Person animatedly talking during a video call while working from home

An Equity Lens for Working Remotely

social science, accessibilityLiesl Chatman, Director of TPD, IDEAL CenterApr 30, 2020

As the coronavirus pandemic has rapidly shifted how we work and learn together, it’s important to be mindful of the ways in which equity issues manifest in our new online social settings. Equity is always top-of-mind for staff from the Science Museum’s IDEAL Center, an organization dedicated to promoting and supporting inclusion, diversity, access, and equity within working and learning environments. Our good friend and colleague, David O'Fallon, suggested this blog post, "The Conversation” that many of us found helpful for bringing equity into our new digital working environments.

In this “short manifesto about the future of online interaction,” marketing blogger Seth Godin encourages us to push beyond sharing information to engaging in conversation with one another. Our staff appreciated his acknowledgement that issues in face-to-face interactions become exacerbated when we move those interactions online.

Godin also links to a list of simple Zoom and Skype call tips. As our team has moved all of our meetings to video conferencing, we have found them exceedingly helpful. Here’s the list, with slight modifications from the IDEAL team:

  1. Sit close to the screen. Your face should fill most of it.

  2. Use an external microphone or headset if you have one.

  3. When you’re not speaking, mute yourself.

  4. Don’t eat during the meeting.

  5. When you’re on mute on a video call, show that you’re still truly engaged. Nod your head. Focus on the screen. Don’t get up and feed your dog.

  6. Don’t sit with the window behind you. A little effort on lighting goes a very long way.

  7. When you’re speaking, spend some time looking at the camera, not the screen. This will help people feel your presence.

  8. When you’re talking, go slowly. No one is going to steal your slot, and connections may be spotty.

  9. Don’t walk if you’re using a phone. And if you’re using a laptop, don’t put it on your lap.

Many of these tips may seem like common sense, but reminders like these help us prioritize equity for all those we interact with.