A woman on a sofa is talking to colleagues on a video call while her dog is disrupting the meeting.
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How to minimise disruptions when you’re on a video call

30 Jun 2020

Tim Ihlefeld, CEO of digital interviewing platform Harqen, shares his advice on keeping important video calls distraction-free.

Video conferencing has become second nature to many of us now after the shift to remote working, but something we perhaps haven’t gotten used to is managing how our home lives can impact our virtual meetings.

It might be your pets, your children or a delivery at the door causing interruptions. So, how can you minimise the distractions these might pose to your colleagues during video calls?

I spoke to president and CEO of Harqen, Tim Ihlefeld, to learn more. Milwaukee-based company Harqen has developed a digital interviewing platform, and Ihlefeld has 25-plus years of technology recruitment experience.

Can using video-conferencing tools cause stress for those working from home?

While video conferencing may add some stress, I always like to think of these meetings as similar to an in-person meeting. As long as participants prepare for these virtual meetings, especially if they’ll be leading the session, all should go smoothly.

While unanticipated disturbances like a child crying, a dog barking or family members making noise can definitely lead to some pitfalls or pauses, everyone is learning and adapting right now.

Understanding that these disturbances will happen and moving on from the mishap, even laughing it off when applicable, is typically the best path forward. After all, we’re all learning how to work from home and to use technology and video tools to our advantage in this new normal.

Should people tell other members of their household when they’re on video calls?

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that life often gets in the way when there’s not a distinct separation between work and family, friends and loved ones. That’s why it’s important to warn family members or those you live with if you’re about to get on a video call.

Requesting this time for some peace and quiet, with minimal disturbance, is key to minimising as much distraction as possible. Additionally, if possible, it’s helpful to set yourself up in a separate room from the rest of your household. This way, your background is clear, and the presence of others becomes a non-issue.

Most will understand it’s sometimes not realistic to assume every person will have a private room to make use of for a video call, so that’s why letting your household know of your status ahead of time to reduce any unnecessary noise or disturbance is crucial to setting yourself up for success.

What are some common mishaps? How can people minimise the impact of these when they happen?

Some common virtual mishaps include a dog barking, a child crying, family members walking around in the backdrop of your virtual setting, noise from outside and much more. While these instances are definitely anxiety-inducing, there are some ways video participants can pivot to reduce the impact of these effects.

First of all, if you hear noise in the background and you’re not the one currently speaking or presenting, make sure you’re on mute. This will mitigate any noise complaints you may face from someone on the receiving end.

Additionally, if you feel as if you need to get up from your seat to tell those in the background to quiet down, consider turning your video off momentarily to briefly leave the screen.

Lastly, simply let those people on the receiving end know you send your apologies for the disturbances on your side. Everyone knows these times are difficult right now, so making note of it and moving on from the distraction is a good path forward.

How can people set themselves up for success with video technology, preventing any tech failures during calls?

To best prevent any tech mishaps, make sure you arrive on the video line at least five to 10 minutes ahead of time so you’re able to troubleshoot if there are any problems. This way, you can fix any minor tech issues ahead of the call and ensure you aren’t tardy.

For someone new to video technology, what do you think is the most important thing to keep in mind?

It’s important to remember that technology doesn’t always work as it should 100pc of the time. And even the most tech-savvy and experienced professionals understand this and are sympathetic when other users encounter a problem.

To minimise future disruptions, make sure you learn from issues and prepare for similar scenarios moving forward. And pivot when hiccups come up.

Video tools are surging right now for a reason, and they’re likely to continue to rise in popularity as remote workforces remain more permanent. It’s imperative that companies adapt with these tools and employees learn how to make the most out of video experiences, even in the face of distractions.

Lisa Ardill
By Lisa Ardill

Lisa Ardill joined Silicon Republic as senior careers reporter in July 2019. She has a BA in neuroscience and a master’s degree in science communication. She is also a semi-published poet and a big fan of doggos. Lisa briefly served as Careers Editor at Silicon Republic before leaving the company in June 2021.

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