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Jessica Blythe

Thoughts on conferencing and keeping the flame alive

The S&I team at FleishmanHillard, Joburg thrives on close contact banter. We share everything from news and celebrity gossip to song dedications and impromptu brainstorms. We get shushed occasionally because we love to bark the latest updates at each other over our desks.


But last week, with all 9 team members sitting in different suburbs across Joburg we attempted to shift our ways of working completely into the digital realm, and it was pretty darn exciting. Not because we were all on a call seeing each other at the same time, but because it made the potential of a connected workplace, where distance has little meaning, come to life.


Yes, yes, I know I’m late to the party, and I’ve been on countless global calls, but it felt different today. Perhaps it’s because this would be the new norm, for the foreseeable future at least.


Here’s what I have learnt from our first team foray into the Webex world:

Digital team

  1. See it as an opportunity to have meaningful and action-oriented time with your colleagues. Set an agenda and stick to it, but still enjoy some banter in between.
  2. The mute button is your friend. No one likes feedback (or Karen on a call next door) reverberating in their eardrums.
  3. There will be technical difficulties, at first. Be patient and solution-driven. Test different tools and find one that works for you and the team. Zoom, Skype, Microsoft Teams, and WebEx are my preferred options.
  4. The video function makes conferencing personable and holds team members to a certain degree of accountability. Use it if you can but be open to using only audio if connectivity is an issue.
  5. Finally, continue to fuel the fun in your team by spending 10 minutes talking about things outside of the set agenda. It’s easy for the mute mode to become a crutch (yes, I’m eyeing the introverts out there). Have everyone in your team contribute during the call, whether it’s a project they’re working on, a cool campaign they’ve seen, or a helpful tip they’ve learnt recently.

As we continue to navigate this new workplace reality, I’m looking forward to finding new ways of bringing that same team spirit to life in the digital world.