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Greening Your Home Office

Greening Your Home Office
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    When you work in an office building — even if you’re just a member of the cubicle farm — someone else is usually in charge of handling environmental details. You may be asked to switch off your computer before you leave for the evening or to throw paper into a separate trash receptacle, but that’s likely to be the extent of your responsibilities. But when you’re in your home office, the decision to have a greener office is up to you rather than some manager in the sky.

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    Plenty of us choose to ignore those little opportunities to make our home offices greener, even if we work entirely from home. There are other incentives, however: a green office is often cheaper to run. I’ve listed out a few tips for several areas of greening your office — most of which I’ve tried out. The exceptions are in the ‘Extreme Green’ category. Don’t limit yourself to my suggestions, though. There are many options for greening your office: you just have to find the right ones for you.

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    Power

    My local electric company basically doubled their rates in the last year, and I use plenty of power in my home office. When I started investigating options to make my electricity bill a bit cheaper, just about everything I ran across was an option to make my office more environmentally friendly. Most options, of course, didn’t bring down the bill by a huge amount, but they did stack up to a respectable savings.

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    • Use compact fluorescent light bulbs. Bonus: these bulbs last significantly longer than incandescent bulbs, making them cheaper over time.
    • Turn down the heater during the day. I’m a big fan of wearing a sweater, rather than running the heater full blast. I also keep the office chilly enough that I’m encouraged to get up and move around regularly — which can help with a few health issues.
    • Dump the CRT monitor. If you’ve been looking for an excuse to buy a flat panel monitor, here it is: LCDs use less power and are better for the environment.
    • Limit peripherals. I’ve got the whole range: scanner, fax machine, two printers. But I’ve divvied them up between a few power strips, and if I don’t need them at the moment, I turn off the entire power strip.

    Trash

    Even though I limit the amount of paperwork I print out, I still wind up with an incredible amount of trash all the time. It goes far beyond paper, of course, but that seems to be the largest source of trash.

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    • Shred paper. I shred everything, from old business documents to random junk mail — the more stuff you shred, the safer your important information will be. I don’t recycle a significant portion of my shredded papers: I use them as packing material whenever I need to mail something out.
    • Use reusable cups. Most people tend to have a drink of some sort sitting next to their computer. Rather than buying individual servings of juice or soda, though, consider a larger bottle and a cup. I go for the kind with a lid, but then again, I’m known for accidentally knocking over my drinks.
    • Digitize your paperwork. I’ve worked with people who print off every email they receive. They read their email on paper and then, usually, wind up throwing it away. I try to avoid printing off anything that I don’t absolutely need in print (contracts and such being things worth printing off).

    Travel

    Even for those of us who work entirely at home, there are plenty of times that we must leave our home offices: errands, meetings, etc. There are plenty of opportunities to make our travel both greener and easier.

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    • Stay out of the commute. For many of us, the greatest perk of working at home is staying out of the commuter traffic. But we lose that opportunity any time we schedule a meeting first thing in the morning or at the end of the day.
    • Batch errands together. I try to run all my errands in one go — I save time, gas and the environment all at once.
    • Explore alternate means of transport. Bikes, feet, public transport, car pools, pogo sticks: there are plenty of options for getting out of your office, and odds are you might have a little more leeway on time, as well.

    Extreme Green

    If you’re serious about operating a green home office — and by extension, a home — there are some hardcore options to make your entire building more environmentally friendly. If you’re living in an apartment or rental, I would recommend thoroughly discussing these ideas with your landlord before implementing any of them. I am not necessary advocating going this far — I know I’m not hardcore enough to handle these sorts of options, at least at this point — but there are further options out there.

    • Go solar. One of the easiest ways to use less power from your local electric company in an existing building is to put solar panels up. It can be an expensive investment, though.
    • Implement water saving technology. Greywater recycling, low-flow toilets and other options can sometimes be added to existing buildings, but are much easier to add if you’re building from scratch.
    • Buy a hybrid vehicle, or make your own. Everyone knows about the Prius and other hybrid cars, but there seems to be fewer people interested in converting their diesel vehicles to run on biodiesel or other fuels, perhaps because it takes a significant amount of work.

