As the novel Coronavirus spreads globally, millions have been forced into isolation, conferences have been canceled, and companies have confined sick employees to their homes.
Therefore, as a secondary consequence of the outbreak, we now inadvertently find ourselves in the largest mass experiment ever conducted on the digital workspace. Business must go on and meetings must be held, this time remotely — there is simply no choice.
Tools like Zoom, WebEx or Google hangouts, used from time to time will become the first platform for communication — replacing our conference rooms and coffee chats. When the epidemic passes, the 21st century knowledge worker will have a clearer idea of the limits and opportunities remote work presents.
As a participant in this mass experiment, we’d like to catch you up on some of the essentials of video conference “netiquette,” so you can at least go in prepared.
We’ve collected here our top ten tips that, in our experience, make video conferencing a pleasant and productive experience:
- Show up on time. In many ways, a video meeting is just like a regular meeting. That means it’s rude to keep people waiting. There is a 3-4 minute grace period for tardiness (and to work out technical issues), but if you plan on being later than that, let other participants know. It is surprising how many people disregard this and enter a conference call over 10 minutes late with no explanation given. As the saying goes, if you are on time, you are already late.
- Dress down, but not too much. In a video chat, you do not need to maintain your typical office dress code. A good rule of thumb is to dress one “level down,” i.e, business casual to smart casual. Just please, no pajamas.
- Smile, say hi, and make small talk. Sheltered behind your screen, you may be under the impression that the obligatory niceties of mundane conversation are unnecessary. Not so. To foster teamwork and a pleasant work environment, allow for the chit-chat — don’t jump straight into business. Staying friendly can go a long way and maintain a sense of camaraderie while in isolation.
- Mute as default. If you’re in a group, turn on mute. Whether you’re outside, the kids are jumping around, or your dog is barking, other members of a group call want to focus on the call. Unless you are the one talking, consider turning on mute. Unwanted noise coming from your mic is unprofessional, and frankly annoying.
- Your setting. If your house is a mess, use a virtual background or even better organize your space. Maintain a sense of professionalism by using a filter which shows your face but displays a different background. This is particularly important when conferencing with clients or others outside your organization.
- We can see you; pay attention. Stay engaged by looking into the camera and listening when others are speaking. It is quite obvious to others in the chat when you are on your phone or looking at something else. Don’t answer emails while you are in the video call.
- Clean your screen. Most video conference apps provide a function to share your screen with other participants. This is a great tool, but make sure you clean up your desktop beforehand. If you plan on sharing your screen, close all tabs or other programs that are not relevant to the topic at hand.
- Don’t slouch, and don’t put your feet up. While it’s ok to get comfortable during a long virtual meeting with teammates, for shorter or client-facing calls, maintain a pose, which helps project professionalism and engagement.
- Recording. If you would like to record something, state that at the beginning of the meeting. Sometimes It can be useful to record part of a video call, or take snapshots of the screen. This is ok so long as you get permission first. Remember, video calls can be recorded.
- Clap your hands. When video conferencing is replacing a large group meeting (or even an entire conference), clapping hands, even while muted, is appropriate and desirable.
Remember remote work is the new normal. Enjoy it.