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Creating digital teams in Webex Teams series — Chapter 3: Whiteboards, no line on the horizon

Creating digital teams in Webex Teams series

The “Creating Digital Teams in Webex Teams” series will spotlight techniques in managing and inspiring remote and #WFH teams.  Learn how the Webex Platform and Webex Teams can help transform your remote team into an engaged, creative and productive team no matter if people are across the hall, town or globe.

Managing a digital team using Webex Teams

As a people manager at Cisco, I manage a team spread across multiple time zones and countries.  There are many #WFH resources out there these days but for this series of blogs I thought I would focus on how to build and manage a digital team using the Webex Teams Platform.

For this blog we will be covering helping unlock your team’s creativity and engagement with infinite whiteboards in Webex Teams.

No boundaries

If you haven’t guessed already, at Cisco Webex, we work remote…. ALOT.  We can empathize with what it takes to work remotely better than most companies on the planet.  So, when we set out to build tools for our customers, we strive to make the virtual experience just as immersive, engaging and maybe even better than being there in person.  One way we do this is by bringing humanity and creativity into the collaboration workflow using what we call, Infinite Whiteboards.

In talking to our customers and looking at ourselves, we know that people collaborate in a lot of different ways.  Inside Cisco, we use whiteboards everywhere, it’s just part of our culture.  Many would agree that it’s easier to just draw out what you mean to communicate a new idea or a way to think about something different or just have fun.  In many of our physical locations, whiteboards are prevalent everywhere, even most of the walls are whiteboards.  So, we thought to ourselves, how do we reimagine that very human experience of collaboration and digitize it?  Answer, infinite whiteboards.

Get started with whiteboards

Get Started with Whiteboards. A whitebard dasshboard with Big Ideas Room Creativity Workshop and the tabs reading messages, people, content , and schedule

Click on the space in Teams that you want to meet/chat in and you will see in the space categories (messages, people, content and schedule), click on Content (green arrow) and then Whiteboards where the maroon arrow is located to get to the whiteboards.  From there you can select a new whiteboard from whatever device you happen to be using (laptop, tablet, phone etc) and just start drawing.  If you happen to be in a meeting, everyone in the same meeting (virtually or in the same room) will also see and be able to engage with the whiteboard using whatever device they have in their hand or in the room.

It’s alive!

Get Started with Whiteboards. A whitebard dasshboard with Big Ideas Room Creativity Workshop and the tabs reading messages, people, content , and schedule

Once you have opened up your whiteboard and started working on it with your team, all of the changes you make are automatically saved.  Anything you draw, add/remove stickies, etc all are saved magically.  Anyone that is invited into the space can pick up where you left off in the whiteboard and continue.  This makes working with teams really dynamic and fun.  Why is this important? As a manager, you can be much more inclusive with your team members when the tools can help facilitate everyone’s input when and how they want to contribute.

Share It

post snapshot and download. Image of the bottom right corner of the whiteboard that shows a Post a Snapshot and Download buttonOn the bottom right corner of each whiteboard there is a share button.  When you select that button, you will be able to Post a Snapshot of that whiteboard into the Teams Space you are in or you can send it out via a text message, email or post to another site as a PDF.

Examples of where to use whiteboards

With my team we often use whiteboards in many of the planning and strategy sessions we do both internally and externally (yes, you can do this too with people outside of your company). However, some other examples of using whiteboards:

  • Daily / Weekly stand ups or reviews with the teams
  • Project kick offs
  • Customer discovery sessions
  • Network topologies
  • Marketing Events
  • Storyboard design
  • Executive Workshops
  • eLearning / Concept development

Hopefully whiteboards was something that you are able to incorporate into your next remote team building session.  Stay tuned for Chapter 4: Webex Teams and Microsoft, the sweetest thing.

