Before the COVID-19 pandemic, companies were already expanding their use of videoconferencing technologies like Zoom, Teams, WebEx, and Skype. These can be great tools for enabling closer collaboration among colleagues and business partners working in different offices or even on different continents.
Of course, the widespread shift to remote work triggered by COVID-19 precautions and continuing indefinitely for millions of Americans has made videoconferencing a much more fundamental aspect of work life. At the same time, for many workers—particularly those who didn’t grow up as digital natives immersed since birth in cyberspace—videoconference etiquette isn’t second nature.
It’s therefore helpful to keep a few basic rules of videoconference etiquette in mind on those video calls.
Set Expectations for Video Use
Most readers have probably been on calls during which half the participants are on video and half aren’t. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it illustrates the point that it’s important to set expectations ahead of time for video use. If a meeting organizer wants participants to be on video, it’s good practice to make that known in advance. Not everyone will be prepared to switch their camera on at a moment’s notice.
Mute Mics and Avoid Distracting Behavior and Content
Even in in-person meetings, it can be distracting when side conversations are going on or if participants are multitasking on their laptops. The same holds true for virtual meetings. As Bryan Lovgren writes for Entrepreneur, it’s generally pretty obvious to others when a video call participant isn’t fully engaged in a meeting. And, while side conversations may escape notice at large, in-person meetings, videoconference microphones pick up a lot of background noise, so participants should always mute their microphones when they aren’t speaking.
Yes, yes, one of the biggest perks of working from home is the ability to work in one’s pajamas. But it’s still work, and it’s still important to be professional. Those participating in a video call, especially with external stakeholders, should dress and groom themselves appropriately. What constitutes appropriate will depend on the circumstances. Some companies may have no issue with messy hair and sweats on video calls, but others may expect business dress and a polished appearance.
Virtual meetings were well established in the corporate world long before the emergence of COVID-19, but the pandemic has tremendously expanded the format. Therefore, employees and their supervisors should take care to learn and respect some basic rules of etiquette in this now ubiquitous medium.
Lin Grensing-Pophal is a Contributing Editor at HR Daily Advisor.