COVID-19 has changed working remotely from a nice-to-have to a must practically overnight, and while some people have been working remotely for a while, many people are doing it for the first time.
During these turbulent times, it’s more important than ever to make sure your team knows about proper video conferencing etiquette, so we’ve compiled these six rules to live by when it comes to remote work meetings.
Stay focused on the meeting
Mute when you’re not talking
Dress for success
Be mindful when sharing your screen
Check your lighting and surroundings
Test your equipment before your first meeting
You wouldn’t be on your phone or watching an irrelevant video during an in-person meeting, so you shouldn’t treat video conferences any differently. Most collaboration tools allow you to see everyone’s webcam at the same time, so you should assume someone is able to see you, and it’s obvious when you’re scrolling through your Twitter feed or not focused on the presentation.
If you use two monitors, make sure to have the conference call on the monitor that has the webcam attached. If it’s on your second monitor it can look like you’re distracted and not paying attention. It’s a small thing but appearances matter, and if you look like you’re not paying attention people will notice.
However, during turbulent times such as the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s important for businesses and video conference participants to be mindful and empathetic to the challenges their employees and coworkers face. It’s unreasonable not to expect some level of distraction from outside sources during the pandemic whether it be partners, children, or animals causing disruptions during meetings.
Muting while you’re not talking is good etiquette, especially if you know you’ll have some sort of background noise while you’re on the call. Your microphone might be sensitive enough to pick up the sound of a nearby fan, the air conditioner kicking on, or even your partner or children in the other room.
It’s crucial to mute yourself if someone else is presenting so that everyone in the meeting can hear what’s being said. You won’t notice the distraction, but everyone else will.
This isn’t a hard and fast rule for all types of meetings though. Team meetings are likely less formal and don’t have a single presenter for extended periods of time, so you’re more likely to just jump into the flow of conversation.
When most of the meeting participants are in a room together, but you also have a few people remotely calling in, it’s important for everyone in the room other than the main presenter to be muted so that remote callers don’t receive audio feedback. Likewise, the person with the only live mic in the meeting room is responsible for repeating any questions or comments said within the room for any remote workers. This is important for them to receive all relevant information as well as feel included.
If you plan on working remotely for extended periods of time, more sophisticated headsets and microphones will limit the pickup of ambient noises so you don’t have to worry about muting yourself. However, if you don’t know if your microphone has these features, it’s good etiquette to mute yourself.
If you’re working remotely and calling in from home, it’s important to maintain professionalism, so it’s a good idea to wear whatever you would normally wear to the office. Just because you’re having a video conference instead of an in-person meeting doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take it just as seriously.
One of the benefits of video conferencing is that you get to see yourself and how you appear to your colleagues which can help you stay focused and appear engaged in the meeting. On the other hand, seeing themselves might be distracting for some people. If this is the case, they can minimize their portrait if it’s an available option within your collaboration tool.
If you're sharing your screen, it’s good etiquette to close any tabs and windows that don’t pertain to what you're presenting. Getting an alert from your communication software or your email is distracting, or you could accidentally show sensitive information that shouldn't be shared. It’s also not a good look if you have social media or YouTube open when sharing your screen with others.
Before a video conference call, it’s good etiquette to make sure your lighting and surroundings are appropriate.
When it comes to lighting, avoid sitting in front of windows because the light from behind you will blind the webcam, making you invisible to everyone else on the call. Instead, try to pick a spot where there is light shining from behind the webcam. Most modern webcams have some sort of auto adjust, so you shouldn’t have to work too hard to find a good place to sit.
Surroundings are a bit trickier. If you’re working in a public place, make sure you are mindful about who can see your screen and don’t allow any sensitive information to be heard by surrounding people.
Generally, you don’t want to sit on a couch during a video conference, but during COVID-19 when many people are forced to work from home, it’s important to remember that not everyone has the luxury of a home office or a large enough space for a proper desk setup.
Your video conference was scheduled for a reason, so it’s good etiquette to respect everyone’s time by making sure your equipment is working properly before the meeting begins.
Test your internet connection by doing a free online speed test. A general rule of thumb is that if your connection is under 20 megabits per second, you’ll likely experience disruptions in your video call. If you’re working with slower speeds, you might want to avoid sharing your screen or, if it’s really slow, turn your video off altogether.
Make sure your microphone is working and clear. You can go into your audio preferences and do a microphone test before your meeting to make sure others will be able to hear you and that everything is working properly.
Make sure your webcam works properly. Again, make sure you’re sitting in a place that allows your webcam to pick you up clearly by sitting in a well lit area. You can test this by going into your webcam preferences before your meeting to make sure you’re good to go.
If you know you’ll be doing several video conferences in the future because of COVID-19 or other extenuating circumstances, take the time to test your microphone, web cam, and internet connection ahead of time.
It’s important to remember that technology isn’t perfect and neither are your teammates. Video conferencing is necessary during remote work and is doubly important during the COVID-19 pandemic for teams to continue to succeed, but you should still be mindful when technical problems arise or distractions occur.
Pets, kids, partners, and technical problems are all a part of our daily lives during the pandemic, so make sure to practice empathy along with proper video conferencing etiquette.
Switching to remote work for your operations is disrupting and stressful, but it’s not a bad idea to set yourself up for long term success because remote work is likely going to be the new normal moving forward.
For help setting up remote work policies, start by reading A Remote Work Policy Is Crucial—Here's What You Need to Know to get your business off on the right foot.
If your business has switched to remote work and is looking for software options for the first time, take a look at our video conferencing software catalog.
Collaboration software is also necessary in a world where most of your staff is working remotely, and a lot of collaboration software comes with built-in video conferencing.
Check out the 5 highest-rated video conferencing apps in our directory*:
Google Hangouts Meet
Skype for Business
*as of 4/28/2020; products must have at least 20 reviews to be listed