The landscape of the social environment in which we conduct our business has changed and we find ourselves in a new world of video interaction in a way that was hitherto unprecedented. With government holding cabinet meetings via cloud meetings and courts adopting video processes to enable remote working, the rest of us are also left to marvel at technological skills that we never knew we had. It is now easier than ever to transcend time-zones and virtually jet-into multi-jurisdictional meetings, leading us to question whether the world has shrunk even further to an online global community.
Instead of shaking hands we are, in a short space of time, used to new social norms; waving being a notable addition. As we are less able to rely on body language to assess reaction, are we becoming accustomed to listening more?
Positives aside, this is not without pitfalls and now seems a good time to think about social etiquette in the world of this “new norm” to ensure that we all remain professional and continue to be remembered for the right reasons.
For example, we have been quite relaxed in our approach to work-wear as we adapt to a workforce working from home as never before, but to what extent is it now acceptable to conduct a business meeting in a t-shirt? It was once unacceptable for you to have a conversation with a child or other family member if you were working from home, but now we hear stories about people forgetting themselves and standing up from a make-shift desk wearing a pair of boxer shorts, eating their lunch while taking an order for a new kitchen without realising the video was enabled, and we are all guilty of taking calls in our bedrooms, kitchens or gardens. But as we contemplate returning to this new norm, post-lockdown, should we encourage the current goodwill to form bad habits or is it time to consider a new approach: modified, flexible yes, but still professional.
So with this in mind, here are some top-tips for video call etiquette:
- Approach every call as though you were in an office environment, unless it is ‘billed’ as a social meeting;
- Dress with smart/casual in mind;
- Location, location, location: check what’s behind you or select a neutral backdrop;
- When sharing documents on a video conference, make sure you close down anything that is not intended for your current audience;
- Be clear about boundaries – make sure you designate your work space so that you are able to concentrate without interruption and ensure privacy is maintained;
- Have a backup plan, a contingency for when technology fails.
These are unprecedented times, it’s true, but there are still opportunities to exemplify and lead the way in excellent customer service.