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    Published on July 27, 2021

    15 Smart Video Conferencing Etiquette Tips to Follow

    15 Smart Video Conferencing Etiquette Tips to Follow
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    During the pandemic, video conferencing replaced in-person meetings and has now become the standard option for business meetings. Over the past 17 months, most workers have gotten past the video conferencing learning curve with Zoom or Microsoft Teams (or their platform of choice).

    But just as with in-person meetings, attention can wax and wane. Some say we’re just not used to staring at ourselves so much on the screen. Instead of fixating on that, try employing smart video conferencing etiquette, or you may risk indiscretions that will flag you as a slacker.

    Put the Pro in Professional

    After more than a year of fine-tuning, here are the new rules of video conferencing etiquette.

    1. Mute Your Mobile and Other Devices

    The first video conference etiquette you need to know is muting your other devices. Just as in the pre-COVID days, someone’s obnoxious ring tone blaring Taylor Swift’s newest single in the middle of a meeting is also an annoyance if it happens during a Zoom meeting and so is the inevitable fumbling to turn off the sound. Even the apologies to the group get tiresome.

    Also, when notifications are activated on the computer that you’re using for the meeting, the incoming message takes over the audio and you’ll miss out on snippets of the conversation. Be sure to eliminate this possible faux pas.

    2. Dress the Part

    While working from home, you may have fallen into the habit of slipping on your comfiest T-shirt each day. Hey, no judgments! But before you log on to your video conference, try to make an effort with your appearance.

    Depending on your company culture and the importance of your meeting, consider dressing the part of the professional whom you wish to project. It will help you feel more self-assured, and others will likely take you more seriously.

    For women, wear light make-up, put on earrings, and make sure your blouse is crisply pressed. For men, show up freshly shaved. Wearing a crisp collared shirt in a solid color will usually suffice.

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    Pro Tip: Stay away from wearing white or black, unless those colors look great on you. Consider wearing light blue or brown instead.

    3. Stage Your Workspace

    Have you noticed the backdrops of experts interviewed on news shows? Bookshelves and photographs are carefully curated, and no busy-patterned furniture or artwork is in sight.

    Take note of what appears behind you when you choose the location of your video conferences. Piles of junk mail on the table or stacks of folded laundry on the couch will convey more about your personal life than you care to share. Make sure you remove clutter from the camera’s eye, and present a tidy, orderly workspace to your colleagues, coworkers, and bosses.

    4. Put Some Thought Into Lighting and Perspective

    Be aware that in a video conference, your computer camera can actually make you look up to ten pounds heavier depending on where you sit. But you can easily drop those added pounds by moving back from the screen to diminish the wide-angle distortion.

    Frame your head on the screen by tilting the screen up or down. Also, it’s best to not place yourself in front of a window or bright light, which makes you appear in shadow. Instead, face the light source, moving it (or yourself) until you have a flattering amount of illumination. You can also purchase some small spotlights that allow you to add light as needed.

    Pro Tip: If your lights add too much redness to your skin, consider counter-balancing with a green filter.

    Remember That Half of Life Is Showing Up

    5. Arrive on Time

    In the old days of in-person meetings, it was nearly impossible to slip in late into a meeting unnoticed. In today’s video conferences, logging in late still shows poor form. Instead, strive to arrive five minutes early and get yourself settled.

    Once the meeting is underway, the host may be less attentive about late arrivals waiting to be let in. Diverting the host’s attention away from the meeting with a tardy entry request is the ultimate giveaway that you didn’t honor the schedule. If you don’t want a black mark against you, log in on time.

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    6. Turn on Your Video

    Few people like to see their face on the screen, but buck up and turn on your camera in video conferences. In most cases, it’s better to be a face on a screen than a name in a blank square. Your statements will be more memorable when other meeting attendees can see you.

    If you need to turn off the video, either because of a poor connection, some commotion in the room, or a need for a quick break, give a short explanation via the chat feature. Then, go back on video as soon as you’re able.

    Pro Tip: Keep your explanation for your departure pithy. “Sorry! Doorbell rang. Back in five” says it all. Be sure to honor what you say in chat and really do return in five minutes.

    7. Plan Ahead Before Sharing Your Screen

    Don’t be one of those people who makes everyone else wait as you click through folders in search of a document. That’s just poor video conferencing etiquette. If you know you’ll need to share a document or video on your screen, prepare by pulling it out of its folder and onto your desktop. Also, clean up the files and folders on your desktop to reduce clutter and facilitate easy access. Close other programs like chat, calendar notifications, and email. Disable pop-up notifications to ensure there’ll be no unforeseen distractions.

