With COVID-19 forcing us all into our homes for remote work, and due to the fact that remote work is easy and for some already a fact of life, I’m presenting a few tips on what to do, how to do it, and what tools we’ve used at Chariot. This list will grow over time as we keep adapting, but it’s safe to say that the tools and techniques below will work not only for now, but in your future as an IT teleworker.
Tips for remote worker teleconferencing:
- Find a quiet room in your house or even in your car if your WIFI reaches
- Learn to use the mute button and keep yourself muted as much as possible
- Prepare your browser for screen presentations – remove your shortcut bar so people don’t see your links
- Prepare your desktop – remove all unnecessary icons
- Turn off your reminders as much as possible (most tools do this for you)
- Turn off your webcam if you’re moving around during your conference – and have a good image for yourself (this is the time to fix the goofy picture you had on your social media profile if you use it to log in)
- Try to work in your living room with kids and animals around. I can completely sympathize and if you have to, just apologize in advance. Most people will accept the hardship, but it should truly be a hardship for you
- Forget to dress and shower if it’s a professional presentation
- Worry about perfection, nobody is perfect!
- USB headset with mic – perfecto! There are lots of low-cost versions available. Make sure if you’re on a USB-C machine that you get a USB to USB-C dongle for your laptop, especially if you are already using that single USB port for something else.
- AirPods – also great for Mac, you can pair them and use them for both mic and headphones at the same time.
- 1/4” headset mic – make sure you get one that uses as single jack if you’re on a laptop – many laptops have the mic built in to the audio jack. When in doubt, check your computer’s manual or google it online
- Do NOT try to use your laptop mic and speaker unless you’re doing an ad-hoc meeting with a group. You’ll end up fighting like a speakerphone conference between two conference rooms or more.
Tools we use
- Google Hangouts – it’s free, easy to get started, but can be a bit wonky with controls. But for ad-hoc communication especially if you’re on Google already, it’s a cinch.
- Slack community edition – this is great for groups and teams who need casual chat but don’t have a place to go, but it can’t do video conferencing without a professional license
- Slack pro – you’re probably using it, and if not, it’s low-cost overall…. It is great for one-on-one or small teams to replace normal standups or casual meetings
- Zoom – fast becoming the de-facto conferencing solution. There are both small-meeting licenses (free for < 4 people for < 60 minutes, $15/user/month for less restrictions, then even webinar which we’re using for (plug) Philly ETE 2020 online conference, and even universities use it. Great for presenting, group meetings (with people who can control their muting and video control), etc.
- Skype – I use it for podcast recordings, but may be re-thinking my approach in the future. It is great as it provides two audio streams for tools to strip them out and record them separately (see the "other thoughts" section below)
- If you're going to start doing recording of your work, Zoom can record your conferences (with the right license). Failing that, remember that Mac has screencast recording built in to Quicktime Player
new screen recording....
- Another excellent tool (but that costs money) is ScreenFlow. It's fantastic for doing professional video recordings and the learning curve isn't all that bad.
- For complete recording of audio from various sources, and worth the money for an audio person (Mac only) is Audio Hijack. Along with it, the utility "LineOut" (both from Rogue Amoeba) can be lifesavers for putting on professional-level audio podcasts from USB mixers and tools like Skype (in fact, podcasting remotely with Audio Hijack streaming the audio from my USB mixer on the left channel and Skype on my right channel has been my secret weapon for YEARS).
- All of the audio and video techniques above translate directly to tools like the above
Above all, keep calm and carry on. Most work for IT professionals can absolutely be done online, sharing screens and video and audio. Ask questions in the comments and let us know tools you find work for you as well. And above all, wash those hands and that keyboard, it’s disgusting (I know you know that)…
- Tim Berglund’s excellent video: Working From Home: Frequently Asked Questions
- A co-worker also just shared this handy link on remote working How to Embrace Remote Work – Trello, the Ultimate Guide
If you’re still reading this, and are interested in attending a free Zoom webinar on development approaches for AWS next Thursday at 10AM EDT, please register here. I’d love to see you online!.