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10 online meeting etiquette rules that your coworkers wish you’d follow

6 Mins read

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COVID-19 has pushed many people into the wild world of online meetings. When you have a whole team of people that are not used to the unspoken online meeting etiquette or “netiquette” regularly sharing an online space for web conferencing it can be a real pain point. We’ve all seen the videos of kids barging in on video conferences and people accidentally leaving their video on while taking a trip to the bathroom, and it’s not pretty.

Online meeting etiquette aims to make our meetings more pleasant and productive. The following 10 virtual meeting rules will go a long way in helping you have more productive and enjoyable meetings.

1. Be on time

Treat an online virtual meeting like any other meeting. Make sure you show up a few minutes early, get yourself prepared, and sort out any technical issues that may crop up. I always recommend showing up 5 minutes early in order to be ready. Being the first person in the meeting can show that you are professional and serious about working from home.

Just because others may show up late, don’t let that define your own behavior. You may also pick up some crucial office chit chat before the meeting starts. I also will often use this time to socialize briefly with colleagues before the official meeting starts. Treat it like a chat in the hallway!

2. Mute when you aren’t speaking

This is probably the biggest issue with online meetings and conferences. How many times have you heard a dog barking, someone breathing heavily or kids screaming in the background? I am on calls with other countries quite often and it is not uncommon to hear loud goats and chickens in the background… There is an easy fix! Mute your microphone when you are not speaking. Period.

Sure, sometimes a meeting may be informal enough where it will sound more like a chat or brainstorm. But use your judgment on this. When in doubt, assume people on the other end of the call don’t want to hear you clicking away at your keyboard or crunching down on some party mix.

Tip: Push space bar to unmute

Did you know that certain video conferencing apps can enable a feature where you have to hold on the space bar to unmute? On Zoom, enable the “Push to Talk” setting which will make your call much like a walkie talkie where you must hold on the space bar to talk. On Google Meet you can download a 3rd party plugin to do the same push to talk functionality on Chrome. Microsoft Teams does not currently have this functionality but you can push Ctrl+Shift+M as a shortcut to quickly switch between muted and unmuted modes.

3. Don’t interrupt

It’s easy to accidentally interrupt people on a video meeting. Because of differences in internet connections and microphone/speaker setups, it is not uncommon to have people speaking over one another during a meeting. Take special care to give breathing room after someone speaks to make sure they are indeed done. In general, try to not be the one speaking all of the time. This is good practice in any meeting, virtual or otherwise, but it becomes even more important virtually where participants can more easily feel dominated and just disconnect from the conversation.

Try to actively encourage others to speak and ask people specifically about their opinion or input on a specific issue or topic. This is where good meeting facilitation comes in, but that is a topic for another day.

4. Turn on your video when you can

Working from home can sometimes be a strange experience, especially for those that are new to it. When we speak to each other in meetings you’d be surprised at how much content comes from non-verbal cues such as body language and our eyes. Turning on the video can really help to more closely emulate how we actually interact in face-to-face environments. You can make sure that jokes and sarcasm are taken for what they are when people can actually see your face.

It’s also just nice to show people that you are present in a meeting, listening to what is happening as opposed to multitasking. See our next online meeting etiquette tip…

5. Don’t multitask, stay present

You wouldn’t completely ignore someone and check your emails during a face-to-face meeting would you? Well, bring that same principle to online meetings. Try to focus on the meeting at hand and resist the urge to check Slack, read emails, or shop online while a meeting is happening. People can really tell when someone isn’t giving their full attention, believe me. You’ll be sharper, more professional and more appreciated by your colleagues when you are fully present during a virtual meeting.

Did you know that multitasking really decreases the quality of creative work? This means that you really won’t contributing to your fullest on a meeting if your hands are full with other tasks.

6. Be flexible

Working from home is hard. Sometimes things happen and meetings need to start 5 minutes late. People may need a couple of minutes to figure out how to share their screen. Be flexible and helpful in these contexts, we were all learning at one point. Starting a meeting a few minutes late shouldn’t become the norm, but acknowledge that life happens, especially when many coworkers are juggling family and work.

You make the call whether you wear pants during your next Zoom call. This amazing illustration is done by Julie Friedenberg

7. Dress appropriately

Yes, we all find it hilarious that John Krasinski wasn’t wearing pants during Some Good News. I for one have been guilty of dressing up only my top half during online meetings. This is fine, but consider dressing the same as you would in person most of the time. First, this will show others that you are professional and here to work. Second, it will put you in a frame of mind that “I am at the office” and make a much-needed distinction between work and home life.

Use common sense when it comes to how you dress during meetings. Small team meeting? Maybe it is okay to just wear a t-shirt and a pair of jeans. Interview? Dress to impress.

8. Don’t eat during the meeting (unless you have to)

Holy good god, please stop eating into your microphone during online meetings! Yes, sometimes you are so booked up that you must eat something at your desk during a call. However, turn off your video and be sure to mute your microphone if you are going to do this. Nobody wants to hear your Triscuit crunching during a sales call.

Have informal meetings with food

Eating can be a great time for socializing. That’s why we have pot lucks and go out to eat with friends and coworkers. Consider booking a specific lunchtime informal meeting to catch up with colleagues. Here it is totally fine to eat!

9. Wear a headset or have a good microphone

I hate being on a meeting where someone’s audio is vert bad or they can’t hear me. Make sure your gear is all ready to go. Pick up a decent USB headset if the microphone on your computer is not good enough. This is especially critical if you have other noises in your home environment or you need to do very confidential calls where you don’t want others in your household hearing what others are saying in the meeting.

Try not to wander around during your meeting unless you have a wireless Bluetooth headset. People may not be able to hear you well when you move 10 feet away in the kitchen. Generally, just be mindful of how the audio may sound to other team members. And if someone lets you know that your audio is bad, talk to your employer about getting the right technology for online meetings (a headset or better laptop microphone).

Lastly, make sure you double-check your online meeting app audio settings. It is very common to be set to using your internal (bad) laptop microphone when you actually meant to use the beautiful new USB headset you bought. All of these apps will allow you to switch microphone and speaker devices and test them to make sure they are working well on the settings page.

10. Control your environment

This one can be hard for some that are working in limiting home environments. Try to control your environment as much as possible. If you have the ability to close the office or bedroom door so your husband isn’t walking into frame, do it. Move to a less noisy part of your home when you are on a conference call. Let family members know that you are off-limits during your virtual meeting unless there is an emergency. Your coworkers will appreciate a serene and productive setting from your side.


Start using these online meeting etiquette tips now!

If you follow even just a few of these ten online meeting etiquette rules you will be setting yourself up for success working from home. You will have appreciative coworkers and will be perceived at that colleague that “has their stuff together.” If you recognize others breaking some of these rules regularly, consider pulling them aside in a one on one meeting to let them know. They might not even realize that they are breaking one of these “netiquette” rules.


Home Werk

For your Home Werk, we ask you to try out some of these tips. Go to another room for a meeting, or ask colleagues if you can improve on anything during meetings. Leave those snacks in the kitchen. Get to your meeting 5 minutes in advance and reap the rewards. Even just a few of these changes can make a big difference in your work from home experience and that of your colleagues.

James Sawchuk
31 posts

About author
I have worked from a distance for many years with colleagues overseas but only recently got a taste of full-blown 100% working from home. And I love it! I can stay way more focused and sneak in the odd cat pet…
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