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Creating digital teams in Webex Teams series: Chapter 2: Stay (faraway, so close) using tools built right into Webex Teams. A mature man is at home. He is using a laptop
Creating digital teams in Webex Teams series: Chapter 2: Stay faraway, so close with Webex Teams

Creating digital teams in Webex Teams series

The “Creating Digital Teams in Webex Teams” series will spotlight techniques in managing and inspiring remote and #WFH teams.  Learn how the Webex Platform and Webex Teams can help transform your remote team into an engaged, creative and productive team no matter if people are across the hall, town or globe.

Managing a digital team using Webex Teams

As a people manager at Cisco, I manage a team spread across multiple time zones and countries.  There are many #WFH resources out there these days but for this series of blogs I thought I would focus on how to build and manage digital team using the Webex Platform with Webex Teams. 

For this blog we will help answer a question we get asked a lot:” …how do you create and organize a workshop when everyone is remote?” 

Build your team 

A common function of teamwork is to coordinate and collaborate across many different workstreams to achieve a common goal.  In some cases, this could be as simple as responding to a customer’s RFP/RFQ, preparing for a product launch, or planning customer workshop.  In all of these cases, building and bringing your team together was often the easy part, doing this over an extended period of time and performing this remotely can be very challenging.

Creating Digital Teams in Webex Teams Series – Chapter 2: Stay (Faraway, So Close) using tools built right into Webex Teams

For a workshop or classroom, one would often have reserved a main office room and then a series of breakout rooms nearby for different groups or teams that could go off, collaborate on their particular objective and then come back to the main group to share, discuss, etc.   

However, the problem with most video conferencing and messaging tools are that they were designed around a particular meeting or topic and not necessarily for the project or workshop which could last a day, a week or longer.  Also, many times a group would need to meet “offline”, not with the greater group, to work an idea or process and then come back to the larger group later.  Webex Teams is great to solve these types of use cases which, at Cisco, is often a primary means for how we get work done across multiple teams with our partners, contractors and customers in many cases. 

Create a purpose

First, think about the workshop you want to run.  The workshop may have a theme, a small team of moderators to facilitate the event and members or participants that would need to be involved in the event.  Get familiar with Roles within Webex Teams and how these roles impact the event. 

For each Team you create, a General Room is automatically created in Webex Teams to use for topics, discussions, meetings that pertain to the group as a whole, like a general-purpose room. Next, each space that is linked to that Team is now its own collaboration space with a unique virtual meeting link, whiteboards, messaging, content share, etc all in one place. Creating a team in webex teams

 

Next, the organization of the event, just like the in-person event, would have breakout rooms, workstreams or spaces where each group in the workshop would go and collaborate together.  For each Team you create, a General Room is automatically created in Webex Teams to use for topics, discussions, meetings that pertain to the group as a whole, like a general-purpose room.  Next, each space that is linked to that Team is now its own collaboration space with a unique virtual meeting link, whiteboards, messaging, content share, etc all in one place.

Here is an example of a Space Meeting Information (join URL, video address and dial in information for any type of user): 

Space meeting information. Screen to schedule a meeting, copy and paste the meeting information, and people's email address into your calendar invite.png

Stay in sync 

The best part of this setup within Webex Teams is, especially with remote teams, everyone can get engaged and stay engaged. When you are in an office setting its really easy to walk down the hallway and see where everyone is meeting/connecting just by looking in the rooms.  However, when you are remote this can be very challenging as the physical room is not available.   

With Webex Teams, you are able to recreate that experience in the physical world but virtually. Each room /space now is represented in the Webex Teams client. So you can see in real time who is in the room and who is meeting which helps keep your team engagedWith Webex Teams, you are able to recreate that experience in the physical world.  Each room /space now is represented in the Webex Teams client.  So, you can see in real time who is in the room and who is meeting which helps keep your team engaged.

Participants

You are probably asking then, “…what happens when you eventually go back into the office, are you able to use Webex Teams then for that same type of experience? Answer, yes.

