Back in May, Jinesh Narayanankutty, Brent Edwards and I co-hosted a webinar, Improving Your Online Home Office Presence, to aid the transition into working from home during the Covid Lockdown with the express goal of giving people insight into how to stay visible with colleagues when not meeting them in a face to face environment. I don’t think anyone would have guessed that in late August, three months later, this would remain relevant. As these topics in the new normal appear to remain relevant and probably will remain relevant into the near future, it’s a good time as any to actually share the webinar and the transcript here on this blog for your easy reference.
A little about our panelists before watching the program:
Jinesh Narayanankutty, the moderator of the session, is the Founder and Director of TechV Connects Inc., in Canada. He has over 17 years of experience in providing effective Digital Transformation Solutions to the aviation, oil and gas, logistics, healthcare and education sectors in both the private and public domains across North America, Europe, Middle East and Asia. Check out Jinesh’s LinkedIn profile for more.
Brent Edwards, the host of the session, is a Professional Networking Advisor and the founder of BrentCanada Experiences. Building on over 30 years of sales, marketing and product development experience in the Greater Toronto Area market, Brent is eager to assist entrepreneurs new to Canada with improving their professional networking skills. A prior volunteer with the Institute for Canadian Citizenship, he has helped to organize enhanced citizen ceremonies for new Canadians. He is also a two-time mentor with the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council. Brent’s 15 years of people leadership experience and ten years as a Toastmaster has equipped him with the coaching and feedback skills needed to coach newcomers on their professional networking. Brent has appeared on New Canadians TV as an expert guest on business networking. For more on his professional endeavors, check out Brent’s LinkedIn profile.
Jennifer Kumar is the Managing Director of Authentic Journeys. Jennifer has over a decade of experience coaching US client facing professionals in India who manage teams and projects in virtual environments. Jennifer understands some of the cultural missteps that professionals who work between the US and India face, as she herself has lived and worked in India for over 10 years. She takes this experience to help teams and professionals like you to work more successfully across cultures, understand and mitigate cultural differences to build more effective working relationships, building your team, your reputation and your business. Get in touch with her here.
Jinesh [00:00:01] Hi, good morning, good afternoon. Good evening, everybody. From which ever part of the world you are and… I can see people trying to join in. Thank you so much for joining us tonight. I am Jinesh Narayanankutty and I will be moderating the session for tonight. And we have to experts Mr. Brent Edwards and Ms. Jennifer Kumar with us tonight to discuss on the most important topic of these days, Improving Your Online Home Office Presence.
Jinesh [00:00:32] Just a brief bio on Brent. Building on 30 years of sales, marketing, and product development [and] experience in greater Toronto area market. Brent Edwards is eager to assess newcomers with improving their professional networking skills. Ladies and gentlemen, let me welcome Mr. Brent Edwards, your host for the evening. Hi, Brent.
Brent [00:00:54] Hey Jinesh. Thank you so much for the for the really kind introduction.
Brent [00:00:58] Like to welcome everyone to our webinar for this evening. Delighted that so many people [have] been able to join us. Tonight it’s about improving your online presence from home. Because of Covid 19 many of us have moved to [a] home office. And, this has been a challenging time for many of us. It’s also given us the chance to spend more time with our family, have less of a commute. But, it has been a very challenging time from a career perspective for many of us. From a health perspective, and just worrying about our fellow citizens and how they’re coping through this crisis. The purpose for our event tonight is really to provide you with some tools and skills that can assist you with improving your presence from working from home. We’re privileged to be joined by Jennifer Kumar, who’s the Managing Director of Authentic Journeys, Jennifer has run her business for ten years from Salt Lake City, Utah. She’s an expert in cross-cultural communications. Then we’ll be able to assist us tonight with suggestions on how to improve your online presence.
Brent [00:02:17] We are going to be asking some questions from the audience. We’ll be using the chat function and if you have any questions you want to ask of us. We’re also going to be exploring some issues around etiquette, around working with your teammates, managing your expectations of your managers, and hope that you find this that this issue really to be of importance. And it’s my great pleasure to introduce my LinkedIn friend. Live from Salt Lake City, Utah, Jennifer Kumar.
Jennifer [00:02:53] Thank you so much. And welcome, everybody. I hope that you’re having a good evening or a good day wherever you are in the world. Nice to see that there are a few people who joined us and we will be having a very lively and interactive discussion today. I have broken up the presentation to allow for you to share your comments. So when we get to those sections, don’t hesitate to share your answers or responses in the chat box on the screen in front of you. We really hope to get your feedback as we go through today’s presentation. So as we start off, basically what I wanted to do is also give you a little bit more context about about why we’re here and what we’re doing. So obviously, you know a little bit about Brent and you know a little bit about me. And I want to go into a little bit more about the context for my presentation today. So, as Brent said, I am in Salt Lake City. Authentic Journeys is registered business in Salt Lake City, but it’s also a registered business in India. Actually, I initiated the business in India about 10 years ago. And in that time, I worked with over 50. That’s five zero companies in India. And then 90 percent of those companies were working in an office setting. So there was only about 10 percent that actually were fully remote. There’s the culture of the organization was initiated from a fully remote scenario. But, a majority of people work in a remote or a virtual office type of situation only on certain occasions, like if they’re not feeling well, they would work in a remote scenario or their offices were located in various parts of India or the world.
Jennifer [00:04:38] So that being said, many of the companies I worked with did have international stakeholders or clients or counterparts. So they were used to virtual meetings. But now, of course, says the Covid, lock down it’s virtual meetings day in and day out, every single moment of the day, any anytime they want to interact with anybody, even the local colleagues and counterparts. So, that context is a little pertinent to my discussion, because many of the examples I give are actually from the clients I work with in India. And those those companies, 90 percent of them were startup companies. So 10 to about 300 people. And some of them did have offices also in the US or Canada. So there was a cross-cultural element to understanding not only how to work with international clients who were not based in India, but also colleagues and counterparts who are not based in India and the countries that we’re trying to focus on right now and working with people from the North American context. So obviously, our talk today comes from from a wide — it’s a wide topic. We could talk about it for days. In fact, there are, you know, daylong seminars and workshops on this topic. But we’re we have limited time. So I’m trying to break it up into three areas here.
