6 tips for video conferencing etiquette

We can safely say that business during the last six months has predominately taken place over video. Communicating by video conference has become second nature for many of us, as it is now part of a daily routine and plays an increasing role in our lives. Especially with geographically dispersed teams, video conferences help to nurture relationships and increase employee satisfaction, which leads to productivity and efficiency.

So, here’s a little refresher on video etiquette that ensures participants are respected and each meeting is worthwhile:

Appearance matters – Dress as if you were in the office.  Dressing appropriately is a sign of respect and dressing unprofessionally can be a distraction to colleagues.  Make sure your background is neat so that it doesn’t distract from what you are saying.  It is human nature for people to be curious about their colleagues’ homes.

Be on time – Be respectful of your colleagues’ time.  Time is a precious commodity even working from home, where many of us are working longer hours than we usually do in the office.  Log in a few minutes early, especially if you will be talking to colleagues from other cultures, to allow time to enquire about each other’s well-being.

Check your hardware – Test the video platform before the meeting to make sure your camera, speakers and microphone are working properly.  Make sure your Internet connection is strong and that Internet speeds are fast enough to support a decent level of quality for a video call.  Nothing can bring a meeting to a screeching halt faster than losing Internet connection.

Camera positioning – The camera should be at eye level.  This allows for a more direct engagement.  A camera positioned too low on your body or somewhere else in the room can be distracting.  Natural side lighting is the best.  Too much light can make you appear washed out, and too little leaves your screen too dark for others to see your facial features.

Avoid background distractions – Ideally the room where you work should be quiet and have a door you can close.  If you have children and pets, let the children know that you need privacy and place the pets in another area of the house.  For colleagues speaking different languages, external noise can be disruptive when trying to follow a presentation.

Don’t multitask – While we have all done it, try not work on other tasks during the video meeting.  Remember that your presence is magnified on screen, and it will be more obvious if you are responding to an email, checking your phone, fidgeting or moving around when someone is talking.  Try to just focus on the meeting.

Muting your microphone when you’re not speaking is another best practice.  It’s amazing how much you can hear, when someone in not muted.  While most of these tips are intuitive, a refresher is always welcome.

For a little levity, take a look at this video on video conference etiquette from The English Manner, an etiquette and protocol training institute.  You’re sure to get a chuckle!

Gratitude to an Industry

This week’s newsletter is a bit of a departure. Instead of our usual articles covering a wide range of relocation topics, this is a letter of gratitude.

Full credit to Brian Keating from Dwellworks, who inspired me by stating so well recently on an ERC webinar that he was grateful to be a part of that panel and the industry as a whole. Brian gave voice to what many of us likely have been feeling: a boost of connectivity and a spark of inspiration every time we come together, however we come together.

The analogy of all being in the same boat doesn’t quite fit these days. Instead, we’re more like individual dinghies in the same harbor or – on stormier days – novice surfers riding the same rogue wave. But you all are like a lifeline, a life jacket, and a compass all rolled into one.

Virtual information sharing has become both necessary and welcome. Worldwide ERC, International SOS, AIRINC, and various RMCs are providing excellent content. The weekly Benivo sessions have been lively and informative.

Plugging in to virtual calls and webinars on a regular basis has helped illuminate the larger picture, frame specific issues, and identify potential paths forward. Six months into pandemic-induced isolation, we’ve worked very hard and come a long way.

So whether you are an industry organizer, service provider, corporate leader, sponsor, or other supporter of global talent mobility, thank you for sharing your expertise and best practices, and for – as Brian put it – making us feel like we’re together even though we’re not.

Hope to see you soon, maybe “at” ERC in October.

Written by Ellen Harris, GMS, Product Manager, Content Group

How do you address a doctor in Brunei?

In Brunei, which is known for the use of honorifics and titles, one should refer to Dr. David Smith as?

a.  Dr. Smith
b.  The Honorable Dr. Smith
c.  David Smith, the Righteous Doctor of Medicine.
d.  Dr. David

 

Click here for the answer!