    Be sure to remind the host before the meeting that you’ll need them to activate the screen-sharing function. Show courtesy once you’re finished by hitting “stop share” to return to the screen with participants.

    Attend to the Pesky Details

    8. Make Sure That Meetings Remain Right-Sized

    With the easy accessibility of video conferencing, it can be tempting to extend the meeting invitation beyond the core group and include everyone peripherally involved in a project. But just as with in-person meetings, the more people involved, the more unwieldy the meeting becomes.

    Use good judgment when asking others to sit through a video conference so that you don’t needlessly take up others’ time and so that participants can be fully engaged.

    9. Remember to “Unmute” Before You Speak

    Most of us are likely able to count on one hand the number of video conferences when someone didn’t have to be reminded, “You’re on mute!” Forgetting to unmute before speaking has become one of the most common missteps in video conferencing.[1]

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    Show everyone your impeccable video-conferencing poise by managing your mute feature with flawless control.

    10. Stay on Point to Keep the Meeting Length in Check

    As with in-person meetings, an agenda with assigned time limits for discussions remains necessary to keep a meeting focused. Data shows, however, that video conferencing can actually reduce meeting time.[2] Reasons include the elimination of commuting time and the ability to screen share and annotate to keep everyone on task.

    Additionally, side conversations are virtually impossible with video conferencing now that you can no longer have back-and-forth exchanges with the person beside you.

    Pro Tip: If you’re running the meeting, let attendees know in advance the protocol for the chat feature. Is it okay for them to “chat among themselves” or not? (See point 11, as well.)

    Talking Has a Time and a Place

    11. Chat Appropriately

    Just like side conversations or texting in an in-person meeting, the use of the chat feature during a video conference can be disrespectful unless it’s directed to all participants. Hence, it’s good video conferencing etiquette to mind your use of the chat.

    At the start of the meeting, you may want to ask the host if it’s alright for participants to use the chat feature. This allows them to disable it if they choose. Used appropriately, it can be a helpful tool to clarify or amplify an earlier point once the conversation has moved on or to let the group know that you need to sign off early (and why).

    12. Use the “Raise Hand” Feature to Avoid Interruptions

    The slight lag in many video conferences can result in speaking over another person if you attempt to jump into a conversation. To avoid this awkward interruption, indicate when you have something to add to the discussion with the raise-your-hand feature that signals the host you would like to speak. This effective meeting management device makes video conferencing run more smoothly, especially with a large group, but it must be activated and monitored by the host.

    Pro Tip: For meetings of six to ten people, sometimes the old-fashioned raising of your physical hand may be the best option. But it’s up to the meeting host. Ask them what they would prefer, and follow that.

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    13. Don’t Record the Session or Take Photos Without Prior Permission

    In this case, not sharing is caring. The “sharing culture” made popular through social media has little place in video conferencing. Before recording a meeting or capturing a screenshot of the participants, always ask for consent in advance from the full roster of attendees. Knowing that a video conference will be photographed or recorded could have a bearing on what others are willing to discuss.

    Manage Yourself

    14. Minimize Distractions

    While de-activating audio and video features can keep distractions from affecting the other participants, you will need to manage noise and disruptions on your end to give your full attention to the meeting.

    Move out of high-traffic zones in your home, keep your door closed, and ask family members to be considerate.

    15. Save Snacking for Later

    Save snacking for later—or earlier. Eating while on video conference is a no-no. Munching in front of the group while close to the camera—as you are when video conferencing—subjects the participants to an up-close and (too) personal view of your food consumption process.

    However, it’s perfectly fine to sip quietly from a glass of water or cup of coffee or tea. If the meeting threatens to last for more than two hours, you may want to ask the host in advance to schedule a five-minute break at the halfway point.

    Final Thoughts

    Even though bosses are now beginning to ask workers to spend some of their workdays on-site, up to 80 percent will permit employees to work remotely at least part of the time, which means more video conferencing in your future.[3] Mastering these video conferencing etiquette tips will help you dial in—as well as dial back—your participation and demonstrate your unwavering level of engagement to the team.

    Featured photo credit: Chris Montgomery via unsplash.com

    Reference

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