We’ve all been in a meeting with some type of mishap that, while understandable, could probably have been avoided.
Now that we’ve been working from home for a while, everyone has more or less figured out what works. But there are still a few basic pieces of Zoom etiquette that people need to master.
Whether you’re hosting a video call or attending one, here are some Zoom etiquette tips to keep you from being “that guy” on your calls.
1. Mind the background noise
Be mindful of the background noise on your end. Things you might have grown accustomed to and don’t notice are noisy and distracting for those on a Zoom call with you.
Think about appliances that are running, like the dishwasher, washing machine and dryer, and fans and HVAC units can make noticeable noise. Consider either turning them off or moving well away from them during your call.
And one of the most obvious, yet overlooked, pieces of advice is to close the door while on a call. If you’re working where other people live or work, a closed door is a respectful signal to not bother you and keep noises from outside the room from being heard.
2. Clean up your background
What’s going on behind you during calls? Can others see cars passing by the street through your front window or the sink full of dirty dishes in your kitchen? Your visible background can say a lot about you and leaves an impression on Zoom calls. Try to keep a neutral background when possible and keep it clean so you don’t show off your messes.
Zoom does offer virtual background options, but unless you’re desperate, try not to use it all the time. Virtual backgrounds are fun and quirky at times, but they can create distrust or seem improper if overused. It’s alright to use them in an emergency when you’ve got a couch full of laundry behind you, but if it’s not necessary, it’s best to let everyone see you in your work environment at home.
As a word of warning, it’s appropriate to show everyone where you’re working in your home, but do it with caution! Yes, your bed is comfortable, but do you really want people seeing your bedroom? Instead, try setting up your camera in such a way that it doesn’t look like you’re lounging in your bedroom, like positioning yourself so only a wall is visible.
3. Check the lighting
Especially when working in a small space, lighting is challenging. An overhead light can create harsh or awkward shadows on your face. Natural light always shows up best through your webcam, but if you don’t have natural light that adequately highlights your face, you might want to consider alternative options like a ring light.
4. Use a dedicated office space
It’s important to have a specific office area in your home in general, but it’s especially helpful for taking calls. It can help you minimize distractions and avoid potential mishaps.
If you’re always taking calls from the same spot, you’ll know what parts of your house show in the background, how to minimize noise and adjust lighting and keep messes and distracting items out of the way. Or, if you have a pet, consider having a bed next to your Zoom location, so they know there’s a place for them and won’t jump into your lap mid-call.
5. Dress to impress
When you’re at home and have your closet only steps away, it’s tempting to change into comfortable clothes for work. When on camera, it’s best to have slightly more professional attire. This doesn’t mean you need to wear a suit and tie or a dress, but it’s best to put on something other than your sweats and an old hoodie. Try setting timers a few minutes before calls so you know when to change.
And just because people are only seeing the top half of your body doesn’t mean you should skip the pants — we all know that some Zoomers are flying fast and loose with pants, which is a dangerous game to play. If for some reason you do need to stand up or move during your meeting, you don’t want everyone seeing your unmentionables in a professional environment.
6. Watch the chat
Zoom’s chat function is a great tool for sending comments while other people are speaking and for sharing links. Sometimes, these comments are important or someone is sharing a link to a document you need to view. Check the chat throughout your meeting so you aren’t completely lost and others don’t think you weren’t paying attention.
7. Mute yourself
Even if there’s no background noise where you’re working, mute yourself when you’re not speaking. Unexpected things happen, like a doorbell ringing or noise you’re unaware of.
8. Turn off your camera when appropriate
While it’s nice to show everyone your face, turning off your camera is sometimes appropriate. If you’re getting up from your desk to grab something from another room, turn off your video. Seeing someone get up and leave for a minute may cause others to wonder what’s going on, and it can distract from the actual meeting at hand.
Or, if you’re moving yourself during the call from one room to another, you should also turn off your video. Your coworkers don’t need to feel like they’re on a roller coaster or traveling through hyperspace while you’re walking through your home.
Finally, turn off the camera if you’re eating, even if it’s just a quick snack. It’s poor Zoom etiquette and, frankly, gross to others if you’re eating while on a call.
9. Be careful while screen sharing
We’ve all had someone inadvertently show a confidential or personal message in a Zoom meeting, whether it was via notifications or poor planning when sharing their screen.
If you’re showing your screen to others on a call, make sure the screen you share is free from messaging platforms or other irrelevant windows. It’s also smart to mute your notifications while screen sharing, too. If you have difficulty remembering to turn off your notifications, try installing something like Muzzle that will silence your notifications for you when you share a screen.
10. Look into the camera
Many of us are using more than one monitor and are on a zoom call while viewing other documents on different screens. Even if what you’re viewing on another screen is relevant to the meeting, it’s better to look into the camera so people know you’re actively present in the meeting and not distracted.
11. Test video, microphone beforehand
Do a quick test of your audio and video before your meeting starts. It only takes a minute or two and can help you avoid awkward moments of realizing you have a mess behind you or wasting time at the beginning of the call to figure out why the sound isn’t working.
12. Use reactions
Zoom has a few reactions you can use when you don’t want to unmute yourself or make too much noise. These are emojis that you can click that will show on your video window for a few seconds. It’s much easier when you have a large meeting to show you understand something by giving a visual “thumbs up,” rather than verbally saying “I got it” and everyone wondering who said what.
13. Try multiple windows
In your Zoom settings, you can set it to display on two windows. This is especially helpful for meetings where people are sharing a screen because you can see the gallery view for people’s faces, as well as a screen share. That means no more scrolling through everyone on the top or side of the screen during calls!
14. Ask for permission to record
One of the greatest benefits of using Zoom for meetings is that you can record entire meetings and refer back to them later or send them to people who couldn’t attend. But, before you hit the button to record, make sure you’ve asked those in the meeting if it’s OK. Chances are, everyone will be fine with it, but it’s still good Zoom etiquette to ask so that others are aware.
15. Beware of taking calls from your patio
When the weather is good, it’s nice to take calls from outside. When you’re working from your balcony or patio, be aware of your noise level as neighbors might have opened windows to let fresh air in and they can hear you. This is bothersome to the neighbors who are trying to work or take calls themselves, and it could give away information about your company that shouldn’t be shared.
You should also monitor the noise in your background. It’s relaxing to hear birds chirping or feel a breeze, but it’s annoying to everyone else on your Zoom call.
16. Take precautions with common areas
Whether you’re in a conference room, business center or other shared common space, take precautions and be considerate of those around you. That means practicing social distancing, wearing a mask and being as quiet as possible — including when using the printer and coffee machine. No one wants to be interrupted in their meeting by someone printing out a 100-page document nearby.
Practice good Zoom etiquette
Most of us have had something unexpected happen during a Zoom call — and that’s OK! The great part about this pandemic is that it has shown us we’re all human. Even the CEO of the big company is dealing with pets, unexpected doorbells or visits from their little ones while they’re working. Life happens.
That being said, it’s still a work environment and we want to avoid being too unprofessional. Be conscious of Zoom etiquette and you’ll (hopefully) avoid being the distraction during calls!