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Online meeting etiquette

Beatriz Acevedo

Category: Anglia Learning & Teaching

17 June 2020

Beatriz Acevedo, Senior Lecturer in Sustainability, Economics and International Business, shares her top tips for taking part in online meetings at home.

It is undeniable that, thanks to the technological tools available, we have been able to carry on with work and projects from home during the Covid-19 pandemic. However, sometimes it can seem a bit overwhelming to open our homes to colleagues in meetings, and try to accommodate the need for back-to-back “online meetings”. This is all new for many of us, so I’ve been thinking about the basic etiquette for online meetings to help create boundaries, promote wellbeing, and ultimately make the encounter meaningful for everyone involved.

The transition of working in an open space office – whatever its pros and cons – to working at home needs to take into consideration people’s different home environments, requirements and other commitments.

We can’t assume that everybody has access to the basic required equipment and working environment such as a good computer, webcam, fast broadband, an appropriate desk and chair, and a designated workspace such as a home office. Some employers provide computers and funding for broadband, work furniture, chairs, lamps and desks. But beyond these material aspects, it’s important to consider other processes and practices that impact the way we work, teach, learn and interact online:

  • Do not assume that everybody has access to a good computer, broadband, or a designated workspace. When planning meetings and online lessons, consider keeping them short and accessible on all devices, including smartphones and tablets. Send in advance what needs to be discussed, allow time for participants to think and respond prior to the meeting, and use the online time together for further clarification.
  • Schedule regular breaks during the day to rest your eyes and move away from your desk.
  • Allow time for social interaction: ask people how they are and if there’s anything they’d like to add to the agenda. Online kindness is difficult because of the lack of physical contact, but allowing time and space for caring in these times of crisis is simply human!
  • Allow time for silence and gaps. Sometimes silences in online meetings can be difficult, but it’s not a sign of disengagement; it’s just not always necessary to fill every single byte of the digital space.
  • Use the chat function for open discussions. Make sure it’s managed, perhaps by another colleague, as sometimes there are many conversations going on and presenters can be distracted by the parallel reactions. Personally, I disabled ‘notifications’ to avoid distraction (in Microsoft Teams, click on your initials in the top right-hand corner, then click 'Settings' to change your notification settings).
  • Allow time for questions and reflections. Sometimes, we try to finish things too quickly without allowing time for students/colleagues to ask questions. Check if there is something missing, or if there are other things people want to talk about.
  • Use headphones and a microphone, and mute yourself when not talking to avoid noise feedback.
  • Encourage participants to use their cameras, especially when they are talking, as it’s always good to see people’s faces. It is good practice to dress smartly and comfortably as if you were going to work. This can give you a sense of normality and boundaries.

Finally, inviting people into your private home can be daunting so, if possible, try to create a professional-looking working area that sets the boundaries between your work and home life. Teams enables you to set an image or blur your background to avoid sharing any distractions and intrusions. Similarly, hide any personal items such as inappropriate mugs - not everybody needs to know you are “the best farter in town”...



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