Zoom Etiquette: The Dos and Don’ts of Virtual Work Meetings
Now that the rules of engagement have changed quite a bit, let’s brush up on the new basics
What does minding your manners look like in the work-from-home world of purely digital correspondence and video conferencing?
Does this mean the lack of physical, face-to-face engagement takes any of the edge off? Not always. It turns out—and it comes as no surprise—that there are basic rules of office etiquette that still apply in remote work. Ahead, we take a look at good manners and best practices when taking on the virtual work meeting.
Do test your equipment before going on a call.
Dealing with a faulty home WiFi connection is one of the instantly obvious challenges in the shift to working from home. If you feel that you’re in for the long haul with this work arrangement, consider getting an internet upgrade (a home office investment, if you will).
With that out of the way, take a couple of minutes before your call to double-check your setup: internet connection is strong and stable, your laptop or headset’s microphone is working and your speakers’ audio output is good.
In addition, do take your calls in a room that grants you a bit of privacy, has minimum background noise and isn’t part of a communal area that your family members are likely to walk into. Remember: minimal disruption on the technical and physical fronts are part of the end goal here.
Don’t host a meeting without setting an agenda.
Whether working in the office or working from home, setting an agenda is something every person hosting a meeting should do. When sending out your invitation to attendees, include a brief roundup in your notes to expound on the purpose of the meeting. What are you hoping to achieve? What are the topics for discussion? What are the action items the attendees should be ready for? Having these laid out allows you to stay on track while keeping everyone else focused on the video call objectives.
Here’s another thing to keep in mind: Try to send invitations to meetings at least three working days in advance. Meanwhile, try to cascade your meeting agenda to attendees at least 48 hours in advance.
Do show up on time.
Technical issues aside, there are very few reasons to be late for virtual meetings. Long gone are the days where traffic, travel time and other external factors get in the way of promptness. Show up on time and show up prepared. Should issues with tricky troubleshooting arise (a family emergency? an overlap in scheduling?), do make it a point to reach out to the meeting host to let them know that you will be running late, clearly stating your reason for this.
When you end up joining a meeting that’s already picked up momentum, do so with audio on mute. Even if you keep your video on for this, there is no need to announce yourself when you get on the call. Subtly join in and catch up.
Just the same, don’t dilly-dally or prolong.
Another responsibility that falls on the shoulders of the host is ensuring that the meeting ends on time. Keeping the discussion focused on the aforementioned agenda is one way to make the best use of everybody’s time.
It goes without saying, but here’s to pointing it out again: sending a colleague a meeting invitation is to essentially ask to borrow their time. This is time that could be spent working on something else that is granted to you instead. So don’t go beyond the allotted time frame, don’t go off-topic, and do skip the small talk when possible. This shows your workmates that you not only work efficiently, but also respect their time.
Do read the room before considering a Zoom background.
Switching to a fun, expressive virtual background is great for informal calls, smaller team meetings and quick alignments with workmates you consider your peers. But not all meetings call for this kind of flair. In fact, in more traditional settings and with more traditional superiors, this can be misconstrued as unprofessional.
Read the room. Take into account the people hopping on the call with you as well as the overall mood of the discussion. Either way, simple is supreme when it comes to meeting backgrounds. Tidy is ideal, too.
Should you decide to skip the virtual background feature altogether, make a quick sweep of the space around and behind you—basically, all that gets included in the frame of your video. Keep distracting items (things related to house chores, for example) to the side for the time being.
Do tidy up your desktop when you know you have to share your screen.
Presenting something in your next Zoom call? Prepare for this by familiarizing yourself with the different presentation features on the platform.
Before you get to the file for your presentation while sharing your computer screen, chances are your meeting attendees will get a nice glance of your desktop or your internet browser. Play it safe. Ensure that the folders on your desktop are organized and decently labelled. Make sure you have a safe-for-work desktop background, too. Meanwhile on your web browser, don’t have any tabs leading to NSFW websites on standby.
Do start with introductions when meeting with new teams
As with in-person meetings, begin with introductions. Don’t just assume that everybody is already acquainted with everyone else. Jumping straight to business without acknowledging those present, especially if people are meeting and will be working together for the first time equals awkwardness and might even send a signal of disregard.
Start with a round of introductions, allowing each team member to state their names and their roles. This sets the tone for the meeting and gets any collaboration going on the right foot.
Don’t leave your microphone on.
Let this be a general rule: if you aren’t speaking, your mic should be off. As a show of respect for the person speaking, make sure that you are eliminating background noise on your end.
Even during moments where there’s a rapport going, be mindful about when you switch your audio back on. An obvious hurdle with moving large meetings onto a digital platform is that it’s easier for people to end up talking over one another because you can’t get a sense, as you would in a shared physical space, of who is readying to say something. The audio and video lag created by patchy internet connections is an added hurdle in this case, too. Chime in only when others are through speaking. For webinars, make use of the “raise your hand” feature.
Do consider: Can this Zoom call actually be an email?
It’s added comfort and assurance to see everyone get on the same page through a video conference call, but the truth is alignments can be done via email, too. In the same way office frustrations include meetings that could have been emailed, people are taking part in Zoom calls that well could've been an email.
Virtual meetings require a level of preparation and carving out precise hours in the day. So think first if these are absolutely essential to your end goal. Perhaps consider emailing first and propose hopping on a call, if needed, by saying: “If you’d like to discuss in more detail through a call, let me know.” If a person can manage their way through a deck, a worksheet or a Word file on their own, likely any questions that need to be raised will be brought up in their reply to your main email. Just be sure to keep the lines of communication open.
Still adjusting to the WFH setup? Click on for “5 Tips to Stay Productive When Working From Home.”