We have entered what everyone keeps referencing as an “unprecedented time” in our history.  It is true.  Most of us have never endured anything anywhere close to what we are experiencing right now.  Prior to the start of the pandemic, society was not exactly in the habit of considering their “neighbor” on a daily basis.  In fact, many times I would speak about etiquette and protocol and its necessity in the modern world to only receive sly smiles and remarks such as “Good luck with that, we are in a digital world.  That stuff is history.”

It is indeed a digital world.  However, I think we have all discovered how important human relationships remain.  People miss people, they wear a mask to keep a stranger safe, and the mindset is now “we are all in this together.”  Etiquette is being revived in so many places and ways.  People are once again realizing the importance of being considerate of others and the impact that makes. So, with that shift in thinking there will also be some slight adjustments to business etiquette.  Let’s examine for a moment virtual meetings.  Here are a few tips and suggestions to keep oneself professional, yet compassionate, as the world establishes a new normal.

  1. Grace –  “Merriam-Webster 2d:  defines grace as a disposition to or an act or instance of kindness, courtesy, or clemency.”  I believe “clemency” to be the key word here.  It means to be lenient or merciful.  We should all strive to be as professional as possible while working remotely but life is going to happen.  Be merciful towards your co-workers, clients, employees, and bosses, whenever possible.  We do not know the full extent of other people’s circumstances and must consider that prior to making judgement.  This is a time for us to be understanding and respectful.  It is a tribute to your own character.
  2. Be considerate of the other person’s time.  If you are new to virtual work, then explore the platform. Practice, if possible.   Do a test run and be prepared.  You should schedule a start and an end time and stick to it.  It is best to keep meetings short and concise and keep to an agenda.  People will thank you for your efforts.
  3. Designate someone to be the host.  They should instruct others to use gallery view so everyone gains the benefit of seeing each other.  This person will also lead the meeting and help in instances where multiple people attempt to speak at once.
  4. Do not interrupt.  It is rude.  If the platform you are using has a “raise hand” feature, then you may alert the host in this way that you have something to say.  If the host welcomes participation, then they will likely direct participants to utilize chat features to interact.  It is imperative that you keep comments/chat relative to the topic and to a minimum.
  5. Microphones should be muted during meetings.  We all have more background noise than usual these days so don’t be that guy or girl.  You may unmute your microphone when it is time to ask questions or make comments at the end.
  6. Please leave the keyboard alone.  The sound or look of you breaking eye contact to type on the keyboard is distracting to others.  I would even go a step further and turn off all notifications and programs that are non-essential to the meeting at hand.
  7. Be professional and fully dressed.  Do not look like you just rolled out of the bed, literally. We have all seen instances where people are wearing shorts or have been caught reporting the news, in their underwear, on live television.  This is just not necessary.  It gives off the impression that you do not care about your work or professionalism, in general.  I am not saying that you should work in a suit every single day.  However, if you would have been formal in person, then match that formality while working from home.  It has never been more important than now to put your “best foot forward.”
  8. Do your due diligence to keep children occupied and out of your workspace during virtual calls and meetings.  The same goes for pets.  You may think your children and pets are adorable but your client or boss may not appreciate such interruptions or distractions.  Inform the other members of your household that you will be participating in a call or meeting and ask that you not be interrupted during that time.
  9. Enunciate and articulate.  Speak at a slightly slower pace if you know your rate of speech is fast.  Internet connections are not at their best.  Speaking clearly and at a moderate rate may help you avoid repetitions and breakdowns in your conversation.
  10. No food allowed.  Please do not eat during your meeting or call. Even if your lovely spouse, unknowingly, delivers your favorite piping hot breakfast to you during the end of a call, you do not partake.  It is very distracting.
  11. Please stay seated.  Unnecessary movement can be distracting and cause others to lose focus.  Please do your best to stay still, engaged, and professional for the duration of the call.
  12. Be humble and practice gratitude.  Thank everyone for their time and efforts.  This is a challenging time for everyone.  It doesn’t hurt to acknowledge that.