Telepresence technology is changing the face of business – literally.
By giving remotely located staff, clients, and colleagues a way to physically show up for “face to face” interactions, a permanent shift in workplace dynamics is underway.
While disruptive technology like telepresence delivers numerous benefits, including improved opportunities for collaboration, communication (both verbal and nonverbal), productivity, and efficiency, it also creates a new workplace dynamic never before seen -- one that demands an updated understanding of digital-social intelligence.
The actual operation of a telepresence device is easy enough to master; what takes nuance and forethought is mapping out ways to be considerate on both ends of the screen.
Here are a variety etiquette tips for remote operators (“pilots”) and on-site humans alike to follow when adding telepresence into the business mix.
Your parents likely taught you how to be respectful and “mind your manners,” but how does context affect customs when it comes to interpersonal interactions?
On the telepresence device operator’s end, being hyper-aware of how you roll is the first “step”… and that’s both literal and metaphorical.
Because telepresence devices are pretty much silent, it’s very easy to sneak up and startle people. Get in the habit of announcing yourself when you enter a room or approach a colleague from behind. And when you Beam In, be conscious of who’s around you, so you don’t accidentally interrupt am in-progress conversation.
When moving around, be aware of your speed and the obstacles that are in your path. Be alert and cautious; this means making sure you don’t clip chairs or bump into items on tables as you go by and be aware that people might be trying to pass you from behind.
For your auditory manners, remember to ask your colleagues if they can hear you, or conversely, if you’re too loud -- and adjust the volume accordingly. As you move around your office, keep in mind you may have to periodically adjust so you can be heard over a loud fan or air conditioner, but aren’t screaming once you roll to a quieter space.
For people who are interacting with a telepresence device, remember the operator's physical limitations and be courteous. Hold open doors, hit the button for the elevator, and offer to help your remote partner navigate spaces that have obstacles they can’t easily get past. When you plan meetings, pick a location that’s accessible to your telepresence counterparts. And when the meeting is over, be sure to invite them to participate in the important casual conversations afterwards, in the hallways and elsewhere.
For your consideration…
Beyond manners, there are certain interpersonal interactions that must be reinterpreted for telepresence use. Take for example, hosting a meeting. If you’re doing it remotely, you can of course welcome guests, take them on a tour of your office to meet your colleagues, and so on.
But what about the things you can’t easily do when running a meeting you’re attending remotely with others in the room, like set up a room or get your guests coffee or snacks? In cases where your on-site colleagues aren’t there to pitch in, think about other solutions – like arranging for a restaurant or business caterer to handle setting up a lunch meeting or even just to deliver coffee to your meeting.
When you do ask your associates to assist you, be sure to thank them for their help. After all, an office buddy is not a butler, so show your appreciation through words and deeds. (Perhaps the aforementioned unexpected coffee delivery…)
On the organization’s end, if multiple people use your telepresence device, put together a sign-up schedule for people to use to book time, much like you would for a conference room. Beam has its own reservation system and works with others as well. This will help eliminate squabbles over who gets to use the device.
Finally, if you have a business that’s located on multiple floors, considering putting a telepresence apparatus on each floor. This gives more people opportunities to participate from remote locations, and it also frees up their in-house buddies from the obligation of escorting them multiple times daily, up and down the elevator. To mitigate this altogether, consider adding wifi access points in elevators so your Beam can travel floor-to-floor with ease, never losing connectivity.
Integrating telepresence into your workplace isn’t something that you can do robotically; you’ve got to put thought into its implementation. But with a little planning and emphasis on etiquette, you can set your telepresence up for social success.