44 Digital Blog Zooming in on virtual etiquette

Home-working may feel like second nature to many of us now, but there’s still a few do’s and don’ts to be aware of when it comes to online meetings. We explore how we can all brush up on our virtual etiquette…

We may have somewhat settled into the ‘new normal’ after being in and out of lockdowns for almost an entire year now, but that doesn’t mean we’ve got everything in hand.

Take, for example, our online presence. Working from home has resulted in many of us heavily relying on digital platforms such as Zoom and MS Teams to communicate on a daily basis. With the Coronavirus threat thrust upon us last year, everyone had to react quickly – and this swift adjustment meant there was little time to put sufficient training or prep in place to account for the subsequent new ways of working.

Essentially, we all had to grapple with the (mostly) unfamiliar practice of working from home and having to use video calls to speak to colleagues and clients. Which – on the face of it – seems simple enough, but there’s a whole host of things that could go wrong (as many viral videos will show!)

And as lockdown life continues and we become more accustomed to home-working, it’s important to remain mindful of our online stance. It’s easy to slip into old habits and get overly comfortable, but that’s when we’re more susceptible to digital faux-pas. So, it’s as good a time as any to brush up on our virtual etiquette! Try these top tips for size…

Back(ground) to basics

First things first, when it comes to online calls it’s always nice to make the effort by putting your camera on. This will make the interactions more personal and will more closely imitate a real-life meeting. When doing this it’s necessary to consider the backdrop. If you don’t have the most professional of set-ups, or have lots of personal effects that you don’t want to display on screen, then the option to blur out your background is definitely a good one for you.

Subject matters

When it comes to virtual etiquette, it’s important to consider the subject matter. According to Business Insider, if you have a particularly difficult or sensitive subject to address, it’s best broached on a call as it’s more personal. Instant messaging is more appropriate for notes that are more neutral, and of course good news can be shared in any form.

Sling the slang

If you use text talk outside of work then it’s possible you may slip up and use slang when using the online chat function – it’s easily done if quickly tapping out a message. Be careful with abbreviations such as ‘LOL’ and ‘U’ – take your time when formulating any sort of written communication to avoid any mishaps.

Props for prep

Give yourself plenty of time before online calls so that you are adequately prepared. Life Hacker suggests you should give yourself at least 10 minutes to set yourself up for a meeting to ensure you don’t fall foul of any last minute technical difficulties and subsequently disrupt other people’s timelines. It’s also a good idea to minimise distractions, so move your mobile out of sight and switch any devices to silent.

The importance of (not) being idle

Meetings are a two-way street and as this blog suggests, the guest has as much of a role to play as the host. Essentially, whoever is running the meeting should have an agenda and stick to it, making sure not to overrun, while those in attendance should pay full attention and resist the urge to switch to other apps or tabs. It can be tempting to check your emails or multi-task to save time, but in doing so you’ll increase your chance of missing out on important information or get caught out if a question is directed your way. By being engaged and contributing to the meetings you’ll show that you’re willing and interested. And, if you don’t feel comfortable voicing your opinions on camera, you can always use the chat bar to get involved.

Getting to grips with virtual etiquette

Being considerate of your virtual etiquette is important not only for your own professional purposes but also for the sake of your business. You are representing a company too – and all it takes is one little mishap going viral to muddy the waters.

Take that Handforth Parish Council video: Jackie Weaver has become something of a national treasure after a video of her handling a chaotic council call hit the ‘net. Her cool, calm and collected approach has been praised – while the actions of the others on the call have been slated in contrast. This shows how crucial it is to stay level-headed and professional at all times – even if you do find yourself in disagreement with others.

So, in summary, don’t reserve your please and thank yous for the dinner table – put your politeness into practice and polish up your virtual etiquette today. And if you’ve got any top tips for excellent etiquette, why not get in touch and let us know?