Making screen meetings accessible

Who among us feels like an old pro at virtual meetings by now? Who also feels a bit fatigued by virtual meetings?

Given that online gatherings remove the physical cues and subtleties we typically register in person, we sometimes can miss out on the entire message being delivered. We lack the full complement of office setting insights. Reading body language may not be possible because of the camera angles. Occasionally someone’s sound is garbled. In smaller groups, participants can alert the person with a troubled connection, but in larger meetings that is more difficult.

The bottom line is that we have to work harder to pay attention and exchange information. This is especially true if we have distractions at home.

Anyone with vision, hearing, or other impairments may find this “new normal” extra challenging. While many of us are experimenting with boredom-busting backgrounds, some of us are struggling to hear or see clearly.

Proper lighting and contrast help with visuals. Check your audio ahead of time and eliminate background noise from inside and outdoors as much as possible. Also make sure other device notifications are on silent.

Meeting platforms also have plenty of extra functions that assist those with impairments, including closed captioning, transcripts, and amplification. See examples of accessibility features in more detail, from A to Z:

Many of the features are useful to anyone: Text magnification, sound amplification, closed captioning and transcription, screen filters and other color options, keyboard shortcuts, screen readers, and high contrast settings. There just may be something here that helps you or your coworkers engage just a little more easily in that next virtual meeting.

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

When in Bangladesh….

Tipping in Bangladesh can be complicated. What statement is false?

  1. Even though hotels charge a service fee, hotel staff expect a small tip.
  2. Bangladeshis do not tip in restaurants.
  3. Never tip a delivery person as it is considered insulting.
  4. Foreigners are expected to tip in upscale restaurants.

 

Click here for the answer!

New iPhone and iPad features for the Globally Mobile

The release of iOS 14 has brought many new features and capabilities to iPhone and iPad users. Features of particular interest to the globally mobile are expanded Maps features, and the new Apple app Translate. While translation apps have been available for mobile phones for some time, one that is native to the operating system is likely to become popular and familiar.


iOS 14 also offers the opportunity to simplify your home screen. Don’t remember which folder has the app you’re looking for? Swipe right, and there’s a page with a searchable index. This change means your home screen has just the widgets and resources you use the most.

Here’s one way to add direct access to a website, in this case Living Abroad’s International Relocation Center, to your iOS home screen:

  1. Open your subscription link on your iOS device, in Safari.
  2.  Choose the “Share” icon at the bottom, and scroll down.
  3.  Select “Add to Home Screen.

4.  Check out your indispensable resource, now just a tap away!

Android users can find similar options in their mobile browser menus.

Written by Erin Fitzgerald, GMS, Content Manager

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!