social experiment of extreme work isolation over these past fifteen months.

I was one too.

Regular webcam meetings were absolutely essential to building and maintaining my work relationships. And I’m not just talking about group video conference meetings that I hosted or attended. It’s often the impromptu chat that can make all the difference. And I believe that one-on-one conversations are most effective when you can see the other person on your computer screen.

A couple former colleagues liked to poke fun at me for my insistence at always having my webcam turned on during our meetings and impromptu conversations. That’s fine. That’s what I needed to do.

Interestingly, I ran across more than a few people who chose to never turn on their webcams. They existed to me only as disembodied voices. Some apologized for not being ‘camera ready.’

For those of you who have similar inclinations, I would say we’re all Zooming from home with limited conditions. No one lives in a professional TV studio with perfect lighting and an art-directed background.

Using a virtual background can help, but I gave up that imperfect trick months ago. I now prefer showing it like it is. My home office may appear a tad cluttered. So what? (Hey, I’m the parent of an eleven-year-old boy, and I’m the home IT guy. It’s my reality. It’s my authentic space.)

But if you feel that using a virtual background to mask ‘imperfections’ will help you to turn on your webcam, then I’d say it’s worth doing.

Can You See Me?
Call me old fashioned, but I prefer to see the people I work with. (Even projecting a photo icon helps.) Visual communication is so critical to build solid working relationships. And I think this is true for most of us.

For those people who I never got to see, I’m not here to judge their choice. I’m sure they have good reasons. (We were all struggling through a pandemic!)

That said, I must confess that I just couldn’t develop as strong a connection with those individuals as I wanted. Maybe that’s my own problem. But I do think we all need a little visual now and again to help make it real.

It Shouldn’t be a Secret
By now, I’m sure it won’t surprise you to read that my secret to a successful remote work experience…

…is to just turn on your webcam! The rest follows.

They say simply showing up is a key to success. If that’s true, then I think you’ve got to show up for your close up. It’s as easy as that.

This will apply beyond the pandemic. I’m sure video conferencing from home isn’t going away as the workplace shifts into a new post-pandemic norm.

And for those co-workers who don’t report to the same office, this best practice couldn’t be more relevant. (Lots of my former colleagues live in different cities.)

Day 1
And as I look forward, I take these important visual communication tech tips to the next chapter in my career.

I’ve got my webcam set, my lighting prepped and my audio triple checked.
(Yes, it’s important to be seen, but they’ve also got to hear you clearly!)

Testing. Testing. One… two… three.
Here we go!

My anticipation feels like the first day of school.

I love it.

The Borg Advantage of a Shared Cloud Calendar

You don’t need futuristic “Star Trek” solutions to properly sync to your partner’s schedule. Your smartphone already provides that connectivity…

I’m sorry if this confession surprises you, but I am about to describe how my wife and I used to coordinate our schedules… Once upon a time, we’d take out our iPhones during dinner and open up our individual calendars for the upcoming days. We’d discuss our son’s schedule and imminent family events to ensure we were both on the same page. Each of us then added in the requisite events into our own calendars.

Tap, tap, tap.
Tap, tap, tap, tap.
Tap, tap, tap, tap, delete, delete, tap, tap.

(This can really ruin dessert.)

While this antiquated process facilitated a nice conversation about what was going on in our busy lives, it was totally unnecessary from a calendar-syncing perspective.

Create a Synced Calendar to Better Connect Your Family
To upgrade from all of this unnecessary manual coordination, all you need to do is simply create a new ‘shared calendar’ in the Calendar app through iCloud and then invite your partner to join it via email.
(It’s really not that difficult…and not at all as painful as joining the Borg collective on “Star Trek.”)

When you create a new event, just make sure you assign it to this new calendar category.

Once your spouse accepts your invitation to the shared family calendar, any new event you create will also immediately appear in her own Calendar app. (She does need to ‘accept it.’) And she can do the same for your calendar!
(Remember, you can view multiple calendars together on one screen.)

It’s a perfect two-way flow of information to schedule your active lives.
Totally synced… so the two of you can be in sync!

And you don’t have to change or give up anything about your existing personal calendar. It’s all additive.
(The shared events show up as a different color.)

Brilliant!

Cloud Calendars Rock
My wife and I have been using our shared iCloud family calendar for the past few years, and it’s been a game changer for us. It even keeps us organized between our check-in scheduling conversations, because our Calendar apps let us know when a new event has been added.

