The community quarantine has forced many companies to work and check in with their colleagues through video conferencing tools.
Culture Spotlight

Wear pants, stop multitasking, and other video conference dos and don'ts

Manners still matter even when you're working from home. By FRANCES SALES
| Apr 08 2020

These days, work isn't restricted by the four corners of a physical office. Your colleagues may be working from home or from all over the world. To improve the connection of remote team members, companies rely on video conference tools. This is even more applicable today, as the coronavirus pandemic has gripped the world and made the video conference a vital part of everyday business operations.

Mel Panabi, vice president for marketing for WeGen Distributed Energy Philippines, a renewable energy company, says that for his team, video conferencing extends beyond monitoring. “Video calls actually help in keeping the bond of the team and lifts team morale since you will feel isolated when you work from home," he says. "Video calls or chats allow us to re-create the group dynamics that you experience during team meetings in the office.”

You may also like:

Vince Sales, regional head for branded content for Tickled Media, says, his team is composed of members from all over the region and, as such, were already doing regular calls even before the pandemic. “It helps to make everyone feel a little less isolated, and—for team members outside the Philippines—put faces to names.”

Because a video conference will usually take place at your home, which is not a work place, there are additional expectations you should be aware of when you answer a video call. Here are the dos and don'ts of video conferencing.

 

1. Do use the right tools that will fully engage remote participants

Before you attend a video conference, make sure you’re fully equipped with the right technology. You can choose from easy-to-use and reliable apps like Slack, Google Hangouts, and Microsoft Teams. Your team manager will dictate the main communication platform, but you can also help things by upgrading your simple webcam setup. Check if your laptop or mobile phone camera, microphone, and speaker are utilizing smart technology so that you can hear and be heard well and also look good to your team members. “Use a headset," Sales recommends. "It solves many common video call problems like feedback, bad sound, and echoes.”

 

2. Do check if your technology works correctly

Before your video call, make sure your system is working properly. Finance and HR director Dokes Nilo suggests testing your video, audio, and bandwidth. “Install the software beforehand and test with someone else so that no actual meeting time is lost due to such setup and technical issues,” he says.

 

3. Don’t hold it in a dark room

Laptop cameras are not exactly good at making you look your best so you’ll need to set up your environment. Poor lighting conditions can affect how your team views you, literally and figuratively. So be sure there’s enough light in the room to make your face clear and visible. Daylight is best but if your global team is holding a meeting that’s night time for you, turn on all the lights. “Choose a nice spot to make your call from," Sales says. "A well-lit place clear of clutter is ideal. And it makes a good impression!”

 

4. Do get your household to cooperate

Be aware of your background. Your team mates will be seeing part of your home so check that there’s no mess, laundry, or too-personal effects like sex toys, or your wife’s lingerie visible. “Don't attend a video conference in a place where your officemates can see people inside your house mingling behind you," Panabi recommends. "Please tell the people inside your house that you are in a meeting so they should be quiet. I've attended a meeting where we could hear someone in the background talking about what they will cook for lunch and it was so disconcerting.” 

Since the lockdown, video conference tool Zoom has become a popular choice. Photograph from official website of Zoom

5. Do wear work-appropriate attire

You may be at home but don’t forget you’re working. Even if you don’t have a video conference scheduled, wear something professional anyway since your boss might suddenly do a video call and you’ll have to rush to grab a shirt and comb your hair. “Wear pants!" Sales warns. "You may need to get up during the call.”

 

6. Don’t be late

Get ready even before the meeting starts. As mentioned, make sure everything’s working properly and you’re dressed so that you’re professionally prepared when the call comes in. Ditto Mendoza, PR and digital manager for a telco, says that everyone should respect the schedule. “Just because you're home, it doesn't mean you can just chime in whenever you want, or that organizers can just let the conversation continue without any restrictions.”

 

7. Don’t position the camera too low

You don’t want your team to look up your nostrils and see your nose hair so frame your camera at eye level. A camera set too low makes for unflattering looks like double chins and a sinister scowl. Placing it too high, however, makes you look small. Too near and your face takes up the whole screen. Set it up so that your face and upper midsection are visible.

 

8. Do look into the camera

It’s natural for us to look at ourselves when we’re speaking but it actually makes you look like you’re not engaged with the people you’re talking to. Look at the camera lens so that you’ll appear like you’re looking into the person's eyes.

 

9. Do mute your mic when not speaking

Most microphones can pick up background noise so even though you think you’re being quiet, your team can hear you typing. Other noise at home like sneezes, kids playing, or the vacuum can be distracting and even annoying.

To avoid this from happening, Nilo says that during the vidcon, "participants should mute their mic for the majority of the meeting, unless requested to speak.”

Panabi says, “I've attended meetings where there are 4 or 5 microphones on and the different sounds can really distract you." Nilo adds, “Participants should also consider turning off their video, if agreed upon, to minimize bandwidth requirements for those who have slower connections.”

 

10. Do be professional

Don’t let your home setup lull you into a casual mood. Mendoza says it’s okay to check on each other but don’t forget why you’re meeting in the first place. “Follow the agenda! Tackle things line by line but also allot some time for small talk and bonding,” he says.

You should also pay attention to the meeting. Your team may not see what you’re doing off camera but this is not the time to multitask. Stop checking emails or typing up your report! "Listen and be prepared. I can't stress this enough," Panabi says. Some people think that since they're not physically there they can fidget or do something else while someone is talking. As a matter of professional courtesy and to make the meeting truly productive, you need to give your full attention to the meeting. If you need to present something, make sure that you come fully prepared. It's a sign that you're a true professional in and out of the office.”

Share these 10 dos and don'ts for video conferencing with your colleagues so you can all avoid committing a major faux pas at the next big meeting.