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Working from home: Meeting Etiquette

With the advent of COVID-19 it has become necessary to change the way we work. Working from home is the new normal for those with office jobs. The WFH phenomena has changed the way we dress for work, eat during working hours, and the co-workers we share our working space with.

Meetings still need to be held with various stakeholders – managers, subordinates, partners and clients. Let's consider some effective ways to manage the new normal.

Know how to use the meeting software

Whether you’re using Skype, Zoom, Microsoft Teams or any other meeting application ensure you know how to navigate on it. Know how to work the microphone. Close other apps or programmes that may constantly distract you with pop up messages. Turn off or switch off calling options that may interrupt your meeting. Fumbling around trying to navigate during the meeting or trying to turn off a setting that has interrupted the meeting will make you appear disorganised, not-tech savvy and tarnish your image.

Appropriate dress

It is important to continue to dress appropriately when required to attend an online meeting where you will be visible. Definitely no pyjamas, stretched t-shirts or revealing clothing should be worn. Men can more easily get away with the “newsreader look” where they dress formal on the upper body and remain casual from the waist down. This is quite comical but not recommended. Just be sure you do not get up during the meeting or forget to turn off the camera after the meeting. Either way, ensure that the view your meeting participants will see is clean, presentable and appropriately dressed for the meeting audience.

Good grooming

As with your dressing ensure that your hair is combed/brushed/tamed. Although it is a good time to let your hair down generally, for online meetings do make an effort to neaten up. Make sure to brush your teeth. Even though bad breadth is not an issue, food particles may be lodged in your teeth. Your nail care is definitely less visible during online meetings but check to make sure your nail polish (if you have any) is not chipped. The lockdown time is a great time to let your nails rest from nail polish and artificial enhancements anyway. This topic is more extensively covered in our blog on “Grooming under lockdown”.

Seating area

Choose a seating area that is away from a window during daytime as the sunlight from behind may make it difficult for you to be seen by meeting participants. Also ensure the space around you is orderly and neat because viewers will not just be looking at you, their curiosity will have them also looking at the background view. Some are lucky to have a designated study/office space which make it easier to get into the “zone” of working from home. Whether we like it or not, meeting participants will judge you on the neatness/beauty or lack thereof of your home space as seen in the background of your online meeting. So choose an aesthetically pleasing background and if you don’t have one rather choose a blank wall as your background.

Screen view

Get the right screen view by making sure that the view is horizontal (looking straight at your face) and not vertical (looking up into your nostrils). Check yourself on the screen to ensure you look presentable. The angle of your camera can enhance or distort your appearance and this may actually be a distraction for meeting participants.

Constantly checking your appearance on your camera

Check your appearance before the meeting but by all means avoid constantly looking at yourself on your camera and fixing your hair or other physical aspect. This is distracting and participants can actually notice your eyes shifting from the main view to your camera view.

Manage your home “co-workers”

Spouses, children, partners, housemates, siblings and pets have become the new co-workers in the WFH phenomenon. Although you may love them and think they are “cute” your colleagues/meeting participants may tolerate only one interruption if at all, not continuous interruptions. Make sure to manage your housemates as this also reflects your ability to manage your personal life and improves your image as a leader.

Eating while working

One of the pleasures of working from home is that you can have delicious, healthy home cooked meals, you can eat various flavours and textures of food without worrying about the acceptability of the scent and the complex utensils (or no utensils) needed to consume the meal. However, do avoid eating during online meetings. Food may inadvertently get stuck in your teeth. Eating while talking is still considered bad manners, especially if you are guilty of chewing with your mouth open, so do avoid eating during the meeting.

When all is said and done – remain productive, stay home, stay safe.


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