COVID-19 Videoconferencing Etiquette

The COVID-19 pandemic is creating significant disruption in all areas of business and life. To help you to find some order in the chaos and adjust to new ways of doing and being, Doctor Digital has put together a series of COVID-19 blogs with tips, tricks, hacks and suggestions for how digital and e-commerce tools can support you and your business.

Doctor Digital Says

When social distancing is at its zenith, the majority of the population will be working from home. Connectivity is a major part of that, and for many, connectivity means video calls and conferencing to stay connected. The tools available for everyone are simple and easy, but there is some etiquette to work video calls that will make the experience better for everyone on the call.

Set and setting: Not everyone is going to have a nice quiet space at home to set up their home workstation. MacGyver what you can in the quietest corner – if not a room, perhaps the end of a dining table, or a spare desk in the bedroom, and make some clear demarcations to the humans and pets you share you space with that identifies that you will be working and they should steer clear and keep noise low. Try and give yourself enough space that you have about 50cm to 1m from your webcam so you don’t have your whole head in shot and provide a little perspective for your fellow meeting goers. If you have personal items in shot, perhaps do a little audit to make sure they aren’t too personal – it’s hard to unsee some things you never needed to know about your workmates. Natural light is a bonus, but not streaming in at the camera which will make it hard to see you.

Workwear: If we learned anything from newsreaders, its business up top and party from the waist down. Even during a pandemic, work is work, and for videoconferencing, having a reasonable standard of pandemicwear is the ticket. Pyjamas and Ugg’s are awesome for smashing out a policy document on the run, but not presenting it to your senior management team on a videoconference. The act of getting into clothes and scrubbing up is also helpful for the state change needed when you are not used to working from home and are tempted to stay in jammies all day watching Netflix. While putting on a suit and tie or frock and heels may be going too far, it may also be what you need to get your brain into work mode, so go for it.

Sound: Videoconferences with a few participants are often derailed by the level of actual and ambient noise coming from participants. Good etiquette is to say howdy when you arrive into the videoconference, and then mute yourself when you aren’t speaking. Make this a habit and when your dog goes nuts at the arrival of a new grocery order or the children are simulating a world war for their remote history lesson you can be a smug silent oasis of calm. Headphones with a mic are the best tool for speaking when you do unmute yourself, and also keep the noise as directional as possible and make yourself heard.

Participation: Just because you are on a video call, doesn’t mean the same meeting issues won’t occur. The overtalker will still overtalk, the eye roller will still roll emoji eyes in a private chat and the introverts with something critical to say will try everything to get a guernsey. The slightly asynchronous nature of video conferencing can sometimes make the situation worse, which calls for some good leadership and etiquette for your new world of video meetings.

Turn up on time, so you can get your hellos over and mute yourself. Make sure there is an agenda for the meeting, even if it is a daily stand-up to check in. This will help you to run to time and engage everyone. Have a person running the meeting who is able to direct traffic and is good at keeping their eye on who is wanting to contribute. Use the ‘raise hand’ option if your video conference has one, or actually raise your hand so it can be seen you want to speak, that saves people talking over each other.

Keep the meetings short and dynamic where possible, it is much easier to lose people’s attention when they aren’t physically in a room together. If you are using a text chat function to ask questions, let people know when they can expect an answer – during the meeting or at the end. If people are on their phones as well it can be really distracting, so have the same protocols in place as with a regular f2f (face to face) meeting and have phones and devices off – this also helps to manage private chats during the meeting. If showing confidential or sensitive material on a screen share just be aware that this can be saved in a screen shot, so be mindful that what you are putting up on screen has greater exposure.

Videoconferences are a lifeline to other people and in the early stages this is especially the case when some folk who are used to being in offices are working from home, they may be feeling very isolated and out of their comfort zone. Use video to connect when you need to, and initially a video chat can replace an email while everyone is settling in. Having said that, you may need to manage the rhythms of your video meetings as lan overload of videoconferences will yield the same level of frustration as unnecessary f2f meetings.

It might take a little getting used to, but once the etiquette is understood by your group and applied, videoconferences will be as productive, dynamic and fun as a regular meeting.

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