Jennifer [00:06:04] And we’re going to start with the online etiquette protocol and then we’re going to move into culture of teammates and that team and beyond. So as I was doing the research for this, I reached out to a lot of my clients with which I said are predominantly in India to find out how they actually transitioned their offices to a fully work from home environment. So here what you see on this slide, and I have to change the format again so I can also read it now is too small for me. OK. I was speaking with Siddharth Deshmukh of Shimbi Labs in India. So he actually has it’s really also really nice video that he’s shared about how he transitioned his team to a fully work from home environment. Before I actually address his points here, the one thing that I do want to mention about what the context of this slide is, is the social online etiquettes, not, you know, the machinery that’s needed to work from a home office. That’s actually the first thing that any of these teams had to think about, the practical aspects. Can the employees take home their laptops? Can they take home the towers and monitors and all the physical gadgetry or material kind of material possessions they would need to do their work? And will it impact the confidentiality of our work environment? or do they have enough space to actually have all these things in their house? Do they have a stable Internet connection?
Jennifer [00:07:33] That’s even something I know in Salt Lake City I’m a little concerned about now that everyone’s working from home. The Internet speed sometimes goes down. So, I mean, that was the first thing a lot of companies thought of. And a lot of people were scrambling as the lockdown started taking place in India and the stay at home orders were taking place in North America. A few companies that I worked with were actually very proactive in this because they kind of predicted the situation in advance. So they had already started the moving of the physical gadgetry from their offices, their actual office to a home office. So some of the companies were already ready to work from home… when.. when the actual stay at home motors were put in place. But they didn’t have the social part really set up yet because although they had virtual done virtual meetings a lot in the recent past, it wasn’t something that was done for every single interaction. So, what Siddharth had mentioned is you do want to set up your processes in advance whenever possible. Maybe for this Covid 19 situation, that was not possible. But now we can kind of do it in retrospect. And then when those processes are put in place, such as — will we– even though we have flexible work hours, will we have kind of a start time and an end time so we can all check in together as a team? Will we do daily check ins, whether that’s just in the morning and or evening? How how will we communicate about certain things? There’s a lot of online tools.
Jennifer [00:09:03] Will we be using certain tools for certain types of communication? So this should be ideally communicated from the top down and not from the bottom up, although we will talk about from the bottom up in a moment, like from you as an employee and doing it with your teammates rather than the management actually kind of setting a precedent for that. And, once all of these online protocols are established, we have to on-board the employees to these new processes. So, he was very clear in commenting that once these processes are actually formally set up, we have to on-board all the employees, whether they’re seasoned employees or their new employees, because we have now I know India is still in some places in the lockdown. So it’s been maybe more than two months. We’re kind of coming out of it in certain places in North America. So people have been still hiring during this time. So there’ll be new employees that have to be on-boarded, a generally new employee orientation and things like that. But meanwhile, everyone in the organization would have to be on-boarded to these new [quote] processes. So as we think about this, what are some of the new team norms you management has put in place during this transition to working from home? Or are there new norms? What do you think?
Jennifer [00:10:39] Anyone have any ideas?
Jennifer [00:10:40] Has anyone shaped anything changed in your office environment since you’re now working from home 100% of the time?
Jennifer [00:10:50] I’m sure there’s plenty of things that have changed. But maybe it might be hard to take articulate immediately.
Jennifer [00:11:06] Anything? I know, I know that one thing that people struggle with is just being on endless calls and a lot of meetings and everything appears to be a meeting or feels like a meeting, even if it’s supposed to be a casual interaction. So a lot of people I coach and work with are struggling with that type of scenario as well. So I’m sure that is part and parcel of it. And also with Covid 19. This is a unique situation. It’s not like working from home previous to Covid 19 where the kids were going to school or our spouse was going out to an office during the day. Everyone’s at home doing everything at the same time. And we have to balance maybe feeding the family members or taking care of the pet or whatever. So there’s a lot of things that, you know, are out of the ordinary from the normal day today, day work from home expectations that we might normally have. People are a little bit quiet today. I know you’re thinking a lot, so you must have something to say. I see. I see. A comment has come through, Jinesh.
Jennifer [00:12:14] Could you read a few comments there?
Jinesh [00:12:19] Oh, yes, Jennifer. I think we need to have Brent also back into the OK. Now to the deck, so that a couple of things which he will also be able to add. A couple of interesting comments have come from our Arun Koshy. He has been actually putting this up as, “I’ve been attracting rallied my colleagues during the office days. But now when I see them online, I feel that they are becoming too cold, cold shouldered. How do I handle this?”
Brent [00:12:49] Right, then it’s an interesting situation. So I guess I’d presume by cold shoulder, I mean, they’re not as friendly, as approachable as they have been in the past? I think that’s just everyone’s getting used to working in this Zoom world that we’re in right now. And, just as we found with the beginning of our webinar that some… some conversations are easier to be had face to face or verbally. And for some of us, it’s more of a struggle to put our thoughts in writing. And really what happens is now we’re finding almost every single interaction…there’s …there’s a paper trail that there’s a written connection because we’re not able to have some of the side conversations that we have today. So I think it needs taking a look at all the different channels are available to communicate. So, it could be Microsoft Teams, using your… using the phone, texting? You know… using Zoom. So, I wouldn’t be reliant on one channel because some of your colleagues might actually be more comfortable working on instant messaging than, say, using your Zoom. So by using all the channels, you’re kind of accommodating for all the preferences of your colleagues. Might have a richer conversation. Jennifer, what are your thoughts?
Jennifer[00:14:20] Yeah, I would piggyback off of most of everything that you said, Brent. I think that makes sense. It is a culture shock to a lot of people, even though they’re actually not living in a different country or a different culture, per se. Work from home is its own culture. And, and so a lot of people really are used to, you know, being in a virtual environment 24 hours a day because it’s not just work now ….we’re meeting our families online. We’re doing community activities online, like down here in Salt Lake City they actually have free concerts during the summer. They put all those online. So the good thing is you guys can see it, too, even though you’re not in Salt Lake City. But, yeah, everything…. religious services are online or on TV. So, everything has become digitized or in a virtual environment. So, people are exhausted. So, I think we just have to kind of keep that in mind when it comes to how we organize our meetings or how we want to others to actually participate in those meetings. And I’ll be kind of diving a little bit deeper into that a little bit later in the session, too.
