Zoom/Teams meeting etiquette

Since this spring, many of us have been working exclusively from home, attending virtual meetings over the internet using Zoom, Teams, or something similar. This is a new thing, so there have been growing pains. The most famous of these is people with loudspeakers who neglect to mute their microphones, resulting in an obnoxious feedback loop (or just troublesome background noise) whenever anyone speaks. Many months later, we’re getting better at this, and such incidents are pretty rare these days.

How about other issues?

Are you continuing to dress/groom yourself for a workday just as you did when you worked in an office? Back when I was commuting to the automotive lab where I work, I typically wore jeans and a polo shirt, which was suitable for that environment. But since I’ve been working from home, I almost always just wear a T-shirt and sweatpants; the people I work with (including my manager) are pretty easy-going (a few of my coworkers did wear T-shirts at the lab before all this started, so my change of dress wasn’t really all that eye-catching). However, today I was part of a virtual meeting that included a contractor. The contractor attendees were working from home like us, but they weren’t wearing T-shirts. I felt a little…underdressed. In the future I will probably be dressing a little better for meetings like this.

Do you turn off your camera during virtual meetings? Many of my coworkers are routinely choosing not to show their faces. For very large meetings in which you will not be speaking, it seems reasonable to minimize one’s presence. But for smaller gatherings (like 4-8 people), it feels a bit anti-social, especially when people are actively participating in discussions without showing their faces.

In the meeting I was in today, about 1/3 of the attendees had their cameras on at the outset, including me. But several minutes after the presenter started his slideshow, I suddenly noticed that everyone else had turned their cameras off - except for the presenter and me. It was an odd moment, and I felt like I should have also turned my camera off - except that turning it off now, several minutes in, felt like it would have drawn even more attention to me. Ultimately I left my camera on for the whole presentation, and tried not to pick my nose too much. :slight_smile:

What other weirdness have you experienced by working from home?

Working from home, not everyone has the luxury of a private office space to use. So if you have kids, cats and/or dogs; turning of the camera and muting until you need to talk makes sense.

I’m probably not the only one that wore a Polo Shirt with sweats or shorts.

Yes. I’ve also wondered about bandwidth. I suspect it takes a nontrivial number of Data Units to be constantly transmitting a video signal, so if you’re in a situation where your internet connection isn’t 100% reliable or your data is at all limited, it might make sense to keep your camera off most of the time.

I’ve devolved pretty badly. Most days I’m in a t-shirt and sweats, unshaven with messy bedhead hair. Most of my work meetings are audio-only, other than sharing computer screens to demo things.

We do have a once-weekly department meeting on-camera that’s kind of a morale-building, get-together thing. That day I comb my hair, shave my week’s worth of beard and put on a t-shirt with no holes in it. Oh, and I try to avoid any self-pleasuring while the camera is on :astonished:

I still cannot believe that happened. I remember when “jacking off at work” just meant goofing off on company time.

I generally put up a background that relates to the discussion or the season. I used this one to show people I raked my leaves.


I also put up vintage album cover art since a lot of my meetings pertain to car audio. I just use it as a video background and close the camera cover, then open up the camera if I am talking, but sometimes not if I am having a bad hair day.

How do you add the background to Zoom?
I meant to look this up and never got around to it.

Add an image to the standard backgrounds that come with zoom. Right click on the video option to choose a background. Then close the camera so only the background shows.

But some zoom meetings are audio only.

I’m still in the office but meetings are via TEAMS. My rules (rules for me) are no figeting, no eating, drinking, or putting on lip gloss. I have my camera and mike on for small (4 or less people) meetings, camera and mike off for large meetings. If I were working from home, I would have on a work blouse or sweater(female).

Thank you. It looks like ideally I should hang a green backdrop. Probably won’t bother.

Although prompted by the pandemic, this discussion is better suited to IMHO than QZ.

QZ Moderator

Just before Covid stuff started happening, I hired a stylist to get me all new business attire. I work from home but also I’m on City Council so prior to this my wardrobe was pajamas (for work) or poorly-fitting, poorly-chosen “workwear” for council. I was sick of looking like a schlub in Council meetings so I hired someone to fix this for me.

I had exactly 3 opportunities to wear these thousands-of-dollars-worth of clothes in 2020. Thankfully (for me) I had to sit in on some new director interviews, which happened in person. I wore heels and everything!

All of our council meetings have been virtual, via Teams. And you bet your ass I dress up! Well, not the shoes. And now not so much the pants (I wear pants but not the nice new ones). But I put on a nice shirt and sometimes a sweater or jacket. And the big pendant necklaces I was prescribed.

Everyone else wears a damn polo. But I don’t fault them for it. I just gotta go out there stylin’ because I invested in it!

I’ve seen problems with background noise during Zoom/WebEx/whatever meetings for years. The most annoying are the people who put the conference call on hold, and then their line plays background music for all to hear. Except the person responsible is on hold so there’s no way to tell them or even to tell who it is. We’ve gotten better about muting everyone automatically but it still happens. And this is supposedly a company full of bright people, many of whom are IT experts.

(BTW, there’s a Twitter account called Room Rater that judges the backgrounds of people on Zoom and other such calls.)

