Best practices for remote work using Amazon Chime
COVID-19 is affecting just about every aspect of our lives including how we work or learn. Many employees and students are working from home who haven’t in the past and while being at home might have some benefits such as more family time, it is important to pay attention to technology, environment, and etiquette best practices for best outcomes. As someone who works from home full-time, I have learned and implemented some best practices that I wanted to share with you all today. As I use Amazon Chime at work, I will also cover how these best practices coupled with the features of the service to help me stay productive when working remotely. For example, video can be very helpful to still feel connected with your team or customers even though you aren’t face to face. Whether you use Amazon Chime or not, I hope these best practices help you improve your remote work experience as well.
Let’s dive into the best practices.
Setting up your work from home environment
Take some time to set up your workspace in a comfortable and quiet spot in your home
You might think that flipping open your laptop at the kitchen table and starting your workday is fine and at first so did I. Aside from the many potential distractions, this often doesn’t provide a sound barrier between you and the action taking place in your home. If you don’t have a dedicated room to set up your workspace in, try to find an area that allows you to close off from distractions. If you have the choice, a room with carpeting and limited reverberance is best so you don’t sound like you are working from an echo chamber.
Ensure adequate lighting and pick a non-distracting background
Your background, lighting, and surroundings are also important for video conferencing. Try not to have a bright light source behind you, like a window. This causes your webcam to adjust to the light behind you, and darkens your face. What’s behind you on the walls also matters. Neutral colors and with nothing distracting is best.
Position your web-cam or integrated camera correctly
Your face should be positioned in the center of the frame with just a bit of room on all sides, not too close or too far away. The camera should also be positioned straight on, not too far above or below your face.
Selecting the right technology tools
There are steps you can take to greatly improve your audio and video quality. Using a headset, an external webcam, and ensuring your internet connection is robust enough for remote work are a few ways.
Use a high-quality headset
There are several benefits of using a good headset. First, you reduce the likelihood of echo which occurs when a microphone captures audio from your speakers and creates a loop. Amazon Chime uses built in echo cancellation however in extreme cases the presenter’s voice can still get garbled. However, if the sound from the “far end” is contained within a headset speaker against your ears, it is much harder for the microphone to hear that audio and create the loop. In addition to limiting echo, the proximity of the microphone to your mouth reduces background noise heard on the meeting. When using Amazon Chime, you can easily change your preferred audio device during a meeting from built-in microphone & speaker to a headset. You can visit the Amazon Chime device qualification page to find headsets that have been certified for use.
Using an external webcam
Cameras built into laptops have varying degrees of resolution and quality. One benefit of an external webcam is being able to physically place it in a position that is pointed in front of your face and centered within the frame. With built-in laptop cameras, the view can be beneath someone’s nose causing an angle that is probably not flattering, but also distracting. A 720p or 1080p HD webcam will give you the best results. If you can, having a light that illuminates your face will help see your face more clearly. Amazon Chime allows you to have up to 16 participants on video and attendees can turn on their video at any time during the call.
Good internet connection
Video conferencing and other real-time bandwidth intensive programs you might use for work could put a strain on your internet connection. Something to think about is who else and what else is using your internet bandwidth while you are working. For example, other people in your house might also be home consuming bandwidth working, streaming, or gaming. Sometimes your VPN connection back to your company’s network might be the bottleneck especially if more users than normal are utilizing it. Try disconnecting from the VPN and trying your conference software again if the service allows it. Amazon Chime has a feature called “red mic” giving a visual indication when there is a network bandwidth issue. If this happens during a meeting, try dialing in by phone so your audio doesn’t stream over your internet connection.
Test your equipment, software, connection, audio, video, and lighting in advance
Testing is important and it gives you time to troubleshoot issues should they arise. If you can, set up a short meeting with a coworker with audio and video turned on. If the conferencing software you have allows recording, (here is how on Amazon Chime) turn that feature on so you can listen back to the quality. Amazon Chime has screen-share capabilities and also apps on mobile, Mac and PC. There is also a web app allowing others to use Amazon Chime without an AWS account a client application. Utilize the Amazon Chime add-in for Outlook to schedule meetings with a single click. The auto-call feature can help your meetings start on time even though you are not in a conference room together.
Keeping meeting etiquette in mind
Optimizing your environment and your technology will help ensure better meeting quality but there are still some other things you should do to ensure a successful meetings while you are working from home.
Mute your microphone when you aren’t speaking
This seems like a simple statement but it is easy to forget. If you are using Amazon Chime, there is a “visual roster” that shows every attendee, how they are connected via audio, and who is muted and unmuted. Also if someone is making noise while unmuted you can see from which attendee the disturbance is coming from so anyone in the meeting can mute them temporarily. This is especially helpful as meeting sizes grow past just your immediate team. Being able to quickly eliminate a disturbance like echo or a dog barking can help the meeting keep focus.
Don’t be a distraction on video
If you’re on camera, try not to do anything that distracts presenters or attendees. Examples would be eating, answering your cell phone, and playing with pets. In these cases it’s best to turn off your video to keep the meeting focused. Amazon Chime allows any user (unless using Event Mode) to turn on and off their video at any time.
Optimize your content for remote viewing
Others may be viewing your presentation on a phone, tablet, or small computer screen so ensure the font is big enough to be readable. A good reference point is staying above 24pt font and using dark colors for text. Playback of video clips doesn’t work well over a remote meeting so it’s better to send links for separate viewing. Amazon Chime enables you to easily to share your screen or just a particular window on your screen with all other attendees in the meeting. Changing presenters doesn’t require meeting host intervention saving time.
Speak clearly and loud enough to be heard
There is a certain amount of consonant loss when capturing and reproducing audio. To mitigate this loss, being conscious of how you are speaking can really make a difference to the comprehension of your words to others in the meeting. There is an indicator of who is speaking in the visual roster within every Amazon Chime meeting.
Be accepting of the inevitable distractions
With many schools closed, your coworkers aren’t the only ones at home. Be understanding and accepting that there will be distractions and stress levels might be a bit higher than normal. Joining from your couch using the Amazon Chime mobile app might be the only option and that it’s okay.
Getting acclimated to any new work environment can be challenging at first but once you comfortable it becomes second nature. Remember to set boundaries, both physical and virtual, since you won’t have them naturally like you do in the office. Establish your work hours and do your best to stick to them with your coworkers, boss, and importantly your family!
If you have questions about Amazon Chime and how can we help you enable remote work or learning in your organization, please connect with us using this contact us form.
Resources: Customers can learn more at the Amazon Chime website, get Amazon Chime for their organization (setup instructions or video), and provide their end users with videos, instructions, or training material.