Avanade Provides Tips on How M&E Companies Can Better Deal With the ‘New Normal’

Although the media and entertainment industry thrives on a “high-touch” working style, the COVID-19 pandemic has created a “new normal” in which nearly everybody has shifted to remote working and, to stay productive, teams across industries are relying on modern workplace technology platforms, according to Ruven Gotz, workplace experience lead at the global professional services company Avanade.

“We are social creatures,” he said during a May 27 presentation at the Hollywood Innovation and Transformation Summit (HITS) Live event. “We are used to facial expressions [and] body language,” he noted.

This is a “high-touch business, and being isolated and not having the chance for that face-to-face interaction is really quite problematic, and can really take away from the type of work that we do,” he said during the presentation “Distributed Teamwork. It’s Not ‘When’, it’s Now.”

However, “we face a new reality” now, he noted, telling viewers: “We’re in a different space. Things are changing faster than we can absorb. We have anxiety about the future and even about tomorrow. We have conflicting information and uncertainty and that adds to the confusion and the anxiety. And we ask ourselves: When will things return to normal? I can’t answer when things will return to normal. But how do we move forward in the face of these challenges?”

We now “live in a world where everything is always changing, so how we work is not about when is that going to change — it’s about right now,” he noted.

He pointed to “Mazlow’s Hierarchy,” a psychological theory that includes five basic categories of human needs: Self-actualization (achieving one’s full potential, including creative activities); esteem needs (prestige and feeling of accomplishment); belongingness and love needs (intimate relationships and friends); safety needs (security and safety); and physiological needs (food, water, warmth and rest).

He added new needs to that list, including Wi-Fi, toilet paper, power and phones. “The world we’re working in is very different and we need to find different ways to fulfill these different layers in this hierarchy,” he noted.

The Accenture division he works for was “already a distributed organization used to working as distributed teams” before the pandemic, he said. “But it’s become even more so” now, he said, noting he used to travel for business and “get together with my team” face to face and meet with clients.

“Now, everything is happening via audio conferencing,” he pointed out, adding his company is now spending 400 minutes a month audio and video conferencing, 16 million video minutes a month and 24 million mobile minutes a month. That is “just a giant change in the way we work,” even if it has not been a “radical” change for his team specifically, he told viewers.

One crucial issue is learning how to be effective when working remotely from home, he said. “We are facing new realities when it comes to working from home,” he said, adding: “Part of the anxiety and uncertainty means you need to find comfort where you can and if working from a comfortable place wearing comfortable clothes” is how you achieve that, then that is okay. He showed a slide of a guy working on a computer in pajamas and a T-shirt from bed.

Having a quiet place at home to sit and work with the door closed to get work done is not that different from a work office,” he noted. However, some people are also juggling other duties while working from home and dealing with interruptions from pooches and people, he noted, adding: “We need to make that work” also.

“We have to cut each other a bit of slack to be able to be effective [and] we have to sort of lower the embarrassment level [and] lower the tension level,” he suggested.

He pointed to the real-life example he experienced in which a woman who was leading a video conference was interrupted by her five-year-old daughter, who started brushing her mom’s hair. “I know this person and she would have been mortified two weeks earlier, but into the new reality, she picked up her daughter, put her on her lap and said, ‘do you want to say hi’,” he recalled, adding: “This is some of the adjustment we’re learning to make as we face the new reality.”

In another video conference Gotz said he experienced, he noted that the host’s cat appeared, jumped on the table and the computer keyboard and accidentally logged him off the call.

Gotz made several recommendations on how to work more effectively from home. First, he suggested using noise cancelling earphones if you can, but called noise cancelling microphones essential. Make sure it’s not too close to your mouth and that it’s not rubbing against clothes or earrings, he stressed, adding you should also be aware that mouth-sounds including eating and drinking are MUCH louder when the microphone is near your mouth. If you’re using the mic on your laptop, be aware that typing when you’re not on mute can cause a ton of distracting noise for everyone on the call also, he pointed out.

Also important is being ready for video, he said. Get dressed to match your company’s culture, he suggested. Lighting is critical, so make sure you’re not back-lit, he said, adding you should, if possible, face the window (moving your laptop position if necessary). He also suggested buying an inexpensive ($15-$60) ring-light to light your face.

It is also crucial to know how to use the tools you are using, he said. Learn Skype or Teams, as examples, so that you can join smoothly and participate appropriately in video conferencing, he noted.

Good connectivity is also important: Make sure the LAN signal is strong or that you’re plugged directly into the router and ensure that your family is not consuming all your bandwidth during important calls, he said.

Avoid tech disruptions also, he pointed out: Figure out where all the mute buttons are on your devices and, if your computer is used for multiple purposes or you haven’t rebooted for a few days, consider restarting before an important call, he said. But he was quick to add that, if you are rebooting a PC, make sure to do it an hour before a video conference or webcast, not five minutes before it.

Managing your company’s team virtually is also important, he went on to say, offering another bunch of suggestions. First, be present: You will need to overcommunicate to help your team feel they are still connected to you and the organization, he noted. Be present during your meetings and go on video whenever possible, he suggested, adding you should encourage your team to join via video, but don’t force it, especially at first. Also be ready to mute an embarrassing conversation or even eject someone from a meeting to help them save face, he said.

It is also a good idea to take breaks and have fun, he said. Recognize the increased intensity of constant calls and meetings and make sure your team has time for their own well-being and that they are not getting burned out by being “on” around the clock, he suggested. Also block time for lunch with your family and, as a manager, don’t schedule meetings over lunch, he told viewers, adding it is also a good idea to allow some space for fun or social communications. Encourage breaks – specially to get outside if allowed – and remember to cut everyone a bit of slack for pet noises, kid noises and time flexibility to take care of life at home, he said.

He went on to make several projections and more suggestions as we continue getting used to the new normal: (1) “We will be going back to work.” (2) “It’s never going to be the same.” (3) “Remote work is going to remain a big part of our reality going forward.” (4) “We need to think about and embrace new ways of working and finding that path to productivity.” (5) “We can’t wait for ‘normal’ the future has sped up — it’s happening to us now.”

Click here for the presentation slide deck.

The May 27 HITS Live event tackled the quickly shifting IT needs of studios, networks and media service providers, along with how M&E vendors are stepping up to meet those needs. The all-live, virtual, global conference allowed for real-time Q&A, one-on-one chats with other attendees, and more.

HITS Live was presented by Microsoft Azure, with sponsorship by RSG Media, Signiant, Tape Ark, Whip Media Group, Zendesk, Eluvio, Sony, Avanade, 5th Kind, Tamr, EIDR and the Trusted Partner Network (TPN). The event is produced by the Media & Entertainment Services Alliance (MESA) and the Hollywood IT Society (HITS), in association with the Content Delivery & Security Association (CDSA) and the Smart Content Council.