Meeting with colleagues online has come a long, long way from even a few years ago. The object of meeting online, of course, is to make getting in touch with colleagues remotely just as convenient as in real life. With components like video, we’re getting nearer that status all the time.
However, there’s one particular way that, with an incomplete setup, online meetings still fall short: interruptions. And as basic of a problem as that sounds, it still presents a very real obstacle to online meetings becoming on par with traditional ones, so long as the issue goes unaddressed.
To illustrate why, we need to step into the headspace of being at an in-person meeting.
An Unexpected Meeting
Imagine you’re leading a brainstorming session with colleagues, all seated around a large mahogany table. You’re serving as the project leader. At the front of the room, you’ve been marking down ideas from the entire team on a whiteboard.
Fortunately, input and participation have been great. When not adding to the brainstorming, each person at the table has been taking notes or actively thinking about what to add next.
All in all, it’s been highly productive, and you’re only 20 minutes into a planned one-hour session. So you decide to take a moment to review everything proposed, and you announce that you’re going to go through every idea listed thus far.
Then, at the very moment, your colleague Devin bursts into the room, taps you on the shoulder and asks if you know where the printer paper was last. The room falls into a stunned quiet as you consider whether to answer Devin or escort him back out the door.
As far-fetched as that image is, consider for a moment what it would do to the meeting: Even after the awkward, shocked silence and resulting scolding of Devin, it wouldn’t be easy to get the meeting back on track. After all, instead of being laser-focused on the task at hand, attendees will now be thinking about the interruption.
When meeting in-person, interruptions that brazen are rare, to be sure. But when meeting online, they’re exhaustingly common. All too often, team members in the office or family at home think that, because we’re “just at a computer,” we must automatically be available for any menial request at all. As a result, video meetings are constantly barged into by our real-life compatriots, and proceedings stumble as a result.
Of course, it’s rarely those other folks’ fault. Rarely if ever do colleagues actively want to disrupt a meeting — it’s simply that they don’t realize you’re occupied. Sitting at a computer, you don’t immediately look part of a panel the way you would in a physical meeting room.
Given that distinguishing factor, let’s take one more trip down Hypothetical Lane: Suppose you had a videoconferencing setup that made it immediately obvious you were on a call.
Examples from Cyberspace
It’s easy enough to imagine an analogue solution to this problem, of course. We might go with signs displayed near our desks that say “BUSY” or “IN A MEETING”; barring that, we might work out a symbolic system, where a closed door or something left on desks indicate our availability.
The trouble with these ideas is they’re neither easy to instantly implement nor persistent in display. Remembering to put up a display each time you enter a video call isn’t an easy ask, especially if you’re in several such meetings a day. Even if you do reliably put that notice up, colleagues may not consistently respect it for the simple reason that they’ll not be sure if you actively remembered to take it down once your meeting is done.
In many ways, these ideas would only serve as attempts to reinvent the wheel, because we already have a proven way of stopping interruptions in the online world: status indicators. In any given chat app or service, letting everyone know your availability is as simple as tapping a button to set your status to “available,” “busy” or some variation thereof. In fact, most of these solutions automatically set your status to “in a meeting” once you join a video call, meaning there’s zero chance of human error leading colleagues to believe you’re actually available.
This in mind, the solution to showing your availability in real life shouldn’t be based around you remembering to put up a sign. Actually, the real answer is a system that alerts everyone automatically, with all the discretion and clarity of an actual status indicator icon.
Fortunately, interlinked hardware already exists for that very purpose.
What’s Your Status?
Wildix has solutions built for this purpose – the MonoLED and DuoLED headsets.
As their names suggest, these devices all display your availability through a prominent light — both on your head or when resting on the included desk stand. The lights on both are prominent, yet not invasive, and operate under the universal color scheme of green meaning “available” and red meaning “busy” (more colors are also shown to indicate other statuses as well, such as violet for “do not disturb”).
What makes the devices truly effective is that they’re consistent with the online status you’re already displaying. When you go into a video meeting, the headset recognizes your availability has changed and turns red in response. Now, without having to set up any signs or switch anything, you’re clearly shown as unavailable to anyone who walks by.
In a nutshell, the MonoLED and DuoLED take the simplicity of online status indicators and put them into the real world, without ever sacrificing the convenience or readability they’re known for online.
What It Translates To
With a simple, automatic visual alert of when you’re available and when you’re not, there’s a simple result: productivity improves.
Again, a meeting is consistently going to become less productive if it’s interrupted even once. But with your status clearly displayed, those interruptions become less likely to occur. That in turn means you’ll get to enjoy plenty of productivity benefits.
Some choice examples include:
- One less step in meeting prep: An automatic switch to “Do Not Disturb” mode both online and in your office means you can simply pop into your meeting without spending time or mental effort on informing the world not to bother you.
- Greater peace of mind: Not having to worry about someone walking in on your office space means a more positive headspace, and that on its own makes work life easier.
- Improved focus: On that same note, knowing there’s little chance of being interrupted helps ensure your attention stays entirely on your meeting and not on the possibility of telling someone to come back later.
- Less clashing with colleagues: Unspoken throughout this whole process is how having to verbally turn coworkers down can create an awkward air with them. But if they know you’re unavailable without your having to tell them, that conflict won’t happen in the first place.
- More active time in meetings: Perhaps most importantly, if you’re not getting up to turn interrupters away, you’re spending more time in your meeting listening and providing input — which, of course, is just better use of everyone’s time.
Simply put, that makes each meeting accomplish more, helping each of your colleagues make greater use of the time gathered together.
Lighting the Way
To reiterate, the rise of online meetings can be credited to how they allow for remote collaboration while still granting the main benefits of in-person conferences. Internet speeds high enough to transfer voice and video over real time are instrumental here, of course. But the point we still haven’t quite overcome is the remaining assumption that being at a computer doesn’t count as being occupied the same way as one is while in a meeting room or on a phone.
Bridging that gap in expectations requires immediate visual feedback — something that won’t take time out of meeting preparations, but will still instantly tell onlookers that you’re occupied, even though you’re at a laptop. And that connection is truly as simple as hardware synced to the online statuses which automatically show your availability already.
The MonoLED and DuoLED headsets from Wildix complete any videoconferencing setup by providing just that connection. Thanks to their easily readable color-coded LED system, these devices effectively put your online status on display for your entire home or office.
In any setting where interruptions are possible, that quick alert and consequent peace of mind will always be worth it.
For more tips over managing office life and implementing software, subscribe to receive our magazine for free!
For more tips on creating effective business setups, subscribe to receive our magazine for free!