“Life is like a bicycle…

…To keep your balance you must keep moving.”

-Albert Einstein

This past May, I climbed onto a bicycle for the first time in years at the encouragement of my 75 year old father, who bikes several times a week and is a member of Slow Roll Buffalo. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it, and now he and I swap GPS tracking data to see who logs the most miles every week. (It’s always him.)

Father-daughter friendly competition aside, there are many reasons cycling has experienced a global surge in the last six months. They include the reduction of public transportation options and the need for physical activity that accommodate social distancing. Urban bikeshares have reported a dramatic increase in fleet usage since March. Trails and car-free bicycle routes have also seen upticks in traffic — even as cities establish special lanes or even close roads to automobile traffic entirely. In some cities, such expansion is even necessary to maintain social distancing between bicyclists, runners and pedestrians.

Not surprisingly, there are some great online resources for new (or returning) bicyclists. Bikeshare.com connects you to urban bikeshare networks around the world. Bikemap.net offers the world’s largest collection of cycling routes — Traillink does this for North America, with some added features for members.  MapMyRide allows you to document and track your own rides. Many countries have resources that are maintained by cycling organizations, such as Cycling UK, USA Cycling, and Cycling Canada. These sources can connect you to local bicycle shops, clubs, and enthusiasts — all great sources for local information. And if you are new to needing bicycle safety pointers, or could just use a good refresher, the NHTSA is here to help.

Hope to see you on the trail!

The rise of the commuters

If you have participated in any remote global mobility seminars over the past few months, you have heard corporate mobility professionals discussing the need for policy changes for assignees due to the COVID pandemic. Alternatives to long-term assignments such as short-term stays, one-way transfers, and commuter assignments are gaining attention and have been on the rise as a way to meet global staffing needs. Of the three types of alternative assignments, commuters are growing in popularity.

Commuter assignments are expected to increase further over the next three years based on employee demand and issues surrounding the family. Employee-requested commuter arrangements are on the upswing. They allow for one partner to work abroad without disrupting their partner’s career or schooling for the children.

Currently, companies view commuter assignments as a cost-saving measure.  They can more quickly launch an employee into an assignment as compared to the time it takes to organize a long-term assignment. However, when these two types of assignments are compared side-by-side, commuters may not be necessarily cheaper.  While the salary package for a commuter assignment is leaner and there is no cost of relocation, there is still the cost of the weekly commute, daily living expenses and accommodations in the host location.

The biggest challenge for managing commuter assignments is immigration and tax compliance. International commuters can be exceptionally complex with regard to the liabilities and payroll obligations in both the home and host countries, and perhaps in other locations where they may work during a given period. Engaging professionals with expertise in both tax and social security compliance is a must.

Border closings due to the pandemic have given global mobility professionals time to review policies for this type of assignment. Best practices for compensation and benefits have been shared between companies especially regarding temporary, permanent or self-initiated commuters as this category of assignments will continue to grow.  Most commuters return home once a week with the company picking up the cost of the flight home.  Other benefits that companies provide are temporary housing, medical insurance, travel insurance, and to some extent, a transportation allowance.

In addition, to support the success of the commuter assignment, many companies provide destination information resources and online cultural training that can be accessed at the commuter’s convenience. This is especially important as the commuter has a shorter amount of time in the host office to work effectively. Understanding the cultural work style of the host location will ensure a smoother and more successful transition.  Both destination information and online culture training are cost-effective ways to support your commuters!

Are you ready?

Hurricane season is upon North America. The Atlantic season runs from June 1 to November 30, peaking from mid-August to late October. The Eastern Pacific season runs from May 15 to November 30.

The Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, and Gulf of Mexico are very active this time of year. In fact, 2020 has already broken the record for the most tropical storms before August 1 (there have been nine).

