Video call etiquette: 10 dos and don’ts of video conferencing for HR and People teams to support employees

Sairish Chechi
Published on 7th October 2020
4 min read

All of a sudden, video calling has become one of the biggest HR trends of 2020.

At the end of 2019, video conferencing application Zoom saw around 10 million daily video conferences – by the early months of 2020, that number had jumped to 200 million per day.

However, for most of us video conferencing is something we weren’t trained for or experienced in before the start of this year. As such, most of us are still grappling to understand the etiquette when it comes to making productive, stimulating and enjoyable video calls.

From our experience of video calling, we’ve come up with 10 top tips to help you HR and People team support your organization to master the art of it – five things to do, and five things to avoid.

1. Do test your tech before a call

The first step to hosting a successful video call is to make sure everyone invited to the conference has what they need.

They’ll want a stable internet connection if you can, a device with voice and video capture hardware and the right software. If your employees depend upon video meetings to do their jobs, it’s best to make sure everyone has these things in their home.

2. Do consider if you really need your camera

Video conferencing is a great way to stay in touch, but it has its downsides. For one thing, a study by German academics found that, when speaking over camera, people could actually appear less friendly or focused. This and other negative effects are causing a widespread phenomenon known as “Zoom fatigue”.

The next time you host a conference, ask whether it’s really necessary for everybody to turn their cameras on. If the meeting could work as a phone call or group chat, don’t feel obligated to use your camera.

3. Do make lens contact

When you’re on a video call, you may find your eyes darting all over the screen. However, by doing this, you’re missing out on building a connection with your audience.  

Scientists in Finland found that this response can still be generated via video conferencing, but the effect is more profound when the audience can see directly into your eyes. Thus, when it’s your turn to speak, try to look into the camera as often as you can.

4. Do remember to consider your surroundings

While working in your home office may be the ideal surroundings for a video call, many employees have to work from their living rooms, dining rooms, or even their bedrooms.

Objects in the background can be naturally distracting for others, so you may want to consider what you have on show. Either consider moving anything that could be distracting or change your background on your video conferencing software.

5. Do join on time

We all know it’s rude to arrive late to a meeting in person, so why shouldn’t the same rules apply to a video conference?

Don’t be the person who leaves everyone waiting around in the lobby – make your preparations ahead of the meeting, start on time and be ready to get straight down to business.

1. Don’t cut others off

While it’s easier said than done, if you and another participant start speaking at the same time on a video call, don’t try to talk over them. It will just make it harder for the other people in the audience to understand both of you.

Instead, let the other person finish what they had to say, then politely continue, if and when it’s appropriate to do so. If you end up missing your chance to speak, don’t worry – you can always use the chat functionality to drop a note in there or send an email after to follow up.

2. Don’t present negative body language

Businesses thrive on polite disagreement. Challenging thoughts and ideas in the right way only makes for better outcomes, however, negative body language can make conversations and business relationships turn sour.

If someone says something to you on a video conference that you don’t agree with, try not to let it show in your hand or facial expressions. Instead, take a breath and resume conversations. As a last resort, you could turn off your camera.  

3. Don’t start reading your emails

When a meeting drags on, it can seem tempting to start checking your emails or using a phone or other device off-camera. However, while you may think no one can tell, your distracted gaze will give the game away.

To avoid temptation, make sure you prepare for every video conference by closing other applications on your computer, and sit in a place you won’t get distracted.

4. Don’t leave your microphone on

Have you ever been mid-flow in a conversation, only to be interrupted by the loud sounds of passing cars or doors slamming?

While you’re working from home, these noises may be more common and, if your microphone picks them up, can disturb other people on the call. The best way to mitigate these disturbances is to keep your microphone muted when you’re not speaking.

5. Don’t start snacking

There’s nothing more off-putting than the sound of crunching and lip-smacking played out in full volume for other participants.

Either save the snacking until after the video call or, if you’ve been in back to back calls and need a bite to eat, mute your microphone and turn off the camera.

Perfecting the art of video calls

The rise of video conferencing is just one of many cultural shifts playing out in our workplaces this year and unlikely to go away anytime soon.

With the rise of remote workforces, even when office life resume, it’s unlikely that everyone will return to the office full time.

Instead, employees need to perfect their video technique to continue to build face-to-face relationships that they would’ve had when meeting regularly in person.

Employees want great experiences no matter where they work, and video will be an increasingly vital part of this. So why not make these points accessible for all, so they can work on perfecting their video technique for now and for the future? 

Our research report ‘The changing face of HR’ can help you to make sense of the rapidly evolving world of HR and People. Download it here today.

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