Brent [00:15:22] Sure.
Jennifer [00:15:23] So was there anything else, Brent? Sorry not Brent — Jinesh is there anything else from the comments section?
Jinesh [00:15:30] Yes, I have questions keeping on. I mean, questions are keeping on coming. Would you want to one more question, Jennifer, before we move on?
Jennifer [00:15:39] Sure, one more is fine.
Jinesh [00:15:39] Yes. So Ammu Prateesh is actually asking, “Is there is more expectation to be available online as visibility is less in a virtual environment?” So do you have any comments to make on that?
Jennifer [00:15:50] Yeah, I can kind of start off with that. So, again, I would I would point this back to how the management and leadership is going to set the online culture for your work environment. So one thing would be to set kind of a start time and then in time. Now, I know there’s supposed to be more flexibility when we’re working from home, but also some of the experts say, you know, let’s say the management says, “OK, we’re going to work local time from 9:00 am to 5:00 p.m.” Management should also try not to send e-mails after that — that ends time because then the colleagues at home will see a ping coming through and they will get anxious and want to think that they have to actually answer it because there’s that separation between the office and the home environment is pretty much nonexistent. So it even takes a bit of awareness from the management to kind of think about these things as well. I don’t know if Brent would like to add any of that?
Brent [00:16:46] I think that this is one which you said timeliness in terms of start times. So it’s on some some offices. People, you know, you want to arrive on time. You don’t want to arrive late in some cultures, in some cultures and some more cultures. You know, if you don’t arrive five minutes early, you are late. I think that’s even more the case with our digital work environments. Is that because we are — that there is no time to walk between your desk and then the office down the hall? The people doing this, I know you’re coming. It’s really more important that you want to be prompt and available.
Brent [00:17:33] It’s just the way that the online culture has evolved, the way that the systems work and just people’s expectation. You know, when we’re sending emails or when we’re starting up our apps, we’re expecting to be connected to a Web site instantaneously and, unfortunately, I think some of that spilled over in terms of our expectations of our colleagues and their promptness. So people really have not as much patience for lateness in the new the new work environment.
Jennifer [00:18:09] Great. Any anything else we want to add there, shall I continue? So I guess. OK, great. I’ll continue with the presentation.
Jennifer [00:18:19] So yeah, back to this. The next part, I can add some more points here that some of my clients have mentioned. Have a daily social check in by chat or video. So, some – every company is kind of doing this a little different. So if they want to say the start time is nine o’clock, they’ll say, OK, you know, everyday we’re just gonna have a quick video check in so we can see each other face for five minutes and they might do some kind of short little activity, like have a breakout question, like “What did you do last weekend?” Or, you know, share a picture of your dog or, …. So it doesn’t even have to be talking. Sometimes it could be just texting in, like writing something. It could be sharing a picture of something. It could be sharing a link. Like one of the training programs I coordinated one of the check in questions was share a link from YouTube of your favorite song. So obviously we didn’t have time to listen to everyone’s songs, but we could comment for a few minutes with each other like, “Oh yeah, I think I saw that movie where that song is. And that was a really cool song. And I really like that movie…” And we kind of got to know a little bit more about people’s personality and also it kind of relaxed us, not only into the day — of the that was a training session, but could relax people into the work day. Or if it’s a meeting where this is done, it could relax people into being a little bit more relaxed during the actual meeting.
Jennifer [00:19:44] So you could do it in various ways. The other thing that is suggested is a round robin. So, for instance, let’s say, for example, you have 15 people on your team. That’s one – five. So you can’t have everyone do a check in every single day during that meeting because it would take up 15 minutes of the meeting and you might not have much time to have the actual meeting. So you could do three people on Monday, three people on Tuesday, three people on Thursday, etc.. So until you exhaust all the team members. So not everyone has to participate in the small talk section or the opening section every single day. So but but still everyone is participating at some point. The other things we can do is outside of those meetings, we can reach out to individuals and, you know, offer, “Hey, let’s have a virtual coffee. I know usually you have a coffee break around, you know, 11:00 a.m. in the morning. How about we have a coffee break online?” You don’t have to have a video. You can do it by voice only if you want to. Now, in case the management, team leads, or CEO of the company hasn’t put any protocol in place, if you are chairing a meeting, that’s where you can kind of do it from the ground up. That’s your meeting. Like you can take control of it. You set the culture for that meeting. So that’s where you can include some of these round robins or small talk interactions at the beginning or the end of the meeting, wherever you prefer to have it, depending on how you think the individual’s role will respond. So piggybacking on this, what can you do as an individual in your team? Or what have you been able to do since working from home to encourage socializing and a work from home environment?
Jennifer [00:21:35] Anyone tried anything different than I suggested or even if it was something I suggested… have you tried any of those things? Would you like to share any of your thoughts around that?
Jennifer [00:21:55] When we work in a virtual environment sense, it’s not something that comes to us naturally, usually, for most of us. It does take a little bit extra effort sometimes to do these things. And I have coached people who are a little anxious and shy to get started. But once they get started and try it, they see some astounding results.
Jennifer [00:22:20] Have any questions happened to come through, Jinesh.
Jinesh [00:22:26] Oh, yes. One of the questions that… Jennifer can we have Brent also? I think Brent had something to say… Brent is an expert on the theory. So, he will have a lot of things to share.
Brent [00:22:41] Sure. You know, we can go to the questions first and answer, I can provide a couple examples.
Jinesh [00:22:47] Yes, you can actually start, Brent.
Brent [00:22:52] Couple of examples. I’ve seen examples of virtual happy hours where you’ll have the staff get together very informally. It’s it’s a staff meeting, but it’s kind of a fun staff meeting. We’ve had colleagues experiment with virtual backgrounds that they’ve had. We’ve had tours of the art within people’s homes. We’ve had tours of photographs people have had with people. We’ve had members share their pets. So just all kinds of things to make it a bit fun and interactive. We’ve all seen examples where people have had maybe one on ones, but maybe it’s first in the morning. Maybe we don’t turn the camera on just because it’s not known as the the most fun time for … for individuals. There’s also been other breakout rooms that I’ve seen that some of the the social media, the platforms have where you can actually break into different subgroups and have a smaller discussion. So that’s something that you could also speak to your…your leadership about making use of that something that’s available in Zoom. It’s available in a number of the platforms. And, it just just way the break up and make some of the interactions a bit more fun and interesting.
