As the trend to our working online accelerates, people are being forced to adapt quickly to the new technological changes. The remote video conference call has become the new normal in 2020. But people are still adapting, and proper etiquette for online conferencing has yet to be truly established. In addition to offering the luxury of working from home, video conferencing also offers opportunity for embarrassing faux pas, some which may have long lasting damage to your reputation and future career success.
Here are the 6 things you should never do in a Zoom meeting or web conferencing call.
1. Not Dress as though you are at work.
2. Forget to Clean up Your Background
3. Forget to Close out all non-work-related documents and webpages
4. Not Mute Your Audio if You are Not an Active Participant
5. Stop Paying Attention to Your Screen
6. Fail Keep Pets, Kids, and Family Away
Dress as though you are at work.
That means wear pants. Not shorts. Not sweatpants. Please no boxers or tighty-whiteys. Working from home, you might think, would exempt you from the company’s dress code policy. I can assure you though, that nowhere in the dress code is it mentioned that remote employees are exempt from this. Also, the last thing you would want to do, is accidentally get up and show your short shorts. Nobody wants to see it. Wear pants. Wear a nice shirt (not your old Metallica t-shirt, sorry). Thank you very much.
Clean up Your Background
You should probably tidy up that messy room, but if you are too busy working, no need to fret, there are other options. Most web conferencing software allows you to check your video prior to joining the meeting. Be sure to take a few minutes not only to check your own personal appearance, but also take a glance at what is in your background. Remember, objects in your own window may be larger and closer than they appear to others, and every little tiny thing shows up in the background. Messiness can be very distracting, but be sure not leave out your dirty laundry, literal and figurative, in the view of your camera. Child toys need to be put away. And I think it goes without saying that adult toys are a big no-no. Keep it professional.
And if you can’t clean things up, MS Teams, Zoom, and WebEx all have fun background options to choose from. Of course, use your discretion in choosing these options as well.
Close out all non-work-related documents and webpages
Most jobs have a policy against web browsing during work hours. This, of course, is a losing battle. Everybody does it. If an employee isn’t doing at least a little bit of it, I would be slightly concerned. Despite this, you will come off as unfocused and unprofessional if you are asked to share a document, and someone accidentally gets a glance at your fantast football lineup. Hopefully, porn and other embarrassing websites are not open on your workstation. That of course, is the thing of nightmares. If for whatever reason you are using a personal computer, you will need to be extra diligent in making sure nobody sees any of this. Also, be sure to check toolbars and favorites bars. This is ok to have viewable in most cases, but you can hide these if you want to keep your web browsing habits private.
Mute Your Audio if You are Not an Active Participant
If there’s one thing that cast doubt into my mind about the work at home arrangements, it is this. In a large meeting it is crucial that all participants who are not speaking MUTE THEIR MICROPHONES. In fact, it is a general good practice to be on mute in even smaller meetings. Unmuted microphones can create unwanted noise and make it a living hell for the speaker. Microphone feedback is created when your microphone picks up the speaker’s voice and then sends it back through your speaker in an infinite hell loop. Do not send your meetings to hell, unless you really hate the speaker and your job. But if you prefer to keep your job, mute your mic. If you are the presenter, there are usually ways to mute the mics of all the participants in a meeting.
If you plan to use the bathroom and take your computer in with you, this becomes a pretty important detail. Might want to double-check that video as well.
The inverse of this is to make sure your mic is on prior to speaking. If tree falls in the forest and nobody is there to hear it, then it did not make a noise. Same with talking. The mute button is something you will need to be paying attention to in meetings. Get used to it.
Pay Attention to Your Screen
What is that guy looking at? Looking the wrong direction at a web meeting is bad etiquette and bosses frown upon it. Not looking at your screen is a one-way ticket back to the office as people will question your ability to focus while at home. This one is probably more important than you think, so keep your eyes on the road and your hands on the wheel.
Keep Pets, Kids, and Family Away
They are cute. They are fun. People fuss all over them. But children and pets do not attend serious business meetings for a reason. A cameo at the closing moments is fine, but you should never delay the start of a meeting by inviting the entire family or by giving your coworkers a glimpse at your cat’s behind. Send these enemies of productivity away, lock the door, throw away the key. If the kids are home in an emergency, then you might not have a choice, but do everything possible to keep them occupied and out of view of your meeting. And if kids are around, you might have to explain your situation to others just in case they crash the meeting. If the people on the phone are at least semi-decent human beings, they will understand. Confession: I once fed a baby on a call with a client during the Covid 19 crisis. Not ideal, but it happens. He was totally cool with it. Both the baby and the client.
So that is the list of 6 things that you should never do during an online Zoom, WeBex, or MS Teams work meeting. Be sure to bookmark this site!