So, it effectively provides real-time updates to our ever-changing family schedules.

I know there are any number of shared-calendar apps out there, but I’m always partial to using native applications for my technology solutions.

Resistance is Futile
Our son is eight years old, but I know he’s already just a few years away from using smartphone tech. (Exactly how many years is a topic for another conversation.) I expect that shared cloud calendars are already firmly established as a key digital tool for families with older kids.

But if you’re not yet savvy to this Borg-like connectivity, I urge you not to resist joining the ‘collective-think’ advantage of using a shared iCloud calendar.

4 Ways to Handle the Mess of Taking Too Many Pictures

Irony is everywhere… especially when it comes to taking pictures. If you’re having a hard time managing and sharing all of your disorganized digital photos, you’re not alone. I’ve got a few tips to help you get back on track…

Now that summertime has unofficially begun, I’d like to share a little warning… Don’t fall for what I call the “Quadrotriticale Paradox.”

Remember that “Star Trek” episode titled “The Trouble with Tribbles” where those cute furballs found their way into a poisoned storage bin of quadrotriticale? All of the tribbles had a big feast, but many ended up starving after eating the poisoned grain.

What does this have to do with all of those summer photos you’re going to be taking…? If you’re snapping hundreds of pictures, your family and friends may still feel like they’re starving to receive a few images that show what you’ve been up to.

What’s the Plan?
We all want to share our best summer moments, but the “Quadrotriticale Paradox” can get in the way. The truth is the more pictures your take, the lower the odds you’ll actually find the time to go through, organize and share your top photos.

Short of taking fewer pictures…
The best way to reverse the effects of the paradox is have a good plan on how to unlock and release your photographic treasures.

Here are four ways that help me get the job done…

#1
Rate Your Photos to Find the Gems
There is no magic bullet. You have to review each photo.
(I prefer using the larger real estate of a computer screen vs. a smartphone or tablet.)
Use the 1-5 numbering system.
(Both Adobe Lightroom and Apple’s Photos allow you to do this.)

Here are my rating rules-

  1. Total failure. Give it an immediate appointment with the trash bin.
  2. Really bad photo. Trash it unless it’s the only shot of something special.
  3. Just okay. Decide whether to trash it another time.
  4. Good photo, but there’s a better version of it
  5. The better version or simply a great picture

Then, organize your photo album to display in descending order based on the rating numbers.

Give your 2’s another look and see if any of them should be a 3.

Then move the 1’s and 2’s into the trash, and DELETE!
Your worst photos are now gone forever.
Now it’s time to focus on the pictures you want to show off.
And those are your 5’s.

#2
Share Your Photos Quickly
I know I’ve said it before, but it’s always worth repeating…

Your family photos have an expiration date! Nobody is really interested in last month’s photo. Last week is already yesterday’s news. Yesterday’s pics are okay, but today’s photos are even better.

So, you don’t have a lot of time before your amazing photos are old news.

If you want to tweak your best pics before sharing, that’s fine, but don’t let that delay your process. You can always take the time to crop and adjust the colors and brightness when building your archival photo albums.

#3
One is Better than None
Sometimes, when time is really working against you, you’ve won’t have the luxury of evaluating and rating your photos.

Instead, just ask yourself this question…
“Which one or two pictures tell the story?”

You’ll need to rely on your instincts here, because remember… you won’t have the time to go back through all of your photos.

If you start practicing this technique regularly, you’ll begin to recognize ‘the shot’ when you take it.

Then, you’ll be able to quickly find it again and share it with your world.

#4
Don’t Fall Behind!
After the firestorm of immediacy subsides, you may return to your more organized process.

But there’s never really more time to handle yesterday’s photos, because tomorrow’s are just around the corner.

And if you fall behind and develop a backlog of pictures to review… you may never get to them.

You’ll find yourself sitting on thousands of photos from months and years past that nobody else ever had the chance to enjoy.

It’s Time to Deal with the Mess
The reality is we’re all faced with the likelihood of having to manage thousands more pictures in the years to come.

The Quadrotriticale Paradox is a beast that needs to be kept under control.
Or else.

Now go tame your photographic jungle and hunt down your best pictures to share. And if you come across a wild tribble or discover a way to stretch the fabric of time, please let me know!

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