Don't forget the mute button

An Online Workplace Etiquette Refresher

Now that many of us are working from home, we're relearning how to interact with others.

By Paola Kustra March 30, 2020

With the number of people now working from home due to Covid-19, it’s no surprise that the overly saturated cyber space calls for refreshed etiquette rules when it comes to interacting and communicating with others. Even if you consider yourself a master in the subject, check the below list for a quick update to help navigate these uncharted 24/7 home waters.

Video Conferencing.

If your company is now using a new conferencing application for meetings and asking you to turn the video functionality on, make sure you understand when it’s on and off. As cameras are not used as frequently on laptops, there’s an increased risk of them being on without one noticing and oversharing whatever is happening at home. From displaying a not-so-tidy house to your S.O. cooking in pajamas and anything in between, we recommend that you test the application and the camera before the actual meeting. If you need someone to test it with, schedule a test meeting with a colleague to ensure how it works properly. And if you’re going to video call from your room, remember to make up the bed.

Conference Calls and the mute button.

By now we are all very familiar with the mute button, and we almost feel like it shouldn’t make the list, and yet, in every conference call, there is someone who has not muted their device. When someone’s phone goes off in an office environment, we quickly direct the person to mute and continue with the conversation.

But at home there are all kinds of sounds that can distract your coworkers if your device goes unmuted when you're not speaking. Your coworkers could listen to your TV in the background, a family member chatting, or a dog barking. Although these can be okay for a few seconds, we need to try to avoid the distractions that come with the background activity that could derail an important conversation. Ideally, the person about to take a call should find a separate space in the house so they can focus on the task at hand as well.

Good ole multitasking.

Our society thrives on multitasking. With the increased amount of time at home, it’s not uncommon to be tempted to master other tasks while being on the computer or on the phone. Boiling eggs while on a work call? Check. Throwing in laundry while catching up with a friend? Easy enough.

We might think those are innocuous tasks, but the reality is that along distracting us from the communication, some of these activities can become a real hazard. Most of the time taking a call on our laptop means that we have to wear headphones, now with the added risk of having a cable get tangled on a hot pan handle or caught while trying to close the fridge door.

Don’t try multitasking when working on the computer. No matter how small your device might be, they are a piece of machinery with more operating power than Apollo 11—you know, the spaceship that put Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the moon—and should be handled with care. Let’s forget about going up or down the stairs with a laptop on your arms while on a call. It’s an accident waiting to happen. Safety first.

Be kind and respectful to others.

These are difficult times for our city, our country, and our whole world. Positive words of encouragement and support to one another can go a long way. Let’s do our part by being kind, respectful, and staying home.  

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