Eva Pascoe | Digital Retailer
  • Mar 22, 2020
  • Eva Pascoe
  • Comments Off on To Mute or not to Mute – Leading in the times of Coronavirus – Series
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Working-from-home tsunami Week 1 is behind us and it has brought us some winners but also some bitter losers.

Courtesy of coronavirus, over 6 mln people in UK, 1mln Londoners as well as millions across Europe and even more in US , have finally left their daily torture of long commute. Many of the newly minted home workers have just casually rambled over in their pyjamas the from bedroom to the kitchen table (judging by what I have seen on Zoom,  a surface of choice for most of the new remote workers).

It is one small step for man but one giant leap step for mankind. There is a strong feeling that the genie is out of the bottle now and even when this nightmare is over, we will not go back to offices again. We haven’t spend a week on the phones sweating, shouting and setting up the remote teams to now face the Underground germs infested trains again.

In this spirit of new remote work permanence, here 6 new tips for Team Leaders in the time of Corona. Not easy  to coach and support your teams thru this transition – hopefully sharing what we have learned this week will help.

To Mute or Not to Mute – Vid-Etiquette

For the first few days the teams’ productivity was low for the newbies and only medium for the old-hands as in the team. It transpires that with the remote team, their productivity is only as good as the weakest link. 

Many teams had the less experienced members struggling to connect to video conferencing. It took a lot of IT remote support time, then once connected, they kept forgetting to UnMute  and speaking voiceless, wasting everyone else’s time. 

If I had a penny for every ‘sorry, I was on mute’ that I heard this week, I would be able to fund coronavirus vaccine research all by myself.

Current consensus is To Mute as the team does not really want to hear your washing machine going in the background or Amazon delivery rings, it disturbs the flow. But your guys need to learn to always to have a finger on Mute icon and press when then want to make a comment. This will take time or interfaces must get better.

By Friday we all got through Mute On/Off issues and by Thursday most teams were up and running, albeit with our language descending in a cluster of clichés or ZoomSpeak.

Pro-tip: for non-native participants, if language is a problem, try video conferencing solutions with speech-to-text as it may solve misunderstandings (not perfect but cuts down time on repeating everything twice).

Pro-tip: Make sure your camera shows clean working space without empty yoghurt pots everywhere, home working requires discipline and a bit of a visual check before firing up Zoom. 

Back the winner –  the right tools for the job

The biggest surprise of the week was that Zoom video conferencing, the go-to for remote teams, has not actually fallen over despite insane increase of demand.  Skype struggled and got progressively worse as the week progressed. Zoom soared – you can see on the graph – it has grown exponential to mirror the actual culprit of our mass behaviour change, coronavirus growth. 

Their CEO, Eric Yean has spent the week patching up the platform with shoestrings and sellotape to support the growth from 30mln users to about 80mln in a week, but they got through and how!  His reward is that now Zoom has replaced Skype as a verb, you just say ” I will Zoom you later”!

The biggest loser of the week  by far is Skype. No matter how busy Microsoft was since they bought Skype in 2011, they missed an opportunity of the lifetime. Niklas Zennstrom, the original creator of Skype must be having nightmares. In a typical manner of a bureaucratic legacy company, Microsoft did not get around to improving anything and let Zoom eat it’s lunch.

Pro-tip: To cheer up your team with an inspirational background during  Zoom, follow instructions here. You can also source extra funky backgrounds here for the more creative team leaders. But do not overcook it, people need to focus after all.

SOS from newbies – Teamviewer

The title of the Remote Team Hero Tool of the week was won by TeamViewer. 

If you have a new or struggling team member, stuck at home and unable to figure out how to connect to Zoom or Skype, Teamviewer is your best friend. It allows remote access to any desktop or laptop and takes over the controls as if you were actually in the room with them. This week it has rescued many a newbie as IT support can dial in remotely and set up locally. Despite the fact it is owned by Permira Private Equity, unlike Magento, they have not managed to ruin the tool. Or maybe German founder pushed back before it was too late.  A must for remote teams with uneven technical experience. 

Pro-tip: Get your remote strugglers to Uber you their laptop, install TeamViewer and Uber back, then it is easy to remotely control their laptop.

Scam off

With all your team members logging on to your cloud applications from random locations, it is vital to maintain as strict cybersecurity as possible. 

You want to monitor (and where necessary block) outbound connections from the device they are using while ‘at work’.  We have seen many successes and easy install of Cisco Umbrella, which originally was for VPNs, can now be used for remote team cybersec support.

It operates at DNS level so guarantees cloud service user is who you expect it to be. CU also prevents spoofing and gives connection analysis (just tell people you are seeing them, get consent and explain it is for their own protection, not as a surveillance.

Dogs of war

We are at war (with the virus) and we need friends. A surprisingly low-tech solution for the clumsiness and inefficiencies of bonding for your remote teams is the occasional presence of the dogs. I have two, and both always make appearances on the calls, always to a big cheer (well they are adorable spaniels). If you can virtually pat the dog, stroke the cat or even admire a hedgehog together during a video call, this makes all the difference – thank you to Michael Weedon for the best webcam shot of hedgehogs slurping their morning porridge. 

Pro-tip: those lucky ones who have a dog, FaceTime from your walk to a teammate and share a few photos of dogs frolicking. It is proven that dogs improve the mood, both virtually and physically and we will all need to keep the spirits up.

Wine O’Clock for the team

As much as it is nice to work in your pyjamas, remote teams need cheering up and positive vibes. There are some amazing treats you can send to them online but the best one has to be Wine Suppliers That Deliver to Self-Isolators – edited by our favourite London Wine Expert.

The war is 10,000 years, as the Japanese say (well, at least 3 months). Be generous, you can’t take them to the pub on Friday night but a delivery of a well-chosen tipple to be consumed at a virtual pub evening will help to keep the team glued together. Banzai! 


Send us your tips for Leading Remote Teams, every tip will be given credits and greatly appreciated eva@never.com.

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