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Telework in a new world

Paul Kilbank — a Toronto-based tech expert, consultant and frequent visitor to Japan — is covering the ways you can harness technology at the workplace to increase your productivity. His latest article looks at video conferencing software that lets us communicate and collaborate effectively, whether at home or at the office.

Video conferencing is a key foundation of remote working, also known as teleworking, made possible by advances in underlying soft-ware technology and network infrastructure. Many organizations and professionals, under the inescapable pressure of the current pandemic, are adopting these tools to work remotely and engage customers, partners and vendors without physically meeting. Are you ready?

Better Way

Many readers will already be familiar with popular video chat applications such as FaceTime and Skype. Video conferencing software goes a step further with more advanced features, so virtual meetings become easier to manage and feel closer to a real meeting room experience, whether they’re a one-on-one discussion or a companywide update.

Here are just a few capabilities that distinguish video conferencing software without the need for elaborate webinar or collaboration platforms:

  • Scheduling meetings in advance so you can conveniently distribute access details with your original email invite
  • Managing meetings with password access, microphone mute, video pinning and private  messaging
  • Encouraging open discussion and collaboration with screen sharing, white boards and text chat 
  • Recording entire calls, or specific topics only, for playback later as training or demo videos
  • Accessing the virtual meeting using any Android, iOS, Mac or Windows device

Narrow the Field

The video conferencing landscape today is packed with simple, reliable and affordable options. Technology novices should take full advantage of free plans and free trials. Be sure to check the maximum number of meetings and participants as well as the maximum duration across tiered subscription plans. These are a few popular standalone options that work well for both in-house and customer meetings.

Zoom has quickly become a platform of choice for consumers and businesses alike. Why? It’s simple, reliable and offers an attractive free plan. Be sure to follow good security practices though, as they scramble to fix widely publicized privacy and security shortcomings.

BlueJeans continues to build its reputation as a leading innovator. Their Smart Meeting technology lets participants link comments, actions and decisions within the actual video recording and later watch a time-saving high-lights video for context.

WebEx, owned by Cisco Systems Inc., has long been a dominant enterprise brand with a broad feature set. As Cisco broadens its sights to collaboration platforms such as Slack and Microsoft Teams, it is also promoting a generous free WebEx tier that competes well with Zoom.

Go Virtual

Shifting from face-to-face to virtual meetings need not feel socially awkward. Hosts can fill a broader role as meeting facilitator that goes beyond just managing agendas and action items. Set the right tone by introducing call participants, adding casual chat time and drawing quiet people into the discussion.

As a participant, you can contribute to a productive meeting and promote your personal brand by following a few online tips along with standard meeting room etiquette.

  • Check your technical setup so you’re ready to join the meeting on time — especially if you’re using new software
  • Stay focused by closing other applications and disabling email and news alerts.
  • Unless room noise is a real problem, stay unmuted so you can immediately share feedback in the natural conversation flow

Strive for a professional environment by:

  • Reducing distractions in the camera background
  • Buying a proper headset to limit background noise
  • Adding bright lights so people can see you clearly
  • Advising family members when you plan to use a shared space


Video conferencing has quickly become indispensable for business. Whether traditional company practices and cultures are reshaped for the long term remains to be seen. Certainly, over the short term, professionals working in Japan should embrace these communication tools to maintain personal relationships and drive projects forward during these tough times.


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