31 Mar 2020


We are now in different times where many people are working from home.  Along with working from home, comes a new set of rules and new ways to engage. Below I share how to show up professionally and have a productive and efficient virtual meeting.

I’ve broken virtual office etiquette into 3 areas; employer, employee and overall online etiquette.

For Employers

Guidelines to employees
Send out specific guidelines of expectations for employees, for example “start time” and “show up time”, and yes they differ.  Show up time is the time people need to be online to do any trouble shooting if necessary. Ask people to show up 5-10 minutes early to test their system, so the meeting can start and end on time. Guidelines should also include other things like; things like dress code, rules around eating during meetings while on camera, and kids and animals if necessary. (Yes people will show up with their dog playing and barking in the same room)

Online meeting efficiency.
To ensure that you have efficient online meeting, structure your meetings; have a moderator, start and finish time, an agenda and time limit for each agenda item.

Acknowledge the current times.
Acknowledge the unusual circumstances that we are experiencing right now and leave time in the meeting to address any concerns about this new way of doing business.

For Employees

Dress code
When it comes to dress code, there is one.  Although you are working from home it does not mean that comfy lounge wear is ok for virtual meetings where you will be seen. To be specific, this means no pyjamas, no comfortable night shirt with little holes and no casual cute beach wear. Dress like you would at work, you still need to maintain your professionalism and attire is a part of that. Dressing in your professional attire also helps you get your head in the right frame of mind for the online meeting.  When we look good we feel good.

Personal Hygiene
No bed heads allowed, it lacks professionalism when you show up looking unkept.  If you wouldn’t walk into the office with your hair uncombed and with 3 days of stubble on your chin, you shouldn’t appear in this manner online either.

Dedicate a workspace for video conferencing that has a neutral background and that is work appropriate. Be mindful of what and who is in the background.  No one wants to see your messy closet, your shower stall (yes people do video calls in their bathrooms) or your partner walking across the room in their undies while eating an apple. A neutral back ground is the way to go, certain online meeting platforms like Zoom have virtual backgrounds that you can choose from, should you want to keep your private space private.

When attending a virtual meeting use headphones or earbuds so that you don’t distract your household, and, to minimize background noise from your household.  In these times we are in confined spaces and our homes may have a lot of people in it. The head phones allow you to stay focused and in meeting mode, while the rest of the house hold does not have to go in lock down mode because you’re in a meeting. When you’re not speaking ensure that you put your phone on mute.  In addition, only use your keyboard to type if your phone is on mute otherwise the audio can be heard and is distracting.

Overall Online Etiquette

Personal Hygiene Etiquette
The key thing to remember is that everyone can see you at all times, no matter who is speaking. You have to be aware of facial expressions; eye rolling, shaking of head in annoyance, looking bored etc. It also means that you can’t pick your nose during the meeting (trust me it happens all of the time), tending to personal hygiene during a virtual meeting is a no no. If it is a must and you need to blow your nose or go to the washroom, mute your microphone and turn off your video.

When it comes to your visual, make sure to check your shot before joining the meeting, make sure there is enough head room and you are not too close to the camera, it can be distracting. If you can, make sure there is a light source in front of you and not behind you, having it behind casts a shadow on your face.

When speaking during the virtual meeting announce yourself first so people can be clear who’s saying what.  It also helps to ensure only one person speaks at a time.

With these “new” rules for virtual meetings and  engagement you can be assured that you are set up to show up professionally and succeed.

Watch Karen’s segment on Breakfast Television Toronto talking about Virtual Office etiquette below

For  “virtual” communication workshops for your organization, leaders or teams please email us at [email protected]