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Research Administration  (NOAA) in the U.S., the countries with the most hurricanes over the past 50 years are China, the Philippines, Japan, Mexico, the United States, Australia, Taiwan, Vietnam, Madagascar, and Cuba. In addition, other regions have monsoon seasons and cyclones.

While there is less travel these days due to the coronavirus, millions of people are still at risk for storm disruption during this season. Whether you are at home or living somewhere unfamiliar, there are steps you can take to stay safe.

  1. Local resources: Tap into government websites and preparedness resources in your area. These often provide warning system details, evacuation routes, and status updates during and after the storm. They may also list places to get essentials like water.
  2. Household preparation: By the time a storm’s strength is realized, many essentials may be in short supply. Stock up on water, shelf-stable foods, ice, and other staples ahead of time. If you need a generator, purchase one – and a supply of gas – while they are still available. Charge your electronic devices and back-up chargers. Gather flashlights and lanterns before you need them.
  3. Plan ahead for emergencies: If you have family members with unique needs, make a plan for those health issues. For example, if someone in your household is on oxygen, arrange for extra portable tanks that can be used in a power outage. If someone takes medication that must be refrigerated, prepare extra freezer packs to keep the medicine cool. Provided you have an idea of a timeline for the emergency (power restoration, e.g.), you might consider a hotel room in an area that has electricity. In extreme circumstances, evacuation may be warranted.
  4. Consider pandemic complications: COVID-19 precautions and restrictions turn storm response on its head. Cooling centers and charging stations are fewer and more risky than pre-pandemic. Neighbors helping neighbors – access to a hot shower or a cool place to sleep – becomes problematic. Affected residents need to change their usual post-storm behavior. Even the everyday issue of where to work can be challenging, with vastly more people working at home but searching for a place to plug in and power up. And rescues in flood-prone areas place people in close proximity out of necessity.

Planning ahead is the common theme here. Especially during this pandemic, do everything you can for your safety, health, and communication needs during a storm. Finally, patience and a positive attitude are valuable attributes in the best of times. In challenging times, they can make a huge difference for yourself and everyone around you.

Written by Ellen Harris, GMS, Product Manager, Content Group

Which important law went into effect in Turkey in 1934?

Which important law went into effect in Turkey in 1934 and is still in use today?

  1. Made Islam the official state religion.
  2. Banned the then-latest new technology: television.
  3. Mandated that all people have surnames.
  4. Outlawed tipping.

 

Click here for the answer!

Looks Like You Need…

These days, many of us would benefit from a good, therapeutic scream!  Fortunately, the country of Iceland has stepped up to the task.

Since travel remains limited throughout the globe, the website Looks Like You Need Iceland invites visitors to “let it out” virtually. Read through the tips for scream preparation, offered by Icelandic therapist Zoe Aston. Choose one of seven gorgeous Icelandic settings — which include a beach, a waterfall, and even a dormant volcano.  Press the yellow “Tap to Scream” button. (You’ll be told: “Please scream responsibly. The world is listening.”) If you give your browser permission to access your microphone, your scream will be recorded and played over a speaker in the actual location that you chose. And if it helps to know you are not alone, you can also listen to the screams of others around the world!

If the idea of visiting the location of your scream someday appeals to you, the website also offers information to help you plan an eventual trip, as well as the country’s current COVID-19 status and travel restrictions.

Written by Erin Fitzgerald, GMS, Content Manager

The Art of Moving

Any life transition brings fear of the unknown, and moving ranks high among major life events. The emotional impact of moving home, whether domestically or abroad, is one of the most stressful situations we can experience.  Some find the transition after relocating easier than others.

Here are some steps you can take toward emotional well-being and a positive outcome:

1.  Spend time planning for the move.  Make lists of how you want the move to go, what you need to do before and after, and set intentions for the best possible outcome.  This will prepare you internally for unexpected events during the process.  Also, note who will carry out those tasks and start delegating.

