Four things to avoid on work video calls (and three things staff SHOULD DO)

Companies are currently relying on video conferencing as an integral communication tool for their remote workforce. Video calling applications, like Zoom, have seen more than a 500% surge in global downloads in March alone.

With many people still getting to grips with using video calls for work, there are bound to be mishaps. Unfamiliarity with the video calling technology or lack of awareness about video calling etiquette can lead to some very embarrassing moments.man laptop video call

To help your teams avoid video gaffes, here are four things you can advise against and three things you can recommend for successful video calls.

Remind staff NOT TO:

Multi-task

With the camera on, everyone can see when someone is looking somewhere else: whether that’s fiddling with their phone, checking emails, or popping out to the loo (without muting the microphone). We are so used to multi-tasking that we applaud the ability to do more than one task at the same time. But, not only is it counter-productive as studies suggest, doing something else while on a video call is also impolite to the other callers.

Embarrassing moments occur all too easily when a manager’s question or a direct comment is missed because the staff member has their attention directed elsewhere, even for just a few seconds. So, however tempting it may be for someone to ‘step out for a bit’, encourage your workforce to put aside everything else while on video calls and to focus on the conversation in front of them. And if they really must excuse themselves, remind them to mute their microphone!

Stare at themselves

Are people at your organisation experiencing video call fatigue? This might be because they keep staring at themselves during video calls. Psychology researchers suggest video calls are exhausting because we continuously monitor how we appear or behave throughout, something that we don’t do in face-to-face meetings. Being distracted by their own face is also not good when staff should be paying attention to the discussion at hand.

Turning off the self-view is probably the closest thing people can get to a face-to-face meeting. Staff members can’t scrutinise themselves during the call and will hopefully be able to focus on the conversation better. Luckily, most video conferencing apps already have this feature, but if not, staff can cover their own picture up with a sticky note.

Force it

Video conferencing is a great tool in recreating some of the social interactions missed through remote working. But for some people, it can be an awkward or uncomfortable experience. The switching screens of whoever’s talking can be distracting, with some people then paying more attention to what they are seeing instead of what they are hearing. If callers use a lot of hand gestures, the wide range of movements can divert people’s attention from the topic.

Others may feel more confident or think more clearly standing up or pacing near the computer when presenting, instead of sitting in front of the camera. So, video calls might stifle them.

Ask your staff about their experience using video calls to ensure most of your workforce is benefiting from the technology:

  • In which situations do video calls work well?
  • How often should video calls be held?
  • How long should they go for?
  • When are they ineffective?
  • What alternative forms of communication would you prefer?

Share colleagues’ video call gaffes on social media

Embarrassing, cringy or funny moments are almost unavoidable when it comes to work video calls. Quite often this invokes a good laugh from the team, breaking the ice and taking away the stiff, awkward atmosphere virtual meetings can create.

Although it can be tempting for people to share funny moments or mistakes colleagues have made during calls, HR should advise their workforce not to do this. Not only can it be disrespectful, but it raises significant concerns about privacy and confidentiality.

Even if some people take it in their stride, like this boss who turned herself into a potato, it’s best if what happens in the meeting, stays in the meeting (at least when it comes to embarrassing video call fails).

What staff SHOULD DO:

Set up their space beforehand

With remote working, your workforce will probably use video calls more often. They should make sure their space and equipment are properly set up to ensure calls run as smoothly as possible. Recommend they check their internet works, devices are in good condition and connected, and that there are no distracting/inappropriate displays in the background, etc. Fiddling around for 10 minutes or so trying to set up a workspace and/or device during a call is not productive and wastes colleagues’ time.

Prepare material, not just their appearance

Being in the comfort of our homes doesn’t excuse a dishevelled appearance on a video call. But staff shouldn’t be wasting time before calls prepping their face or choosing what shirt they’re going to wear, either. Although looking presentable is important, what they say and contribute to the call is more relevant.

Remind your staff to prepare for video call meetings as they would a face-to-face meeting. Before starting the call, they should be familiar with the agenda, have completed any research or other homework, and be ready to contribute to the call.

Be on time

Being late to a party might be fashionable but remind staff that this is not the case when it comes to virtual meetings. Not only it is obvious and embarrassing when someone arrives late, just as it is in person, it is unprofessional and disrespectful to the other people present.

When it comes to video conferencing, people are bound to make mistakes. What might seem like a massive blunder to one staff member, may not be such a big issue to others. HR need to be ready to support staff through embarrassing gaffes, and to set the ground rules for what is and what isn’t acceptable.

What are your tips on video call meetings?

Sign up to our Newsletter

Subscribe Now