The trend towards remote working has gathered momentum as a result of both the Covid-19 pandemic and various technological advances, and inevitably we as a society have become more and more used to communicating with bosses, employees, clients, customers and suppliers via a monitor rather than an in-person conversation. As a result of this, many of us have attached a greater emphasis on the etiquette of online meetings.
And the problem for many people, judging by what we’ve seen in memes, images and videos that have quickly gone viral, is that a new technology such as this offers no previous history of what’s right and what’s wrong. It’s not surprising, really; when you were a child, it was expected of a parent to reprimand you for burping at the dinner table, not saying please or thank you and scratching your bottom when you think no-one’s looking.
With meetings on Zoom, Teams, Webex and the rest, there’s nobody around to tell you what you’re doing wrong, at least not until you’ve already done it. No Mum, no Dad, no bossy older sister and no overbearing schoolteacher. And of course, once you’ve made that error of judgement, the mistake is often already there for the whole world to laugh at. Remember that dream you had as a youngster, when you’d turn up for gym class with no kit? Here it is, lived large and in full colour.
Keep your shirt on, and everything else as well
So how can you make sure you don’t fall foul of the protocols that have suddenly been invented without you even knowing? Well, perhaps the first and best piece of advice is to attend a Zoom meeting as if it were a get-together in person. In other words, and we can’t shout this loudly enough…PUT SOME CLOTHES ON! Just wearing that smart new Ralph Lauren shirt on the top half and very little on the lower half can leave you very embarrassed. Think mirrors, think reflections in windows, think having to jump up very quickly without realising how you’re attired.
It’s also a good idea…actually, a brilliant idea…to avoid losing your temper. Even if you’re losing what little patience you might have had at the start, it doesn’t pay to get angry. Everything you say and everything you do might be instantly recorded and left in the ether for posterity. You never know when it will come back in the future to bite you. Watch what you say, watch what you don’t say, look intelligent, sound composed and always stay cool.
Another important issue is to remember the one golden rule about Zoom meetings, that no matter how interesting or erudite you might sound and no matter how fascinating your end of quarter statistics will appear, everyone at the meeting is checking out what you have on the walls and on the shelves behind you. Believe me, the contents of your home are likely to be far more important than the contents of your mind. Therefore, prepare to be judged, in the cruellest and harshest manner possible.
Arty prints of cool movies (Breakfast at Tiffany’s is a yes, Ghostbusters 2 is probably a no) always work well, and will make you look bohemian and windswept. Framed magic eye posters might seem a little ‘out there’, but for your fellow Zoomers they could induce headaches of epic proportions. And if you have shelves behind you, make sure there’s nothing, and I mean NOTHING, on there to embarrass you. It’s a good idea at this stage to invest in a hardback copy of a weighty tome or two, such as War & Peace, One Hundred Years of Solitude or all twelve volumes of Remembrance of Things Past.
Don’t try to order these books from a book seller, however, especially if you’ve got no intention of ever reading them. Get some second-hand versions from eBay instead, as it will look like you’ve already devoured them with gusto, and they’ll be a great deal cheaper. Or so I’m told, anyway.