Covid-19 - Get Ready for New Online Business Etiquette

There was a time when those of us who worked in offices thought that the coronavirus pandemic would finally mean an end to office meetings.Oh, what fools we were. What sweet summer children.Office meetings continue despite social distancing, thanks to video conference tools such as Zoom, Skype, Microsoft Teams and many others. And let’s face it: sometimes, talking face-to-face is necessary, even if that also means face-to-screen.

So with this new era of video conferencing and online meetings, many have found that there are a new set of guidelines to follow - things that we might not have needed to discuss in person, but are worth going over now that so many are working from the comfort of their own homes - or discomfort, depending on your setup.

Let’s face it: working from home is difficult. So here are some suggestions, compiled from Zoom’s own website as well as other sources, which will help you stay productive, connected, and not-embarrassed as much as possible while we struggle through this new era of office work.

Use the video option when possible.

It lets people see you and confirm you’re not some super-sophisticated AI voice. This is particularly important if you’re the one hosting the meeting or a speaker, and slightly less so if you’re an attendee,

Dress for the job you have, not the job you want, or; Don’t wear your pajamas.

Times are tough for those working from home, and wearing sweatpants all day, every day is one of the few silver linings. But if you’re in a position where you can put on something more professional-looking, it’s probably a good idea. You might also find it makes you feel a little more normal.

Stage your video area.

Keep in mind that people aren’t just seeing you, they’re also seeing whatever the camera is pointed at behind you. Maybe arrange it so that your camera isn’t facing towards a pile of unfolded laundry?

More light is better.

Video quality is dramatically improved with more lighting. And don’t you want everyone to see your beautiful face, now that you’ve gone to all of the trouble to put on actual clothes and stuff? An extra nearby lamp is usually helpful. Just make sure the light is in front of you, not behind you - being backlit makes you harder to see.

Try to look into the camera.

If you’re presenting or speaking to a group, looking into the camera will give the appearance of eye contact with whoever you’re talking to. It’s also definitely better than being forced to stare at your own face and realizing how badly you need a haircut.

Do your own tech support before you start.

Make sure you do a test run at some point, and that you’re aware of your audio and video settings before you start. Most video conference services allow you to see a test of what your camera is recording before you start broadcasting it to everyone else, so have it arranged the way you want it. Zoom, for instance, has a feature that lets you test your settings before your meetings begin: just go to

You can also usually decide if you come in with audio hot or muted before you accidentally broadcast whatever is on the TV in the next room. And speaking of sound ...

Stay on mute if you’re not talking.

Background noise can be really distracting. If you aren’t sharing anything at the moment, go ahead and hit mute until you do. That way, no one has to listen to the car alarm that goes off in your neighborhood or your neighbor’s perpetually barking dog.

Don’t eat during the meeting.

It can be a little gross to watch other people eat sometimes. Or listen to them chewing, for that matter. (Ew, sorry, I just grossed myself out thinking about it.) Hold off if you can, or if not, maybe turn off the video and audio.

Don’t do other private things while on a meeting.

Speaking of gross: have you heard any horror stories about people being caught picking their nose or using the bathroom while on a video conference, thinking they were muted or had their video off? Don’t become a statistic. It can be easy to forget that people can hear or see you if you’re in a group of 30 coworkers, so don’t risk it!

Stay focused.

It’s a science fact that everyone hates meetings. Don’t make this one go longer than it needs to. Stay on task (which can be very difficult while working at home) and keep unnecessary conversations to a minimum. It can get very hard to be productive when several people are all talking at once, and even more so when overlapping audio and shuffling video screens are involved.

On that same note ...

Only invite people who need to be there.

Is there someone who should be looped into the info being shared, but won’t actually have anything to contribute themselves? Would it be possible to loop them in via an email instead? Save them, and yourself, some hassle by not including people who aren’t necessary.

Not only are meetings widely hated (see above) but the more participants you have, the more likely you are to have connectivity issues - or video/audio trouble from any of the aforementioned problems. Fewer participants means a more smooth conversation and less jumping through hoops. Getting a recording of the meeting can sometimes be just as valuable as attending, too.

Besides, is this a meeting or a webinar?

Most video conference tools allow you to set up some members are audience-only, meaning that only certain people can participate with video and audio. If you’re doing a presentation rather than a discussion, that might be the better format than allowing everyone to chime in.

The host should be the last one to leave.

If the host closes the meeting, then obviously, the meeting ends. And as Spider-Man always says, such power clearly comes with a hefty burden of responsibility. So to make sure no one gets cut off or loses a last-minute point, it’s a good idea to stick around until everyone else closes out of the meeting.

Make private meetings private.

If you share details of how to log into the meeting on a public platform, like Facebook, don’t be surprised if you get some unwelcome visitors. Only share passwords with people you want to be there. Or rather, with people who need to be there - there may be coworkers that you don’t want to be there, but just because you don’t like Phil From Accounting doesn’t mean you can avoid him forever.

Learn what you can do to manage participants.

There are a lot of features on these platforms, such as screen sharing, locking the meeting to current participants, removing participants or placing them on hold, transferring files and managing chat options. It might be useful to learn what you can do and how to do it before a meeting starts.

For more details on how Zoom operates, check out their website and their FAQ page.