2.  Ask for help.  This is the time to rely on family, friends and even colleagues for support.  It’s important to articulate and discuss any anger, fear, sadness or doubt that you and your family experience.  This is especially important if you are relocating with children.  Set aside some time to include the kids in the planning stages before the move and ask them to verbalize their vision of the new home.

3.  Acknowledge your feelings. Recognize that you will feel sad leaving behind familiar people, places and your home.  Anticipating the inevitable emotions – both positive and negative – can help you manage the challenging ones when they do arise. Take the time to say goodbye to friends and family for closure.

4.  Maintain self-care during stressful times.  Self-care is especially important for women, who tend to handle more details of a move while managing work, children, pets and family members.  Often, self-care takes a back seat to everything that needs to be juggled.  Self-care should be the top priority during this transition for emotional stability for the whole family.

5.  Focus on the present moment.  It’s easy to get distracted and start thinking about the past and what the future will hold.  Try to slow down and focus on the tasks at hand.  Taking a moment to stop and take a break can often reset your thoughts to the present.

It’s important to note that everything valuable – people, experiences, place – are memories that travel with us.  In reality, you are not leaving your friends and neighbors, but extending your friendship group as you meet new people in your new community.

Think about the bigger picture and why the move is important.  Life transitions come with new opportunities to grow as a person.  Focusing on self-care and the benefits of the move will empower you to maintain balance during this transition.

Written by Cathy Heyne, GMS-T, Managing Director

Caring for Elders During the Pandemic

Have you or someone you know been separated from an elderly loved one during the pandemic?

Maybe your situation is as simple as not being able to visit a parent or grandparent because of their age or risk factors, or because you live in a hot spot and can’t risk traveling to them. Perhaps an international assignment has left you stranded abroad.

Residents of care facilities and their families have the added burden of being isolated. In an effort to stop virus transmission, visitors have not been allowed in-person contact in many places.

Finally, you may actually be responsible for an elder’s care, which can be complicated by concerns over personal visits, resorting to remote communication with the loved one and medical personnel, and the general angst and separation brought on by service shut-downs.

Here are some ways to address these:

Navigating a virtual world
Workers aren’t the only ones who have quickly adopted new technologies. Senior citizens of all skill levels have embraced Skype, Zoom, Facetime, and other apps and platforms that let them see and talk to family. In some cases, it’s brought far-flung family members together more often than was possible when everyone’s schedules were so full with conflicting commitments.

Due to increased screen time and Internet shopping, make sure your senior has all the latest security protections against malware and viruses. Encourage them to be cautious with any communication or offers coming from unfamiliar sources, and vigilant about sharing personal information.

Increased reliance on Internet shopping has led many people to expand their web presence. Be sure your senior uses strong passwords when setting up new accounts for online deliveries.

Staying on top of managed care
Families with loved ones in assisted care facilities may have been refused visits in the past few months. Tablets, smart phones, and laptops have become lifelines of connection and a good way to lay eyes on the elder person to gauge their health and well-being. Health care staff have ramped up these alternative methods of communications, often providing a device to residents for these virtual visits.

In some areas, outdoor, socially-distanced visits are now possible. Facilities that make these visits available typically require face masks and a distance of six feet maintained between people.

Medications, doctors’ visits, and therapies can be monitored from the outside via phone calls and emails between the family and staff. You might also tap into the routine professional meetings that may now take place remotely between care team members. Regularly calling in or participating on Zoom can keep the family up to date with changes in health and to help plan for future needs.

Planning for what’s next
Though things are opening up in many places, older people will likely be the last group to experience a return to pre-pandemic freedoms. While restrictions are still in place, it is a good time to ensure that things are in order. If estate planning is non-existent or documents outdated, now is a good time to address that. Discuss with your loved one what their wishes are for the next stages of care, and beyond.

No one knows how long it may take for our elderly population to be medically safe from viruses like COVID-19. But family members can be creative, flexible, and persistent in making sure elders are cared for and connected to those who love them.

Written by Ellen Harris, GMS, Product Manager, Content Group