By Submitted Article on October 27, 2020.
Skype, FaceTime, WhatsApp and many other video and conference calling apps have been around for some time now. Most of us have perfected our skills using these apps as we communicate with family and friends near and far. However, the functions of video calling have expanded in their scope and importance. Video calling is no longer just a medium used to connect with family and friends, it has now become a vital tool for our at-home office time, team meetings and classroom interactions.
By now most of us have become familiar with these Zoom-like apps and their role in bringing our work up close and personal. This transition from the social to professional screen time has been daunting for some as we continue to adjust our work life to fit into our homes. Like a movie set director, we have had to become acutely aware of things in our home we might have overlooked before, such as our appearance, our home setting, and screen-work behaviour, while having to simultaneously share space with our family and work colleagues.
As the days become cooler and we collectively begin to spend even more time indoors, it might be a good time to brush up on a few considerations while hosting those video work-calls from home, to keep the scenes professional within the walls of our homes.
Our first consideration should be the quality of our call. Audio and video clarity makes a big difference in the experience shared between us and the person(s) on the other side of the screen.
Next, we need to remember that unless explicitly arranged, each screen call is only between us and the person(s) scheduled to participate. We should not assume that our work colleagues are open to having a meet-and-greet with our family members, even if they know them well. They might want the call with us to be as simple and efficient as possible, so as to move on to the rest of their day. Remember, like you, they might be scheduling time and space with others in their home.
Also, we need to reduce distractions in our home work space as much as possible, especially during video calls. For parents with young children, having them on our lap during a meeting, and allowing them to be the star of the show, may not sit well with colleagues attempting to have a productive discussion. Our little ones’ adorable faces may not seem so to others on the call. For that hour or two when Zooming plays an active role in our day, we would do best to set boundaries that ensure our meetings are focused. This would apply to our precious pets as well.
While working from home means having the luxury of wearing our more comfortable outfits more often, there are situations in which we need to be professionally dressed – as we would at the office. In these situations, it’s best to prepare for the rare possibility of needing to stand during our video call, and have our professional outfit fully visible to all. Most of us have seen the videos in circulation of people with professionally dressed upper bodies, while their lower bodies looked quite different. Sort of a business on top and party on the bottom. Funny as these videos have been, they prove the point that we need to pay more attention to our full-screen attire. Larry King’s famous shirt, tie and suspenders may have been in contrast to his faded jeans and slippers below the desk, but he never stood up on camera.
Finally, with food more easily accessible to us, our lunch-room habits are bound to change within the home-office space. It could be tempting to try and finish off our breakfast after we have logged in, as we wait for everyone else to join the call. This is not the best time for that. We don’t want to be caught off guard needing to answer a question as we mumble through the last mouthful of our Cap’n Crunch. Just as we would do at the office, it would be wiser to leave our eating to before or after the screen call, giving us time to wipe the mayo from our beard, or the Ketchup from our blouse. However, we can get away with a drink of water or cup of tea or coffee during the call.
Mable Stewart is a Lethbridge-based etiquette and image consultant. She can be contacted by email at email@example.com.