When the Webex Rooms are in your physical location (say in all of your meeting rooms), the rooms now can autosense the people.  In the example to the right, I am in a meeting connected wirelessly to a Webex Board and now everyone that is invited to the Webex Team space can see me associated to the physical room as well as the virtual room.  This also holds true for all of the content and whiteboards you share in the virtual room now can be part of the physical room as well bringing a whole new meaning to business continuity.   

Get started

At Cisco, we use this Teams framework for all sorts of use cases, here are some examples that can help you get started:Creativity Workshop

  • Company Wide Event Planning
  • Customer/Partner Strategy Workshops
  • Developer Hackathons 
  • Virtual Training Delivery  
  • Community Engagement / Outreach 
  • Multi Topic FAQs and “Ask” Rooms 
  • Marketing Outreach / Planning 

I hope that with some of these examples, provides some inspiration on how to build a virtual collaboration team that is both productive and engaging.  

Stay tuned for the next blog post: Chapter 3: Teams Whiteboards: No Line in the Horizon and make sure to stay connected with all the blogs in the series here.

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Happy asian teen girl student making video call to distant friend looking at camera waving hand, smiling female youtuber vlogger saying hello to webcam making video blog recording vlog, portrait
How to get more comfortable on a video conference call

Video conferencing calls can understandably make some people nervous. After all, enabling a video feed in a group collaboration session gives others direct insight into what you look like, as well as the background environment you’re operating in.  For shy participants, video conferencing can seem like a major hurdle to overcome, and can be far less preferable to alternatives like phone calls or email discussions. However, there are many benefits. Let’s explore the benefits of video conferencing, as well as tips to get more comfortable showing your video.

The benefits and challenges of video conferencing

Video conferencing has become a lot more popular over the years. Previous technical issues related to video quality and ease of access have mostly dissipated, as numerous devices have become more than capable of supporting a high-definition video feed. According to Wainhouse Research, 94% of organizations utilizing video conferencing say it increases productivity (1). Every minute spent in an unnecessary meeting is one that could have been spent on a more worthwhile task.

How does it help in this way? First, it reduces distractions by effectively requiring everyone in the video meeting to focus on the task at hand, instead of extensively multitasking as is possible when on a call or team chat. Video also lends itself well to demonstrations and the use of visual aids, for example, during a webinar or presentation. Finally, setting up a video link can provide useful context and clarity for remote workers who otherwise might not see other team members that often.

Still, being on camera (which is what dialing into a video conference entails) isn’t easy for everyone and can make video conferencing dreadful. So, let’s look at some tips for becoming more comfortable when on a video conference.

1.Use notes to keep your thoughts on track

Discomfort while participating on a video call often causes shier participants to lose their trains of thought. This makes sense, because they’re probably thinking primarily about the pressure and scrutiny of the meeting and only secondarily about what’s being discussed.

Overcoming this issue is easier with written or typed preparation. Sticky notes or comments and questions written down in a digital notes’ application and open in another window/app can help. They provide a reliable framework that the user can work within while on a video call.

Basically, preparing and using notes helps participants avoid awkward silences and the discomfort that comes from feeling like they can’t contribute to the conversation.

2. Set up the right environment before the call begins

Some of the pressure that comes with a video conference might stem from anxiety about what the participant’s environment looks like. In 2017, there was a famous incident involving an international relations professor participating in a video interview with the BBC, when one of his children entered into the frame and interrupted the conversation (2).

The disruption became a popular social media meme for a while, but it underscored a key risk that people sometimes contend with on a video call: Worrying about what’s going on in the background or how their workspace looks.

Fortunately, these fears can be somewhat alleviated through preparation. Pay attention to the lighting and to what’s behind you when your face appears on the video feed. Choosing a quiet room with a door may be beneficial, since it will minimize noise and give you more control. For instance, you can prevent others from walking behind you while you’re on camera or making noises that might distract participants. Here’s more on how you can work smarter anywhere when working remotely.