Along with kids, What_Exit mentioned cats and dogs, so I suspect they were referring to background visual/auditory distractions rather bandwidth concerns.

I thought he meant “in addition to” what I listed.

Ah - that makes more sense now, thanks. Thudlow - sorry 'bout that.

I actually feel the opposite. When i am in a small group, and we are all interacting, i don’t feel video adds much. Also, one of us is often sharing their screen, so any video would be in tiny boxes, or in the way.

But when I have had to present to groups (small or medium) I’ve asked everyone to leave their video on. It’s really hard to present with no feedback. And visual feedback is much more appropriate than people interrupting to say, “that’s interesting” or “I’m bored”. (Or even, “I’m confused”, although that’s worth interrupting for.)

I haven’t presented to a group larger than a dozen. But definitely, at a dozen, having the video feeds (on a second screen, away from the screen I was sharing) was priceless.

I also like to have video on when interacting with people I don’t know well, especially people i am meeting for the first time. I think it’s sort of grounding to see people’s faces when you are trying to get to know them.

Maybe things are different in academia (I’m an administrator who also teaches), but I’m sorry to report that in my work, we are definitely not getting better at this! I hear the obnoxious feedback, troublesome background noise, and echos in just about every meeting I’m in! It’s terrible (personally I always use headphones, so I don’t contribute to the problem myself, at least).

My colleagues are all over the map–tons of pets on screen, eating, drinking, children coming and draping themselves on necks and laps and asking for kisses, spouses/roommates walking behind them on screen (sometimes not appropriately dressed). Some of this is entertaining or even charming. There’s one guy who always somehow has his laptop camera set up so that all we see is the very top of his bald head. Like from the eyebrows up. Muting and unmuting is just impossible for people to master.

In classes, we have a rule that students may not be required to have their cameras on. I support that rule. But it’s definitely tough to teach without seeing them. I try to make this a topic of discussion in an early class session, so we can come up with some community agreements as a class. When that works well, I end up with most students having their cameras on most of the time, but every student having the camera off some of the time. I can deal with that. It seems to work well. But it’s a giant controversial subject among faculty and students alike. Most faculty are furious that they can’t just require cameras to be turned on all the time.

I try to wear a shirt with a collar most days (no tie), if I’m having meetings. When I was working in person on campus, I always wore a shirt and necktie. I wear jeans or sweat pants, which I never did on campus, and I never ever wear shoes or socks anymore (except to go outside of course). I almost always keep my camera on. I’m a bit lax about shaving. I’m bald so hair is no problem. I do drink coffee (or seltzer) on screen but usually don’t eat. I’m very careful about keeping my camera at face/eye level no matter where I sit, and I’m pretty careful about having an acceptable background and lighting.

We’re running a session for students (optional of course) during January about makeup and lighting for Zoom (and will include tips about camera placement and wardrobe). It’s likely that even post-pandemic, we’re all going to be doing a lot more of this kind of work and we want students to be prepared and thoughtful about it (at work, in interviews, etc).

I generally wear t-shirts and pajamas. In the office I’d be wearing polos and chinos, or now that it’s cold long sleeve button up shirts and chinos. But almost no one wears those on meetings anymore. If I am talking to someone ‘outside’, I’ll throw on a polo or a button shirt, but that’s rare.

I think in smaller meetings, having cameras on is more a thing than in larger meetings (unless its required because the big boss wants to make sure you are there as opposed to just wandering around your place during mandatory trainings).

During a presentation, I find it distracting to have participants leave their cameras on. The constant motion as people move around, fidget, and such pulls my gaze away from the presentation.

I greatly dislike having my camera on when I’m at home. With a house full of people and pets, I don’t want to have to worry about what’s going on in my background. When the boss requires cameras to be on, I have to go to a part of the house where I won’t have to worry about it. Not to mention I don’t necessarily want to deal with having to tidy up all the mess that a house full of people can create.

My workplace switched us all to working from home in a hurry and didn’t provide equipment, so not all of us even have cameras. I do, because I very hastily bought a laptop when this all went down, and this makes me one of two people who regularly have cameras on during our group meetings. A third person has once or twice turned on a phone camera but it’s not usual. I know our group leader has a laptop with camera but she elects to never use it because she doesn’t wish to have to put on makeup and do whatever else women do to be ‘work appropriate’. Myself I wear jeans and a polo: exactly what I wore to the office, though at home I don’t wear shoes.

In the meetings we don’t have a lot of problems with background noise; only one of us (the other camera guy) has a barking dog, and he mutes pretty fast. I leave my mike on pretty much all the time, because I think it’s weird to mute while your camera’s on, but I live alone without pets so it’s no big deal. Most of the people without cameras mute unless they’re actively talking.

When we have larger meetings, with people outside the group or with the whole company, everybody turns their cameras off. In some meetings it’s required, and in others you just don’t want to the the only guy with it on.

As for backgrounds, since I’m only showing it to my group I don’t worry about being professional. On the contrary, since I happen to have my back to the kitchen’s elevated counter, I line up lego sets and transformers there, large ones that show up well in the low-res video image.