The etiquette of work video calls should now be ingrained in the majority of our minds forever as working from home has been a daily reality for much of the PR and comms industry for almost a full year now.
However, there are still dangers that go beyond being told ‘you’re on mute/can you mute – I can hear you breathing’ if you aren’t vigilant during a call. Here are five of them, and some examples to illustrate the horrors in store for those who aren’t careful…
1) Make sure you know how to remove filters and effects AKA don’t be a cat
Texas lawyer Rob Ponton knows this one well after going viral last week when finding himself unable to remove a video filter that turned him into a kitten with creepy eyes during a hearing conducted over video. Potato filter fan Lizet Ocampo can tell you, too. If your video chat platform for work is also one you use for keeping in touch with friends/family/kitten-with-creepy-eyes or potato enthusiasts, make sure you’ve removed any filters before you pick up a work call. Unless your line manager is very forgiving, or has the same interests. Similarly, make sure your display name is not still a private or inappropriate joke from the weekend’s quiz.
2) Pick the right place for picking up work video calls AKA not the bathroom
New Jersey school board member Frances Cogelja knows the trouble of taking your Zoom call to the wrong room, after having to resign following her bathroom break broadcast during a digital meeting. After so long working from home, we probably all have a place picked out for our video work calls – just don’t be tempted to change location mid-meeting…
3) Check your background is appropriate AKA don’t leave anything too interesting on the shelves behind you
And while we’re on the subject of picking out the most appropriate place in the home for picking up work video calls, a plain wall or a bookshelf featuring your most high-brow books are perfect backdrops. Just don’t do like Yvette Amos when appearing on BBC Wales, who had an x-rated ‘ornament’ taking pride of place on her bookshelf background – at least, not when you’re on the clock.
4) Mute/unmute appropriately AKA don’t complain about the Prime Minster over a hot mic
Grumbling about something your boss or a colleague has just said is a no go in person, and it’s no different digitally. Because no matter how careful you are with that mute button, mistakes happen, a la Laura Kuenssberg’s mishap during a Downing Street coronavirus press conference.
5) Don’t speak over others AKA be as respectful to your colleagues as you would be to Jackie Weaver
Picking up on social cues can be extra-tough when speaking digitally – particularly when it comes to determining when it is your time to talk if temperatures are high, or everyone has a lot to say. But speaking over other people to get your point across isn’t it, as the disrespectful members of Handforth parish council’s planning and environment committee now know for sure. Give people their time to speak, or risk being kicked out of the call by the Jackie Weaver of your working life.
6) Let your pets in the frame sometimes AKA do like Toulouse and Katie Collins would do
While ensuring children stay out of your work calls is an unavoidable difficulty of modern parenting (just ask Professor Robert Kelly and, well, anyone working with children in the vicinity), there are other frequently uninvited attendees of video chats, everywhere – pets. But unlike kids, who have homework to do, cats, dogs, rabbits and hamsters have nowhere else to be, so consider letting them walk into frame every now and again – your colleagues will likely thank you for it (even those who are allergic – there are some pros to video calls, after all).
Want more tips for digital working? Here are eight tips for moving your event online.