3. Make use of mute and pause controls

Like phone calls, video conferences always come with the possibility of unwanted background noise (e.g., dogs barking, kids playing, outside traffic, etc.) that can disrupt the session. Moreover, with video there’s the additional risk of on-screen distractions.

This is where the mute and pause controls within a video conferencing solution come in handy. Modern video conferencing lets callers mute their own audio and if you’re the host, of other participants, too. Muting minimizes noise and is especially useful for participants who aren’t currently speaking.

Pausing a video feed works in a similar way. During a video conferencing session, it’s possible to stop the video feed at any time and then resume it as necessary. That allows for greater privacy, which less-comfortable participants could use for a quick break to regroup.

4. Do a practice run with a friend or co-worker

Some of the discomfort that people might initially feel on video conferences can be traced to simple unfamiliarity with the format. A person who doesn’t join these meetings regularly might feel anxious about participating since the entire setup seems intimidating to them.

Practice is a good solution to these sorts of concerns:

  • First, it lets participants get familiar with how the interface and underlying technology work, including the in-call controls for muting and pausing.
  • Second, it lets them get used to how they look on a camera and what others can see in the background.
  • Third, it lets them rehearse what they might say and become more comfortable with the idea of speaking on camera.

Webex makes the video conferencing experience as easy and intuitive as possible, from start to finish.

To learn more, get started with a free plan of Webex today.

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Resources

(1) Wainhouse Productivitiy Research

(2) BBC interruption video

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Embracing the rise of remote working. Japanese man in casual clothes using a laptop and his son using a smartphone on the desk. He's working and doing childcare at home.
Embracing the rise of remote working

Is remote working the new norm?

Even if you don’t consider yourself a remote worker per se, you’ve likely done work beyond the confines of a traditional office. Quickly checking email on your phone, brainstorming ideas for an upcoming pitch, or joining a conference call while on your commute – these are all tasks that can be done well, from anywhere, with no need for either a work PC or a dedicated desk.

A very brief history of telecommuting

The trend toward frequent and full-time remote work began decades ago in the U.S., but only reached escape velocity relatively recently. The 1970s oil crisis, the surge in traffic gridlock (a term that was, coincidentally, coined in the ‘70s, too), and the rise of stay-at-home parenting all contributed to the very early growth of telecommuting. Then, technology caught up.

Tools such as real-time workplace chat, video conferencing, web conference calls, and more are now readily available and make it much easier for employees to stay in the loop no matter where they are. These solutions enable richer, higher-quality interactions than were possible using just emails or phone calls.

Why remote work is worth supporting

Recently, some companies have had to make a sudden shift to remote work. But for others, this shift was already taking place:

  • Global Workplace Analytics estimated that the number of businesses offering telework options to employees increased by 40% from 2014 to 2019 (and now even more in 2020). (1)
  • Meanwhile, between 80% and 90% of the workforce would like to work remotely at least part of the time.

5 perks of remote work

What will the workplace of the future look like? How should your organization approach remote work arrangements? Remote work offers many benefits to everyone involved. Let’s look at five perks:

  1. Lower costs

Think of the typical SMB’s budget and what it goes toward. After the mostly locked-in expenses of salaries and benefits, some of the larger line items will usually include travel and real estate.

Telecommuting helps curb these expenditures. Instead of needing a sprawling office, an organization might choose a smaller, denser space with the assumption that many of its employees will be working elsewhere much of the time.

Likewise, the company travel budget can be trimmed. Traditionally, meeting with a colleague or client basically required taking a road trip or booking a flight. Not anymore. With video and HD voice, it’s possible to have a virtual conference call meeting that feels like being in the same room, all at a much lower cost than actually traveling.

  1. Improved morale, with less turnover

Why do people leave their jobs? It’s complicated, but long commutes are definitely a common reason why.

