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I’m sure you want to have an effective digital workday, right? If you have a desk job, you have gotten used to working from home by now. Are you tired of sitting behind your desk for hours in a row while juggling the household chores in between? It doesn’t have to be that way!

Often something has to happen before something happens.

Johan Cruijf

This article discusses the challenges related to working remotely. Also, it elaborates on the many possibilities to enhance your digital workday.


Making the most of your digital workday in 1 minute

A digital workday has its challenges. These tips help you to get through it effectively:

  1. Ensure the (technical) preconditions are met. This includes having a nice home office with the right facilities such as a laptop and telephone, software, and training in the proper use of it.
  2. Prepare online presentations even better. Participants are more easily distracted and tired so you should be prepared for that.
  1. Set clear agreements. The digital etiquette might differ from that in the physical office. Make sure it is crystal clear what everyone can expect.
  2. Enable personal interactions. When working digitally, personal connectedness is of vital importance. Find ways to make it as easy as possible to connect with others.
  3. Share your experiences. There is no need to reinvent the wheel. Share your knowledge and learn from others.

Ensure the (technical) preconditions are met

This may seem like an obvious starting point, but its importance cannot be overstated. Being able to collaborate effectively online starts with ensuring the (technical) preconditions are met. Don’t just think of a proper laptop and stable internet connection. You should also consider:

  • A home office that meets health and safety requirements, which means you need a decent office chair and a good desk to work at. Working at the kitchen table for a short period of time is fine, but we have long passed the temporary nature of working from home.
  • Good technical facilities, such as a decent laptop and mobile phone, a stable and fast (enough) internet connection, an extra monitor and keyboard and perhaps also some (noise-cancelling) headphones.
  • The right software and training. Installing Microsoft Teams or Zoom is one thing, making proper use of it is a whole other ballgame. Make sure you understand how to best use this software in your situation. It should aid you in your work and not cause any unnecessary frustrations.

Prepare your online presentation even better

If you are telling your story via digital media it requires extra effort compared to an in-person presentation. You should prepare even better since your audience will get distracted and more tired sitting at their desks and looking at their screens. Every technical error – you are still on mute, your camera is set incorrectly, or your room is too dark – is a potential moment for people to drop out mentally. It is thus crucial to take extra time for your preparation to avoid people dropping out. If necessary, hire someone to help facilitate your presentation.

It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.

Charles Darwin

Interaction should also be guided

Think carefully about whether you want to facilitate interaction. If you chose to incorporate it in the meeting, think of how you will do that. In the case of 5 or more participants, it can become quite chaotic when everyone has their microphone on. Alternatives are available, many of which have the added benefit that the more reserved participants also get to have their say.

A first step would be to promote using the native chat functionality in Microsoft Teams or Zoom. The next step is using programs such as Mentimeter, Slido or Kahoot.

The next step: additional software

In addition to the default functionalities in Microsoft Teams and Zoom, there are online tools available to really take your digital presentation to the next level.

For example, take a look at the possibilities of OBS Studio or VoiceMeeter. These tools aren’t the most accessible ones, however, for a demo or live event, it might be worth looking into. In the case of OBS Studio, your hardware (laptop) may also need to meet significant technical requirements to work smoothly with the software.

Would you choose to go for the full digital immersion, Virbela might be just the platform for you. A completely digital world has been developed here so that you can host for example a lecture or presentation. Your audience can walk around freely in this digital world, sort of like they might do on an exhibition in real life.

Set clear agreements

The etiquette for in-person appointments differ per organization and depend on the company culture. Do we expect each other to arrive on time, let each other finish talking, do we allow laptops during meetings, etcetera.

Many of these rules also apply to digital collaboration. Since we cannot correct each other’s behaviour with a single glance, we have to explicitly name these rules. In addition, a digital meeting requires more agreements to be made, simply because there are more and different options available.

The 3 biggest concerns for your digital workday

Below are the 3 main elements to pay attention to regarding digital meetings. It further includes a bonus tip for the advanced digital professional:

“You’re still on mute”

The simplest and most well-known example is the ‘mute, unless‘ rule. This prevents people from talking at the same time. An additional advantage is that you don’t hear all of the renovation noises coming from your coworker’s neighbours’. At a small gathering, it might be beneficial to leave your microphone on the whole time though; for example, by hearing someone cough, the meeting can feel less ‘sterile’. This can in turn lead to a feeling of more connectedness with the other participants. Whatever way you decide to go, make sure to turn on your microphone before you start talking to avoid the well-known “You’re still on mute”.