Jinesh [00:24:22] Jennifer, and Brent, a couple of interesting things from all our viewers. Arun Koshy is actually putting a putting his comment as, “We have happy virtual hours on Fridays.” Manju has actually come up with, “We used to have team games played every week in our Daily Stand Up calls.” Those are really interesting things.
Jennifer [00:24:46] What I want to do now is I want to share with you some of the ways the teams in India that I work with actually have included employee engagement and a work from home scenario. So this is really interesting and I find this very fascinating.
Jennifer[00:25:01] Ok. So on this three examples I have here to show. One is from a company that’s in Kochi, India, called Advenser. So what they did actually and they posted all this on on their Facebook page, that’s how I came to know about it. They they kind of did this employee engagement activity where everyone was at home and they did like a collage of pictures from their home offices and places in their home, all with a message. So different people are holding signs with know part of that message. So it’s pretty inspirational and really a cool, cool idea. And they did two of these. So, one, is this the Covid – kind of we’re going to overcome this situation type of thing. This will this this, too, shall pass. And then they did another one. I’ll see if I can make it bigger. So on this one, it’s all about, you know, working from home from for now and kind of just motivating people to know why we’re doing what we’re doing right now. So… and I think they might have done a few other things that I haven’t been able to add here.
Jennifer [00:26:08] The next one I wanted to share quickly is Fragomen India. So some people might be familiar with Fragoman. They’re actually a… an immigration consultancy that has offices all over the world, including in Kochi, India, where I lived. So, they did something similar to Advenser with the, with the image collage that you see here. But, they also did a lot of other really cool things that I just love this. You know, it’s so awesome and creative. So they did some song mash ups where they have an English song right underneath that, you’ll see..there’s also another English song under that. So the first English song is like. Each person is singing like one or two lines from that famous Beatles song, Imagine. And they kind of compiled that together. And they’re actually singing. They’re not lip sinking — lip singing. So, they’re really talented. The next one, they were dancing. So each person danced like one or two lines of the song. And, then in addition to English songs, they did a Hindi song. India, for those of you who don’t know much about India, there’s at least twenty five national languages. So they did one in Hindi and then they did what in Malayalam, which is the local language of that area in India. So, that that’s number two, that that was the kind of impressive compilation.
Jennifer [00:27:35] The last one I want to share is another company called ThinkPalm. So, they did a picture compilation again of like kind of inspiring people to, you know, be in this together and work from home and stay motivated and things like that. Stay home, stay safe. But they did another really cool thing like Earth Day had passed. So to celebrate Earth Day, since they weren’t in the office, they actually asked some of the employees who are good — have a green thumb — to show pictures of themselves with their plants around their house. I thought that was pretty cool. They actually did another one that I can’t — I can’t share here because I couldn’t get it embedded on the blog. But I think it was like a video compilation for Mother’s Day where they actually asked all the mothers of the organization to share a short video of them playing with their kids or feeding their kids or doing something fun with their kids. And they put that kind of compilation video online as well.
Jennifer [00:28:38] So there’s a lot of things we could actually do to create the team spirit. So we just have to be creative and think about it. And, you know, people will participate. Maybe not everybody, but a lot of people will participate. Now, I found out about these because they had posted them online. Obviously, that’s a public forum. It doesn’t have to be posted in a public forum. It can be posted on the company, Intranet, password protected and everything. You know, whatever, whatever the majority of the team feels comfortable with. But this also gives people another thing to talk about, like, oh, you know, in that Earth Day compilation I saw — somebody likes to really, you know, they planted roses in their house. That’s a really hard plant to actually cultivate. Can you give me some tips around that? So, you know, all this can actually spark additional conversation that we might might not have thought of before and ways to get to know our colleagues.
Jennifer [00:29:30] Ways to encourage socialization. I’ve already mentioned the first two at least the third one is always use people’s names. So a lot of people, you know, have asked me, “What should I know about, you know, the local culture of the people I’m working with to be culturally sensitive online?” A lot of these virtual interactions are now becoming globalized, like it’s a global culture when working in in an online environment. It’s more important to use more words and call people by their name to get them included, because we can’t really, you know, nudge somebody or, like, make eye contact with them in the meeting in the same way we could if we’re in a face to face environment. So it’s really important to either call them on by name or with your voice or in the text chat box, say, “I’d really like to hear from Jennifer about how you’re progressing with the quarterly report. Could you give us some updates about that?” Especially for the shy people, they tend to, you know, like that. And, you know, maybe not all the time when people speak up again — back initially, they might want to type. So give people different options if they’re a little bit shyer.
Jennifer [00:30:41] Obviously, typing takes more time. But if we’re sensitive to people’s diversity in the online environment, I think that will help go a long way in building our team. We acknowledge others steps the next point. So it’s always good to acknowledge others, whether they did something good for us or they did something good for somebody else on the team. For instance, let’s say let’s say somebody did something good for Brent and helped him with something. I could actually go to that person and say, “Oh, I heard from you know, I heard from Brent that you were able to actually help him complete that, you know, that quarterly report because you have a lot of background in that. So, that was really helpful to the team. So, thanks for that.” So it’s going to take a lot of kind of effort and thoughtfulness to kind of do some of these things. But once we start it, these can be taken back to the face to face work environment and people will really like it. Everyone likes to be acknowledged. And, then ask for help or ask others to help somebody else. So that should seem pretty obvious.
Jennifer [00:31:46] But if you hear somebody struggling in a meeting like what their status updates are with something they’re working on and you you know that you’re pretty good in that or, you know, someone else in the team was pretty good at that, maybe you can kind of, you know, have them be off line to, you know, help each other out. So that’s another way to kind of build those relationships in a virtual environment that we might not have thought of. All right.
