Despite all of the craziness of the last couple of months, it does appear that things are starting to calm down. At least a little. While there are states that are opening up a little again, it does seem like many of us will still be working from home. Real-life boardrooms will still be off-limits, but virtual versions are required.
This means we should layout some much-needed ground rules for video conferencing.
Subtlety is key
Sometimes you have to sit in on meetings that you don’t really have much to say in. You’ll probably sit there and think about all of the things you could be getting done instead of being in that meeting. This isn’t new to video conferencing, but what is new, is that you are at your computer, not a conference table. Meaning that you could actually be doing that work that you’re daydreaming about. But you need to be sure that people can’t tell you aren’t paying attention. Find a way to work subtly. If you use dual monitors put the page you are working on using the monitor that has the camera. Keep your typing movements to a minimum. And be sure that you can hear the meeting. You don’t want to be caught not paying attention when your boss asks you a question.
Mute is magic
Pretty much all conferencing programs have an option to mute your microphone (in fact, I would be wildly surprised to find out that there is one that doesn’t offer that option). Use it. Please. If you have nothing to say. If no one is asking you a question. If you are not running the meeting. Please use mute. No one needs to hear your neighbor blasting Billy Joel just because you have to. If you are one of the blessed few that only has quiet neighbors, you may not need mute. Keep your microphone unmuted just to flex on the rest of us.
You are not in the Witness Protection Program
Sunny days, open blinds, and web cameras do not mix. If your home office is set up with a window behind you and you like to have your blinds open, your coworkers won’t be able to see you during video conferencing. All they will see is your silhouette. You’ll look like you’re being interviewed for a true-crime documentary and you saw something you should have. Your coworkers will probably be surprised when you talk, and your voice isn’t altered to protect your identity. If possible, move your set up so that the widow is next to or in front of you. At the very least, move your computer during a meeting. Your coworkers want to see you. Well, I don’t know that for sure, but it will probably make them less uncomfortable to have an actual face to talk to.
Wear pants, please wear pants
I know that you can’t really see people much below the waist during a video conference, but that is no excuse for pant-less-ness. After all, what if something happens and you have to stand up unexpectedly? What if your cat jumps on your desk, knocking your hot coffee all over your lap, making you jump up and your whole team (including your boss) sees your heart boxers? That would really undercut any authority you may have held before that meeting. Bottoms are just the smartest way to go. No one is expecting you to be in slacks. You can wear sweats, shorts, or whatever. Just as long as it is something on bottom, I think we’re good to go.
These are just the beginning of the rules that we’re starting to figure out as we continue working from home. If you think of more to add to this list, let us know!