In this article, Alan Sallabank considers the benefits of putting psychology before technology. He describes how to prepare yourself mentally for remote workflow sessions, suggests why the ‘new normal’ is becoming the ‘new better’ and how one tool, in particular, can help make your remote workflow sessions as stress-free as possible.
As much as we’d all like things to be different, the fact remains that Remote Workflow isn’t going anywhere any time soon. Existing ‘solutions’ such as Zoom, Google Meet, Skype (and many others) got ‘caught napping’, and the development of new ideas and products has been slowed down by the huge task of suddenly transferring physical meetings and gatherings that we’ve taken for granted, into the wild west that is the internet. So what can we do to help ease the transition, and turn the “new normal” into the “new better”?
Put Yourself First
Before you can even think about participating in Remote workflow, and more importantly, making a living from it, there’s one big investment you need to make, and that’s in yourself.
No amount of technology is going to help you if first and foremost, your mind isn’t in the right space. There’s an old saying – “electronics have in-built stress sensors”. This generally applies to printers and washing machines, but now it extends to remote workflow. While this saying isn’t strictly true (developers don’t design things to be difficult on purpose, despite your suspicions), what can really affect your success with remote workflow, is your own mental attitude.
Define Your Space
Your first step is to allocate space, wherever you are, that is your workspace. It doesn’t matter where it is, or how big it is, but you have to feel comfortable being there, for hours on end.
Your next task is then to define this workspace with your housemates. Make them fully aware that this is your place of work, and that while you’re in there, you are not to be disturbed. This is vitally important and I’ll explain why later.
Get yourself a comfortable chair, that supports you properly and keeps your posture correct. If you’re vertically challenged like me, get a footrest. You are likely to be sat there for hours at a time, so it’s vitally important that doing so doesn’t give you long-lasting health issues. Make sure you can operate your mouse/trackball/trackpad easily without obstruction, and that your posture is correct when using the keyboard or any control surface you have. A good rule of thumb is to make sure that your knuckles normally rest lower than your wrists, while you’re using your keyboard. If your knuckles are above your wrist, it compresses the tendons and can contribute to tendonitis, otherwise known as RSI. You may need to raise your chair to achieve this, which is where the footrest comes in.
You can learn more about this by reading the Pro Tools Expert article Back Pain, Posture And RSI – What Can We Do?
Present Like You’re In The Studio
I certainly wouldn’t turn up to the studio for a physical presentation, in my joggers (aka ‘WFH uniform’) or dressing gown. And I wouldn’t take along various personal artefacts to arrange around myself, such as family photos.
Present yourself professionally, and you’ll be treated professionally. Make sure you have a plain uncluttered, tidy background – make sure your laundry isn’t out!
‘Broadcast’ presentation matters as well. Avoid things like Bluetooth earbuds/headphones, as they have a knack of dropping reception or running low on battery at exactly the wrong time. Get yourself the best webcam possible and also a hard-wired microphone. Even better is the headset-style mic, as they provide better isolation against your clients’ return audio.
Choose a mic placement where you can be clearly heard without having to raise your voice. A raised voice implies stress, which is the last thing you want to communicate.
Get Your Hardware Sorted
On your main host system computer, make sure that you only have the essential apps open that you need for the task in hand. Imagine it’s the studio compute