Show yourself

In many organizations, it is common practice to switch on your camera at the start of any virtual meeting. When this is not the case in your company then don’t call your gathering a meeting. If you can only hear each other but not see each other you are on a call so you should also name it that.

I am a big proponent of turning on the camera during virtual meetings. These gatherings already lack so much contact and non-verbal clues that it would be a shame not to take advantage of this possibility. Is your house a mess? That’s no longer an excuse given the virtual backgrounds in Microsoft Teams and Zoom, which allow for a very professional setting regardless of your actual environment.

Focus, focus, focus

In a face-to-face meeting you’re not going to answer e-mails in the meantime, are you? Then don’t do it during a virtual meeting either. Do not look at your phone during the call. In fact, put away your phone completely!

It is completely normal to get distracted, but be aware that you do have a choice whether or not you keep giving in to it. Also, you are rarely the only one. If you’ve lost track or got distracted, say so. It takes courage, but people will forgive you. Why? Because they can relate. What’s more, they often appreciate your honesty.

The bonus tip

Here’s the bonus tip I promised you to truly get the most out of your digital workday: be clear to others on what will happen during the meeting. For example, make it known when breaks are scheduled and also tell them when they are over.

It works best to show a countdown clock during the break, indicating how much break time is left. Some relaxing music during the break often also contributes to the positive experience of a digital meeting. This also works very well for an online brainstorming session.

Ensure there is personal contact

My biggest difficulty when it comes to working from home is the lack of personal contact and bonding with my colleagues. I am fortunate that I can still meet my coworkers from time to time. But how do you deal with personal contact and managing people during a digital workday?

Facilitate informal meetings

The best thing about seeing and speaking to colleagues in the office to me is the casual interactions. You never know who you will meet at the coffee machine and that is how you get to know many of your co-workers (as well as the organization and its culture). Is there a way to facilitate such interactions remotely?

First, let me state that I don’t believe you can completely replace face-to-face contact with colleagues with a virtual variant. I do think there are opportunities to make the most of the situation given the fact that you have to deal with a digital workday. Below are 3 examples to provide some inspiration:

  1. The Icebreaker app in Microsoft Teams
    The colleagues that are open to it can register for the app. Next, these people are linked to a random colleague for a weekly remote and thus digital cup of coffee.
  2. A continuous meeting
    Create a Microsoft Teams or Zoom meeting that is open all day for colleagues to join. If you feel like it, you can join in and have a chat. This is also an accessible way for new employees to get to know the organization.
  3. A challenge for new employees
    In their first month, give the new employees a challenge. You can think of something like taking a picture (during the digital workday this will be a screenshot) with at least 30 colleagues.

These are just a few examples of how to get in touch on a more personal level. I am convinced that if you give this some more thought (maybe together with some coworkers), great new initiatives will emerge. If you think you are not that creative a quick Google search can help you along.

The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.

Albert Einstein

Keep in touch and grab your freedom

It is precisely the signals from colleagues who are having a hard time that is less visible these days. Therefore it is all the more important to be aware of it and pay extra attention. Obviously, this is a task for management, but above all think of ways, you can make a positive contribution yourself. Just give your colleague a call, it might just make their day!

The company culture is probably one of the reasons why you work at your organization. Be aware that you are the one shaping it. Encourage colleagues to go for a walk or take a break during regular working hours. Also, you should realize the oddity of referring to this as ‘working hours’, given the flexibility that comes with working from home.

The right time to relax is when you don’t have time for it.

Sydney J. Harris

Plan your virtual commute

A final important note is to decide where the boundary between your work and private life lies. Some people like to mix it all up, however, I believe most of us would benefit from a clear separation between the two. While we worked in our physical offices this separation came naturally; there was a daily commute between our home and the office. Since a digital workday requires no daily commute, it is wise to build a virtual commute into your day. The idea is to create a habit for starting and ending your workday.

This can for example be taking a walk, doing a mindfulness exercise or reading the newspaper. I myself start the digital workday by dropping the kids off at daycare and I end it by picking them up again. This way there is a clear boundary between my work and my private life. Having a separate room as a home office of course helps a lot as well. Once you close the door behind you it’s done.

When you work, work hard. When you’re done, be done.

Cal Newport

Share your experiences!

I am curious to hear more about your experience with a digital workday. Please feel free to share your experiences and tips in the comments below this article.