6 Unwritten Rules of Video Call Etiquette


KEY POINTS:

  • More than a year since working from home became the new normal, people still have questions about video call etiquette.
  • People need to start getting used to this remote work arrangement because the work-from-home set-up is most likely here to stay even after the pandemic.
  • There are no standard rules when it comes to video call etiquette, but there are certain expectations that still need to be met.

 

Ever since the pandemic started, the work-from-home set-up has been considered the new normal. Companies were forced to downscale physical operations, leading to the increased usage of virtual platforms such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom, and Google Meet. But what started as a temporary workplace alternative has now stretched into a year-long arrangement, which may continue given the rising number of COVID cases and new variants emerging.

After over a year of remote work, people should know what to do in virtual meetings, right? Wrong! To this day, we still find ourselves asking the same questions. What should I wear? Am I allowed to check my emails? Should I keep my mic and camera on? If you’re still not sure what’s considered proper video call etiquette, here are some tips to get you started for your next virtual meeting.

 

Join the call on time

Punctuality is just as important when it comes to online meetings. If you can get away with being late for physical meetings by simply sneaking in the back, the case is not the same for a video call. When it comes to online meetings, being late means that the host needs to let you join the call while the meeting is ongoing. Especially now that meetings are being shortened to prevent video call fatigue, make sure that you come on time. Not only does this allow you to exchange pleasantries before the actual meeting starts, but it also gives you some leeway in case you suddenly have connectivity issues.

 

Give a heads up if you’re going to be absent

What’s worse than showing up late is not showing up at all. It’s best to let people know if you won’t be able to attend meetings, just so they know if they can start without you. Some online platforms allow you to easily accept or decline meeting invitations, so make sure that you take advantage of this feature. Even if you don’t have a big role for the meeting, it’s still best to take the time to notify the host, rather than just skipping it with no warning.

 

Come prepared

Know the meeting agenda and make sure that you browse through the given files if any. If you’re the one presenting, send the necessary files beforehand, and practice sharing your screen to save time. Don’t forget to check your audio prior to joining the call. Test your microphone and headphones to prevent any delays. Unlike physical meetings, people can’t just call your attention when you’re inaudible, because what if you can’t hear them too? It’ll be a total disaster!

 

Keep your mic on mute

...unless told otherwise, of course. Even if you’re not talking, keeping your microphone on can still disrupt the meeting. Having unnecessary noise can distract the speaker, and at the same time, prevent others from effectively understanding what the speaker is saying. Noise-canceling headphones might help in minimizing your background noise, but your mic is not immune to the occasional cough and side remarks. Just make sure that you pay attention so that you can easily unmute when you need to. This brings us to the next point.

 

Focus on the meeting

Don’t make the mistake of assuming that online meetings require less attention. It’s not the time to scroll through social media or reply to those unanswered emails. A survey done by Ginger Leadership Communications shows that 99% of people have admitted to multitasking during online meetings. Even though you might feel more productive and efficient when you’re doing something else, research by Microsoft states that the bad outweighs the good. Multitasking causes loss of engagement leads to mental fatigue, and of course, disrespects the speaker. 

 

Read the room before turning your video on

Normally it’s okay to have videos off, especially for small and recurring meetings, but there are still people who prefer to see who they’re talking to. If everyone else has their videos on, then the right thing to do would be to turn it on but if not, then keep it that way because you might just pressure the others to turn on their videos as well. However, take note that it’s still best to dress appropriately -- even just the waist up. It gives you a sense of productivity and motivation to focus on your meeting. And, you never know when you’ll be asked to turn on your video for a quick photo, so it’s best to be prepared!

 

There are no standard guidelines for video call etiquette, but it's important to treat it just like a physical meeting. Respect other people's time, be prepared, and stay focused. If you're having second thoughts about turning on your audio or video, the best thing to do is have it off, unless told otherwise. We've been in this setup for more than a year, but even the most basic questions are still left unanswered. Meetings vary, so don't be afraid to ask because everyone's probably wondering the same thing.