Jennifer [00:32:12] So, Brent was kind of mentioning this earlier. There’s a lot of ways to connect online. Right? When you see this slide and you don’t have to type my answer into the chat box unless you want to. But what’s the first impression that comes to your mind when you when you see this slide?
Jennifer [00:32:34] So, you know, I intentionally made this slide like this. It looks really busy. It looks chaotic. It looks confusing. It looks overwhelming. There’s a lot going on, especially when you compare it to my other slides that seemed a little bit more crisper or no with less pictures and words on it kind of thing. So I intentionally made this slide this way because I know a lot of people that I have coached and people I know find the digital online work from home environment to be, you know, very stressful, very overwhelming. There’s so many tools to learn. And sometimes you need a backup tool because some days teams crashes. So you might need to use Skype or you might need to use Zoom or, you know, you might need to… in some companies, especially the companies I work with in India, they don’t mind jumping on a WhatsApp call or, you know, some kind of face time type of a situation. So there’s a lot of choices that we have when we work in an online environment. Sometimes that’s very overwhelming to people and they have to learn a lot of new things. And though we all like to learn new things, it can be exhausting. So we have to keep that in consideration.
Jennifer [00:33:47] Now, when the title of this slide is “Assess Your Digital Persona,” I’m not sure if anyone’s heard this term before “digital persona.” So I have heard a few experts who train virtual teams use this term. So, I’m not making it up. I wish I could take credit for it, but I can’t. But what they have said, what this term means is, you know, the…. your identity, how people see you online is all formed by your interactions online. So, I’ll give you an example of a story from my own life. So, I was getting to know this new client and the new client and I were emailing and chatting back and forth on WhatsApp for like about three or four weeks before I actually went to see them. Now, my emails tend to be, “Hi…” If I’m writing to Jinesh, for example, “Hello, Jinesh. Hope you had a good weekend. I’m looking forward to our meeting….” and, then I’ll talk about the detail of whatever the the technical part of our work is, and then I’ll kind of close it with a little small talk, like looking forward for your response to you. See you soon or something. Something like that. Then I’ll sign my name.
Jennifer [00:35:00] Well, this person who I was interacting with, it didn’t open the email or any chat with my name, never used my name anywhere. And all of their interactions with me were basically like one line. So I actually got the impression of this person that they were terse. They were very to the point, very business like didn’t like to make small talk and maybe didn’t want to introduce, you know, referred to me by my name because that was never used in really any of those interactions. Maybe the first one. And so when I went to meet that person for the first time in a face to face environment, I was actually very nervous because I thought, oh, my gosh, this person’s not going to want to interact with me because they’re very to the point. But when I sat down with this person, you know, they offered me tea and cookies and then actually made a lot of small talk. So I immediately realized this person’s digital personality is very different than their face to face personality. And luckily, in this case, their face the face personality for me was much better than my expectation, which tends to be the case in 80, 80 percent of my interactions. But there have been about 20 percent of the interactions where their online persona was actually a little bit more friendly and engaging than seeing them in person.
Jennifer [00:36:15] But that’s something to keep in mind when, you know, as you’re building your online or digital persona in this new work from home environment.
Jennifer [00:36:26] And you’ll also want to take time to kind of assess what kind of message is best suited for each type of medium. Do you want to use email for this? You want to use chat or in the chat? Like, I know when WhatsApp, you can actually be called a small voice mail and send it. So I’ve done that with some of my clients that I work with. Or is it more important or pertinent to actually just pick up the phone and call somebody rather than actually a video call or a voice over Internet call? So you really choose wisely the medium that you’re going to use.
Jennifer [00:37:02] And some of this should be and could be actually set in the online online protocol that was mentioned earlier in the presentation. So, as you can see, there’s a lot to think about. So because of that, because there’s so much to think about in this new online environment, guess what? People get overloaded. They get stressed out. They they are really under a lot of pressure that sometimes they don’t know what to do. Sometimes they just want to take a rest. They don’t want to be on video chat. I’ve had I’ve had some certain clients actually come to me and say, “Jennifer, I am, you know, just exhausted. Can we just do voice? I cannot be at another video. I’m dressed for it. I’m presentable. But, I just don’t want to look at myself through the camera and see myself on the screen. It’s just too much. I’ve been doing that all day. Day in and day out for the last, you know, a week. I’m just I just need a break.” So be…. be aware that some people are just going to be overloaded. So, there are actually terms for this. So some of the experts have come out with the term “Zoom fatigue.” That’s kind of the most common one I’ve seen going around on LinkedIn. You’re just kind of so exhausted from using Zoom. And “Zoom” is being used generally to mean like any online video calling platform.
Jennifer [00:38:27] So even if they’re using Skype, they’re saying Zoom… “Zoom fatigue,” not “Skype Fatigue.” For example, a few of the experts are using digital overload. So just, you know, being online, being interacting with technology is just too exhausting day in and day out. So, that’s actually something to consider. And, the last term here “Zoomed out.” Actually, I kind of came up with that. I felt Zoomed out the other day and I just thought, oh, my God, I am Zoomed out. I just need a break from this. So, you know, I also I tell my clients sometimes, you know, I don’t mind coming on the call, like in the beginning to show my face, but can we…. would you mind if we actually just did voice for part of the call? So, you know, hopefully it should go both ways with your counterparts as well. So when we talk about this, how can we help our colleagues out in this situation? Or have you faced any of “Zone fatigue,” digital overload, or have you felt “Zoomed out?” How could you help yourself or others that you work with to combat this? Well, kind of turn over to you for comments. So bring Jinesh back in. Jinesh, are we getting any comments ….about the comments are actually there?
Jinesh [00:39:51] I think if I’m spelling it right, Julianna, “We are absolutely overloaded. It seems online things went more heavy or heavier…” And Arun has benn commenting on… “It is becoming the norm. And it becoming like 24 hours — 24 hours a day now.”
Jennifer [00:40:22] So, I’ll also bring Brent as you read out the comments. Any other comments that you want to read off Jinesh?
Jinesh [00:40:33] Somebody was actually sharing.. Yes, Ammu was actually sharing “that there are lots of endless calls due to virtual working…”
Jinesh [00:40:40] So as you rightly said, Jennifer actually becoming a little fatigued and zoomed out nature seems to be affected a lot.