According to a University of West England survey, adding 20 minutes to a commute had the same negative effect on job satisfaction as a 19% pay cut for the study’s subjects. No one likes being stuck in traffic. (2)

Remote workers don’t have to confront this issue. As long as they’ve got a stable internet connection, they can work from home, a public place, or a nearby branch site instead of making the long trek into HQ. That’s good news for morale and for their chances of staying at the firm.

  1. Increased productivity

Working remotely can boost productivity in several durable ways:

  • Since commutes become less grueling or even non-existent, employees have more time to focus on their work.
  • The distractions of some types of office spaces, like having to contend with constant noise from in an open floor plan layout, are eliminated entirely.
  • Remote workers can use devices they know, plus utilize the full bandwidth of their internet connection since there aren’t sharing it with potentially many others.
  • Individuals with health conditions that might be difficult to deal with in an office, or worsened by a commute, can more easily take care of themselves.
  1. More opportunities for expansion

Allowing employees to telecommute can double as a company expansion strategy to new locales. If your business is growing and looking to target customers in different markets, then remote work lets you recruit workers with more flexibility and fewer limitations.

Of course, there are still some constraints, like needing to be incorporated in each state in which you conduct business operations. But having telework options available means that it’s more practical to create lob listings with broader appeal. Candidates can apply without needing to price in the cost and time associated with a commute.

  1. Better time management

Not everyone is a morning person. But commute-driven jobs almost require you to be one.

Impact of flexible work schedule

With remote work, there’s more flexibility in how an employee sets and uses their hours. Telecommuters have more discretion over when they start work and take breaks, allowing them to be productive on their own schedules. And, as we noted earlier, they have more time to begin with due to not commuting or having to constantly tune-out various in-office distractions.

What you need to get the most from remote work

There are a few things that flexible working arrangements need to succeed. The first being the leadership support to create a culture that encourages this type of flexibility. Establishing trust and accountability from the top down, is critical to foster a remote working environment. You also need the right collaboration solutions. The ability to easily create and join a video conference call, plus add context through messaging, digital whiteboarding, and file sharing, is essential.

With the right approach and the right technology, you can create a culture that embraces the remote workforce—and positively impacts the business.

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References

(1) telework options to employees increased by 40% from 2014 to 2019

(2) commute time and job satisfaction

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Creating digital teams in Webex Teams series
Creating digital teams in Webex Teams series : Chapter 1: When you are with or without your office

Creating digital teams in Webex Teams series

The “Creating Digital Teams in Webex Teams” series we will spotlight techniques in managing and inspiring remote and #WFH teams.  Learn how the Webex Platform and Webex Teams can help transform your team into an engaged, creative and productive no matter if people are across the hall, town or globe.

Managing a digital team using Webex Teams

As a people manager at Cisco, I manage a team spread across multiple time zones and countries.  There are many #WFH resources out there these days but for this series of blogs I thought I would focus on how to build and manage digital team using the Webex Platform with Webex Teams. 

Connecting your team  

First, what is Webex Teams?  Webex Teams is what I consider my collaboration “nerve center” where all of the people I work with, the apps I use, and the meetings/tasks/workflows associated to getting work done are located.  Its where all of the activities before, during and after meetings can live, and, if done right, you can shorten your meetings and maybe not have as many meetings throughout your day but everyone can be on the same page regardless where they are located.  Here are just a few pointers to get you started. 

Get some space 

Go here and learn about and setup your Webex Teams account.  Next, you will need some Space.  Yes, everyone needs a little space.  A space in Webex Teams is like a virtual huddle room you can have with 1 to as many people as you want where you can message each other, share files, co edit files you have in OneDrive and Google, post pictures, GIFs, and capture all of the activities before, during and after a meeting on Webex.  At Cisco, we use Microsoft OneDrive, Sharepoint and Smartsheet a lot and within Webex Teams it brings everyone’s ability to co create content, materials and projects in a much more efficient manner.  (screen shot of ecm integration or video link) 

Create a space and a meeting in one step 

As a best practice I setup a space in Teams, in this case “Joshua Tree Project”( highlighted in a yellow box in the picture), that could be about a particular topic/idea/outcome with a group of people (which could include partners and suppliers – notice the external user in the invite) and schedule the initial meeting in just a one step process.   

calendar creation graphic that reads "Joshua Tree Project" with an image of a black and white joshua tree

If you have Calendar services enabled with Webex Teams you can create a Webex Teams space automatically from your meeting calendar invites from Outlook or Google:
1.  Create a meeting invite in Outlook / Google and invite the people you want to the meeting
2.  In the location field, type in @webex:space 
3.  Hit Send.   

