As many of us continue to work from home video conferencing has become a part of our everyday lives. What would have been done in person is now being conducted virtually. Being at home can mean feeling a bit more casual, but how casual can you be on cameraAfter all you’re still at work. There are some dos and don’ts of video conferencing when it comes to talking to colleagues on video.  

For example, a friend of mine asked if smoking during a work zoom call was OK?.  

She had been on a video chat meeting when one of her colleagues decided to light up.  

Sure, it poses no health hazard to anyone, but is this proper video call etiquette.  

Another friend asked if it was ok to breast feed her child while in a meeting?  

Lori Bosworth is the editor of Torontonicity, an online publication about life in the big city. She recently shared her best practises using Zoom.   She says smoking is definitely a no-no.   

“I think the question to ask when you’re trying to determine what is acceptable behavior iswould I do this in my workplace boardroom? If we were having a meeting? And if the answer is no, then don’t do it at home on a video call,” Bosworth says.  

Bosworth says when it comes to office video calls we should focus on three areas.  

First is your home office  

The background should be clutter free, you should sit facing a window with good light and have the camera framed so you see your face and top torso properly. 

Second is your appearance  

Make sure your hair is neat. Wear bright solid colours as opposed to a busy patterns. Also as tempting as it is, skip the pajama bottoms, because you never know when you might have to stand up.  

Minimize interruptions 

Take your video call in a room with a door. Make sure kids and fur babies have had their needs met, if possible ask an adult in the house to watch them while you’re on the call.  

Workplace etiquette expert Lisa Orr coaches workers on the dos and don’ts for the workplace. That includes how to prepare for your video conferences calls.  

She says for most of us conducting meetings online has meant learning a new skill. Commanding a room is different than commanding a Zoom call.   

Her advice is to practice when you’re not connected on camera. Go over what you are going to say. Try to look straight into the camera rather than down at the screen at your meeting attendees. This will give them a feeling that you are speaking to them became of the eye to eye connection 

She says the pandemic has changed her whole approach to workplace etiquette, because the old rules of how to present in a boardroom, how to shake hands and how to read someone’s body language in a meeting, no longer applies.   

This is how she prepares for each of her meetings. No matter how many times she has done a video call before. 

“I practice it and I test it and I record myself to make sure things are working. That means making sure my background is set up correctly, that there isn’t any distracting clutter. I like to set up my environment to present the most professional look I can,” Orr says.  

Orr admits workplace rules have changed dramatically because of video. She believes there is a lot you can do on video calls that you would not do in a boardroom. This includes going on mute to answer a question your partner or kids may have or choosing to turn your video off, so you can breastfeed your child but still be present and listening in. 

Orr says video calling has allowed us to peek inside the private lives of our colleagues.  

This includes seeing all the chaos and disruptions that come from working at home. This she believes is building empathy.  

We all need to have a little more compassion for each other. definitely hope that continues after the pandemics is over. The fact is you’re not working with robots, you’re working with human beings, and human beings are going to get distracted and disturbed while working from home,” says Orr.  

Here are some BIG don’ts Orr shared when it comes to work video calls.  

Don’t eat while on camera, if the meeting goes long, ask for a break for lunch or turn your camera off when taking a bite.  

Don’t cut in. If you want to interrupt a colleague send a private message in the chat function.  

Don’t scroll your phone while on the call, remember everyone can see you. 

Don’t take your call outside. Take your call in a professional setting, this is not a time to sit outside in your backyard  

Don’t just focus on you. Choose gallery mode, so you can see your colleague’s reactions. 

Finally, if you are the organizer, keep the meeting short, to keep everyone focused and less distracted.  

Video calling is new to everyone and getting used to it is taking time but remember you’re still at work so keep it professional.  

Rubina is a freelance journalist and personal finance expert. She works for several media outlets including CBC Radio and Television, Global News Radio and Global News Toronto. She also has a long-running finance column with Homes Publishing Group. You can follow her on Twitter @alwayssavemoney