Brent [00:40:49] And I think, well, we can take advantage of this because we’re we’re all going through this no matter what market we’re in to some degree. So, we’re all experiencing it. It’s not a case of one market, one country, one state, one provinces is dealing with it. The others are not. So, I think that the level of empathy that people have for their colleagues and what they’re going through is probably higher than it normally is. And, I think it’s probably across markets, it’s OK to let on that if it is, you know, those there are too many Zoom calls or you want to look at other platforms or some accommodations because we’re all looking for our teams to succeed. We all want our companies or organizations to succeed. You know, I think if you this is probably gonna go on for two more months, yes, expectations are going to start to go up, but we’re still probably in the window where, you know, if it is challenging, again, it’s it’s your own work and work environment and use your own judgment? But people, I think, are a little more forgiving right now. And that’s something that, you know, a this combination, then maybe it’s time to ask about it.
Jennifer [00:42:15] Yeah, I would agree with you, Brent. And to Julianna’s comment about overloaded. Yes, actually, a lot of people have said that to me, that they feel online interactions are “heavier.” I think that’s where that was used, probably just because …..we’re also seeing hours of reflection of ourself on the screen, which can be intimidating. And, you know, it’s it’s weird. It’s weird to see ourselves when we’re talking. We don’t usually look at ourself in the mirror when we talk, for example. And it’s also backwards. So my hand is going this way, but I feel like it’s going this way. And it’s tough. So all these weird things happen in a virtual environment that won’t happen in a normal environment. We can’t make eye contact….
Brent [00:43:03] And some of us haven’t been to a barber in several weeks..
Jennifer [00:43:07] Or… We’ve had homemade haircuts.
Brent [00:43:13] But, none so far.. they offered, but….
Jennifer [00:43:15] Alright, was there any other comments, Jinesh, or should I go back to the rest of the presentation?
Jinesh [00:43:24] Just something which is very, very close to the one which you have been actually discussing. The question was from Manju, “Like, what if during a work from home online meeting an executive suddenly decides not to get on the video mode? What would be your suggestion on tackling the situation gracefully?”
Jennifer [00:43:43] Ok. So I’ll I’ll share a few things. Sorry. Brent, did you want to go ahead.
Brent [00:43:48] Oh, no. Go.
Jennifer [00:43:50] Ok. Yeah, I’ll go ahead and then you can piggyback off of whatever I say. So I would actually remind everyone of some of the content we talked about earlier in the beginning. Hopefully there’s some protocol that’s set by management where, OK, sometimes we will be on on the screen and showing our video and sometimes we won’t be.
Jennifer [00:44:10] So that will be the expectation that set or only certain meetings, we’re going to show the video, for instance, if it’s a town hall or some kind of big company announcement. Obviously, in that case, it would be more ideal for there to be a video. So I would I would always relate it back to the online protocol. So I’ll let Brent actually piggy bank …piggy back off of that.
Brent [00:44:31] I think it’s it’s it’s having flexibility in terms of your work environment, where, you know, sometimes people don’t want to go on video. We’ve all also I’ve seen situations where there are bandwidth issues. Actually, if you want to continue with the call, people probably really need to shut off their videos in order to bring up the audio quality. So, there may be a whole bunch of reasons why someone may choose not to go in with audio or with video. There are colleagues who may have young children. People have you know, they’re all their family members here. They may not have a work environment or an office where they can actually close the door. So, you know, we’re we’re going to make assumptions again why certain colleagues are not turning on their video or going on mute. But we also need to be accommodating and understanding of the real uniqueness of the situation we are in and what people’s work environments are really like at home.
Jennifer [00:45:33] Great. Were there any other questions?
Jinesh [00:45:38] No, I think we are good to go.
Jennifer [00:45:39] Ok. Perfect. So I’ll go back to the PowerPoint slide deck and we do have a few more slides. I’ll try to go through them before the top of the hour. In case we go over time, I’ll try not to, but hopefully I’ll be able to stay for a couple of more minutes. So when we understand culture, we can look at this Venn diagram and kind of brief it we look at someone’s national culture. In this case, we’re going to look at the culture of where the person is living right now. But obviously, that has many layers. So even if they’re a newcomer to the US or Canada or they’re working virtually from another country, they have their national culture from where they they are actually from as well. So, that will impact how they use their language, how what’s kind of expectations they have when interacting with people on whether they prefer hierarchy or they prefer more equality or working from a relationship perspective or a task perspective, etc.
Jennifer [00:46:33] There’s this really good Web site called GlobeSmart. And I’ll just type that in the chat box. So, if you go to Globe Smart, what you can actually do is you can take a free assessment on your cultural preferences and it doesn’t have to be for culture. It can just help see kind of where you fall along some of those those guidelines. And if you take that, you can get in touch with me. I can tell you kind of what country that you would kind of match up with, if that’s something of interest to you. I have I have the paid account so the free account won’t let you actually do that. But it’s also quite surprising to have everyone on the team do that just to see, you know.. their preference, not necessarily culturally, but how they might just want to interact…. their preference for interacting with each other. So there’s national culture, there’s family culture and their upbringing, their personality and then the corporate and work culture. So it’s not just the company culture, the professional culture of the profession in that company, but also maybe the team culture.
Jennifer [00:47:32] So all these work together to understand where someone’s coming from, why they are talking a certain way, what why they are expecting certain things from us, or why we might be expecting certain things from them. And, when we talk about culture, I’m not sure if anyone’s seen this particular image. This is called the cultural iceberg…. fitting name. So, normally when we look at any culture, whether that’s a national culture or a corporate culture or anything, we only kind of see the 10 percent on top. But that 10 percent that we actually see is guided by the 90 percent underneath. So, for example, many people, especially North America, would have heard of, you know, the Wal-Mart culture of the 80s and 90s when people used to come to work in Wal-Mart. They used to actually start their day with a cheer and sing songs and kind of do this team bonding thing, which a lot of other companies found a little bit strange. But that was part of their company culture. So that was a 10 percent you see or you saw from Wal-Mart. But what what underneath the 90 percent, what did that make? How did that impact the values that the company was imparting to their employees? How did that impact their priorities of team building or customer service or whatever or how well other was there? Sorry. Assumptions can be made from what we see on the top. So obviously this particular slide we could spend a lot of time on.