Then, auto”magically” your Webex Teams space will have all of your participants and meeting title as the name of the space.  That’s it, chat, message, call, meet, share with your team. 

Create a space and meeting in one step. Image of Calendar services enabled with Webex Teams

Create a virtual watercooler with your team (internal and/or external members) 

In this time of uncertainty, people are feeling isolated at times and that can cause stress and anxiety.  To help bring a sense of community and togetherness, at Cisco we have leveraged Webex Teams to create “Ask Rooms”.  An Ask Room is just like a virtual watercooler in your office.  People can post messages, questions and others can respond with reactions, answers etc.  At Cisco we have found the level of engagement in these rooms is pretty high and people love to keep in touch with each other.  And better yet, create an ASK space with your customers/partners too, you will be surprised how much a little TLC can go!  As a customer and partner obsessed organization, we on average have 30-40% of our spaces with external, outside of Cisco, participants.  This helps diversify our community and accelerates new ideas.   

Simply create a space with a topic that you feel would have a wide audience, invite people to it and invite the EURL bot (eurl@webex.bot) to help provide a URL link for users in your company to discover and join by sharing the link on an intranet page or email.   For smaller groups, you can create a Team within Webex Teams and add people as members, then as you add more Ask spaces, everyone will get invited and aware of the space.   

Ask COVID-10 Collab

If you have a watercooler type room with your immediate team, keep things light.  On my team we often share pictures from our weekends, family event and we even have a goat farmer in the tribe that keeps us updated on best practices in raising goats (and yes, I mean real goats). 

Be genuine and be yourself 

In work, as in the rest of our lives, being recognized is just an important as the work itself and having each other’s back is important.  This idea is even more with working remote where giving the extra pat on the back or seeing someone in the hallway and letting them know you appreciate what they did doesn’t happen easily when everyone is virtual. 

Within Webex Teams we have the ability for people to add GIFs and reactions to messages within context along with notification of who left the reaction etc.  Keeping things light within the Team is important these days, don’t you agree?  (pic of reactions in teams, thumbs up, celebration emoji etc).

Keeping things light within the Team is important these days, don’t you agree? (pic of reactions in teams, thumbs up, celebration emoji etc)

 

Stay active, have fun 

It can be really hard to balance communicating to others if you are available or not and where you could be located at any one time.  Many times, I am in a meeting or sharing my desktop or other times I need some quiet time to get some work.   The problem that occurs is then people start messaging/interrupting/calling it can be really difficult to get anything done.  This is where Webex Team’s presence really shines.

Webex Teams can automatically show if you are away from your app, if you are in a Webex meeting, sharing your desktop and even on a phone call.  Secondly as a user I can create custom statuses (screen shot below) to my community so they know either where I am located, if I need some quiet time or if there is an important message I want them to know.  For me personally this has brought much needed balance back into my workday as I can feel connected to the team and vice versa without having to sacrifice my mental well being. 

Webex Teams can automatically show if you are away from your app, if you are in a Webex meeting,

Well, that’s a few pointers for now.  The next blog post will be Chapter 2: Stay (Faraway, So Close) covering co creation tools built right into Webex Teams. 

Partner with Cisco and have a true global reach

Learn More

Connect with all blogs in the Creating Digital Teams in Webex Teams

Cisco Webex: Supporting customers during this unprecedented time

Working smarter: Managing a remote team

 

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