Zoom etiquette for the modern homeworker

Given the inordinate amount of time I now spend on Zoom, I’ve been tasked with writing a blog on conference call etiquette. The reality of isolation and remote working is actually bringing us even closer together as a team. The camaraderie and friendship I experience every time I turn up on Zoom is one of the very lovely side-effects of horrible circumstances.

So, here are my thoughts on how to handle yourself on your video conference platform of choice, whether it’s Zoom, Whereby or Google Hangouts (other video providers are available).

Hot Tin Roof is using Zoom, so my advice on the technical functionality of platforms is restricted to Zoom.

  • Turn up early! Getting yourself there on time and not in a flap is just as important as if you had to factor in journey time. Even if that journey is now just a matter of seconds. I set a reminder for my calls as it’s easy to lose track of time and find you’ve missed the deadline.
  • Prepare your talking points, write an agenda and set yourself an objective for the meeting. Treat virtual meetings with the same level of importance as if you were meeting face to face.
  • Turn your video off before starting the call. Lovely as it is to see your face, video takes up lots of bandwidth, so can make your connection unstable. Talking to a blank screen is disconcerting so do ask the other person if they would rather turn off their screen too.
  • Of course, if your connection is strong and video is working fine then go for it – being able to see each other’s face is an important part of communication during these stressful times.
  • Use the mute button when you join a call or when others are talking. It’s human nature to chip in and make supportive (or not-such-supportive) noises, but that can interrupt the flow of the speaker.
  • Put your hand up if you want to speak. Zoom has a facility to do this – you’ll find it tucked away under Participants.
  • You can also use the instant messaging feature which allows you to ask questions or comment on something while the other person is speaking. This means you’re not interrupting and can return to the comment later.
  • And joy of joys, Zoom has a Touchup My Appearance feature (smooths out the lines and generally blurs things). Honestly, Zoom, you really need to make this feature front and centre for all of us who have turned feral and are enjoying not having to do full make-up and hair every day. Go to Settings/Video/Touchup.
  • Share your screen – if you’re talking about a document or a design, share your screen and you can really collaborate closely and talk through what you’re reading or looking at. Love this feature and it’s actually so much better than being in a meeting and not having the document in front of you.
  • Watch what’s going on in the background. Don’t be the guy with Homes under the Hammer on pause and a half-empty bottle of red wine!
  • Of course, we’re all in the same boat at the moment so let’s also understand that children of all ages can’t be expected to understand why their home is now a place of work and their parents have an alter ego they normally don’t see.

Oh, and for those etiquette sticklers, my first port of call when researching this piece was, naturally, Debrett’s. Now there’s nothing on there for video conferencing, but I loved the business communication guidance. I expected it would be a hoot with lots of outdated, antiquated ideas. But actually. All pretty sound advice. Good for you, Debrett’s! Definitely looking forward to your take on isolationist etiquette.

These are such surreal times and the next three weeks are going to change the way we communicate at work for ever. I hope all your teams are happy and adjusting to the new normal. From everyone at Hot Tin Roof, we wish you well – keep safe and strong.

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