Jennifer [00:48:56] But in the interest of time, I’m going to actually go to the next section, which is our last section for today, small talk. Now, a lot of people are fascinated by this topic, especially when working across cultures. Obviously, we want to build a relationships. A lot of people are wondering, you know, what are the what are the topics I can talk about in this culture to make small talk and what are the ones I should avoid? I’m not actually going to go into that detail. That is a training that I provide. But I’m not going to take all that time today. We don’t have enough time. So what I’m gonna do is I’m going to share three basic categories of small talk. Now, I’ve actually mentioned to all of these categories throughout today’s presentation, but I haven’t kind of named those categories. So, when we look at the first one, which most of us think about, is the personal talk or banter, how was your weekend? Did you go to the park or, you know, when will we be able to go to the park again? I really want to go to the park. You know, all of those kind of more personal things that we kind of maybe talked [about] around the water cooler where when we went out to lunch or coffee breaks with people. And then the second one, which I haven’t mentioned a little bit about what’s been categorized as small talk, is about work process and brainstorming.
Jennifer [00:50:16] So, some might be wondering why I categorize it under small talk. Well, in some of the culture trainings that I’ve conducted, especially in India, people identify that some of this discussion wasn’t actually one hundred percent related to the technical aspects of their work. So they were thinking it’s more like a small talk. Because it’s more it’s also has more of a casual flavor, because it doesn’t always include some of the technical jargon or, you know, some of the fancy vocabulary that the business talk actually might include. Similar with the feedback, and pleasantries. Now, this is again, what we have to be careful, culturally speaking, about how we give feedback. So newcomers have to know that in the North American culture, it’s common for managers to give praise, usually not negative feedback. Negative feedback tends to be given in a private situation one on one, but praise tends to be given in a group setting. So when a team meeting, you could get praised by your managers. And, this is not something that’s really common in other cultures. In some cultures that people are praised in front of a group, they might automatically think, OK, it’s time for me to get a raise or something like that. So we had to be careful about this and kind of know where the other person is also coming from because they might not have completely adjusted to the North American culture of public praise.
Jennifer [00:51:42] So pleasantries, of course, please. Thank you. We can never say this enough in the North American culture. The more you say it, the better relationship you’re going to make. And in some cultures, saying please and thank you is not part of the culture. So in North America, we have to really pay attention to that. So as wind up for today these are three of the main kind of things to think about when we’re talking about team and beyond, this is the last section, which is only this one slide. And, I know we were we will go a few minutes over. So, I really thank you for holding on. I still see a majority of the people still here. Thank you for your interest in staying a little bit longer. So, staying visible in the team with management and with the wider company. So sometimes we get kind of, you know, we get a very narrow focus or we get pigeonholed. Kind of that’s a good idiom to use here. We get pigeonholed into thinking, OK, we only have to worry about my team when I’m working from home. But that’s not really the case because how will we be moving up in our company or moving maybe to a different project or moving to a different, you know, area that we want to work in? We still have to try to stay visible with other people.
Jennifer [00:52:53] So, you know, if the entire company is having, you know, online or some type of online networking events, do join them. So, you can kind of see what other people are talking about, maybe join with them on LinkedIn and just say, no, I would I would really like to join with you and LinkedIn. We’ve been we work in the same company, but as you know, we can’t see each other nowadays. So I thought would be good to kind of connect up here and LinkedIn and we can kind of keep in touch with each other. Most people are pretty OK with that, I think. But you do have to give that context typically in your introduction when you send that connection request. So that would make that would make a difference maybe in getting the connection accepted or denied. You want to stay visible with your stakeholders or your clients or whomever is involved in that project. So when you’re in the meetings, when you’re in those virtual calls, make sure that you speak up and say something or type in the [chat] box so they see your name. They need to see your name in order to stay visible because it’s not going to be just about your manager kind of relaying the information on your behalf. If that is part of the organizational culture in a virtual environment, that has to change because then people won’t really know you’re doing your own work.
Jennifer [00:54:03] So, and you might be left off because if the manager is always the one giving you the messages, it’s quite possible that sometimes they might forget about mentioning you. And, if you’re not mentioned, it’s like you’re invisible because in an online environment, if someone doesn’t see you, you’re a ghost. It’s like you don’t exist. So you don’t want that to happen. And we had to think about the complexities of a blended workforce. So after Covid 19. So what do I mean by blended? Some people working from home. Some people working, you know, in an office and maybe on rotation. Like Monday, Wednesday, Friday I come in. Tuesday. Thursday other people come in or Monday, Wednesday and Friday. I don’t see everyone from the team and maybe some days they’re not there. Or, some people are hired remotely from the beginning. So it’s always a remote team from you know, they’re actually not even just in our town being hired, but they maybe live in a different province, a different state, a different city, maybe a different country. We don’t know. So all of these since we don’t know how the future of work will be as this as this progresses. But these are some of the things that some of the people are speculating. Some of the experts, so to speak. So, as we wrap up, you can obviously share some thoughts and questions in the chat box.
Jennifer [00:55:20] And I know we’re still over time for those of you. A note to the North American culture. Also letting the audience know that you’re getting to the end of time and you’re asking people to like, stay a little bit late is really important in our culture. That’s why I’ve been continuing to do that.
Jennifer [00:55:35] So you do want to do that if you’re moderating meetings. And again, we pretty much have full attendance. Nobody’s dropped off. Yeah. I really appreciate that. Thank you so much. Does anyone have any thoughts or feedback as we wrap up today’s session?
Jinesh [00:55:52] Jennifer, just one question from….I’ve been actually keeping this …This is from Sapna Santhosh she wanted to know, how do I get myself trained on the online etiquette and culture? Culture over here probably would be the North American culture.
Jennifer [00:56:10] I’ll… I’ll let Brett feel that first. From your perspective, if someone in Canada. How can they get some training on Canadian culture?
