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Zoom Manners

10 November 2020

Barbara read Workplace Savvy: New Zoom etiquette for meetings by Eva Del Rio and agreed that the author’s tips make for a better experience for everyone involved.

Tags: barbara read, covid-19, meetings, remote work

I think we’ve all appreciated the chance to get a view into each other’s home lives over the last  seven months, and there’s nothing wrong with the periodic appearance of a pet, child, or a much-need visit from a masked-repairperson. However, I agree with Del Rio’s tips for better video meetings and have quoted her high-level suggestions along with a few of my own insights below.

“Be on time” which means at least three minutes early. I know you might not want to talk to the only other person there but being late online is as rude as it was in person. You might have connection problems, so you need to allow time to work them out.

“Don’t be a lurker” Turn your video on unless something happens that you need to quickly tend to. I participated in an eight-week, volunteer class that ran from 5:30-7:00pm. I need to do some things for my husband during that time, so I let the person who invited me know after the first session that I would be on my phone and not on video during most of the time. However, for professional meetings, you need to be on camera as much as possible and only turn off your camera as an exception.

“Maintain your appearance” Run a comb through your hair. For me, makeup helps, so I don’t skip it. Also, I wore makeup in the "Before" times, so why would I stop now? Show up for video meetings like you would have shown up for in-person meetings in the past. Then, make adjustments to your appearance for the camera, as needed. I had to get new glasses so I could stare straight at the screen rather than tilt my head back to look through the bottom part of my progressive lenses.

Because the picture of you can be the size of two postage stamps on your screen, especially if there is screen sharing, you can be lulled into thinking people can’t see what you are doing especially if you are on mute. They can. They may also choose to make your picture the biggest. Your top half needs to look business casual. Your bottom half can enjoy the remote work environment and be a bit comfier!

Don’t scratch, pick at things, or play with a necklace or earrings. If your back itches, don’t reach around your neck with your elbow pointed at the screen. You wouldn’t do that in an in-person meeting. (I hope!) Wiggle against the chair to get relief or whatever else you’d do to handle the discomfort if we were in a room with you.

“Stage your area” I cleaned up the bookshelf behind my favorite chair where I normally sit at my computer. But even that wasn’t good enough for work calls. I had to set up a card table in front of a window and use a small step stool to elevate my laptop camera. I also have to close the blinds on that window most of the time because there is too much glare unless it is a cloudy day.

Elevate the laptop camera until it’s at least at eye level. If you feel like you're struggling with a double chin or other, shall I say "aging-related" issues, you'll be delighted by how much it helps to get that camera up higher. Then, use a separate keyboard and mouse if you need to type. All of the fun Zoom backgrounds are cute, but they use a lot of bandwidth and get pixelated if you move around. Invest in creating a good but real background. Once you’ve made all these changes, get on camera with someone you trust to give you feedback.

“Avoid chewing on camera” Coffee or something in a cup is fine to drink. I love to suck on crushed ice. It’s my way of staying hydrated. I know it is bad manners any time, so I try to do it alone. I thought maybe I could sneak and do it, but it shows on Zoom and looks bad. I tried it when I was Facetiming with my granddaughter and studied what I looked like—not good. You can eat with friends and family but not colleagues.

“Don’t multitask” People can tell when you are checking your phone. There is an eyes-down quality to phone checking that is even different from reading or typing. Sometimes you are receiving texts on the phone that are important for the meeting. If you are, tell people you are doing that, but keep it all to a minimum just as you would during an in-person meeting. (Or, at least I hope you would!)

I was Facetiming with my granddaughter, excused myself to go to the bathroom and then walked in with my Air pods in my ears. I did remember in time but then almost did it again later. I walk with Air pods listening to music, so they have gotten very comfortable and feel like a part of my body.

I know those of you on video calls all day are exhausted in a new kind of way but keeping these suggestions in mind will help you maintain your professional look and create a good experience for others. If you need more help with improving your remote work experience, I recommend these tips from the Allison Partners team as well as what we’ve written about how to have effective meetings in general.


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