Brent [00:56:19] Sure … there’s a lot of resources available. As you talked about the tip of the iceberg example and you also talked about the Venn diagram. So, any organization you’re working at is all can be influenced by the national culture. So, if I was a newcomer to Canada, the first resource I would go to would be online TV show, an online resource called the New Canadians Dot TV. It’s an excellent resource. There’s a platform. There are the TV shows. There’s online chats. There’s videos. There’s all kinds of stuff about the new Canadian experience. I would also look at the corporate culture because a lot of the corporate cultures, we’re having worked with many multinationals. Those cultures permitting at the local level. So you need to actually understand really what the culture means within a corporation is how did things get done? And probably in the best ways to understand how things get done is to work on a project. If you are able to work on a project in the online environment, it’s probably the fastest way to understand what the priorities are, what is valued, what the customers expect and how what the expectations are of you as an employee. So, I would try my best to get on a project and not a small project but a large cross-functional project that’s the best learning ground for understanding the culture and the expectations of your organization.
Jennifer [00:57:57] Perfect. And actually, before I start answering the question, Brent, does The Career Welcome Mat Network offer any kind of training or seminars on this topic for people who might want to interact with you more after this session?
Brent [00:58:12] So, we actually were starting to run….we were starting to run in-person networking events and training. We had run a couple before Covid hit. We’re planning to still do some more. I think we’re probably gonna be looking at this digital environment and having expert speakers like yourself, Jennifer, come on board, because it’s a way that we can reach many people across geographies and help them know in terms of what the expectations are of them as employees and hope it can progress their careers in their new country.
Jennifer [00:58:44] Perfect. That’s awesome. Yeah. So I’d like to share a little bit about from the American perspective. Unfortunately, I’m not familiar with anything like a new Canadians TV for the U.S. culture. I’m sure it must be out there. But I personally don’t know about it or I have an accessed that yet. But there’s a lot of cross-cultural trainers like myself and others who are more than happy to, you know, get on a call and answer some of your questions. Myself, personally, I offer right now a lot of virtual sessions. Most of my clients, like I mentioned earlier, were to India. So, you know, I don’t travel to India much more than once a year, nowadays. When I’m in India, I would be face to face, but otherwise I’m working very virtually most of the time. So, I have a wide range of programs, anything from small talk with Americans to Working on a Virtual Team with Americans to Managing Client Expectations. Some of these are for individuals and some of these are actually for teams. But there’s also a really good program that I initiated with …and some of you from India will know the company. And I can say this because I got permission. U.S.T. Global and I had partner to create the U.S. Culture Training, Finishing School. And, that basically was to help people prepare to come to the U.S.and live in the US. Everything from how to pack your bags when you leave India to finding an apartment and everything. Obviously, the traveling part isn’t happening right now, but there will be people who are still trying to set up their life in the US. Right now, they might have just entered before the lockdown happened. So, [they are] still trying to figure out how to find an apartment or get their kids enrolled in school or open a bank account or whatever the situation is. So, all of those things, you know, obviously on the practical side, we we do the coaching, but we also do language coaching, helping people to improve their writing skills. E-mailing skills present presenting in a virtual environment like this or even a face to face environment in a culturally sensitive way. So sometimes that might also include how to kind of adapt your English to a more Americanized version, because sometimes local people may not have had the experience of, you know, traveling outside of U.S. or Canada and understanding that all the Englishes are actually different, whether that’s Indian English, British English, Australian English…you know, there’s so many Englishes in the world and all of them have different ways of using the same word. But sometimes…. sometimes in one culture, that word is not well suited for that culture.
Jennifer [01:01:13] So, you know that that would be kind of from my perspective, my answer to that question. So, yes. Sapna, there are different ways and you can go….I have a blog at Authentic Journeys with over eight hundred articles all of these kind of topics. So, I’m sure you’ll find the answer to your question there. And if you don’t, you can reach out to me and ask me. I’m more than happy to help you out.
Jennifer [01:01:44] Perfect. And just to kind of wrap up today, everyone, here’s our contact information. You can see Brent’s Web site that he just mentioned, his Twitter handle and some of the contact information for me. Obviously, having worked for in India for so long, I do use WhatsApp.
Jennifer [01:02:03] So that might not be so popular in North America, but it’s definitely popular with people from India and other countries as well. I do coaching with people from Brazil and other countries as well. WhatsApp is very popular among people outside the US. So that isn’t India? No, that’s only being used for WhatsApp at this point in time. But if you are in the US, you can use my U.S. phone number that’s also fine. So, these are ways you can get in touch with us. I don’t know if anyone has any other parting questions as we kind of wrap up today’s session, Jinesh. Was there any other questions that came through?
Jinesh [01:02:42] I think that’s the last question that I had for the day. But, they’re getting good feedback from the attendees. The participants seemed to be enjoying and they really liked the words “Zoomed out” and “digital persona.”
Brent [01:02:58] I want to say in closing, I really want to thank both Jinesh and Jennifer for embarking on this journey. This is something we haven’t tried before. I had encountered Jennifer through LinkedIn. We haven’t…we’ve never actually met in person, but we’ve had many phone calls and no chats over Zoom, etc. and actually Jennifer introduced me to Jinesh. Jinesh Is actually in the greater Toronto area.
Brent [01:03:28] So it’s just go in the power of networking available through LinkedIn. I think what we need to do now is because we’re all going through a lot of the same experiences because the Covid 19. It’s also a case where we can also look to expertise from other markets to help us all get through this new digital world that we’re dealing in. So, Jinesh, thank you so much for moderating Jennifer, so much. Thank you so much for your expertise and for helping us out with learning how to improve our online presence. Great working with you.
Jennifer [01:04:06] And likewise to Jinesh and Brent. And actually, you know, in some ways you could say we we are in original virtual team because we’ve never actually where I mean, of course, our connection. I know each other from Kerala. We did projects four or five years ago face to face with them. But for this particular project, none of us have actually met in person. So, we were a virtual team from the beginning.
Brent: Actually, Jinesh came out to one of my forums in Toronto and the workshop. We were wondering about the attendance that day. But, it was on March 4, and all our worlds changed, the next week. I guess we found out why!
[01:04:46] It’s been great working with you guys. Thank you so much for dialing in everyone. And look forward to seeing you next time. Thank you.
[01:04:52] OK. Thank you. Bye bye, everyone. Have a good night or day.
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