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How to stay professional on video calls while working at home

Karen Stafford, president of Arizona Employers Council, has created some "unspoken" rules for people working from home on video-conferences.
Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

ARIZONA, USA — Many across Arizona are now in their second or third week of self-isolation and working from home. During that time, the use of a video call service such as Zoom, Skype and Facetime has become an everyday occurrence.

But many working in the comfort of their own home may feel a false sense of casualness during work hours, President of Arizona Employers Council Karen Stafford said. 

To combat this, Stafford compiled a list of "unspoken" video conference rules to be sure both bosses and employees maintain a proper professional tone.

"So many of us have been thrown into this virtual world," Stafford said. "My interest in the nature of this current environment really moved the creation of these rules up on my to-do list."

Before the video conference even begins, Stafford recommends checking that all equipment, such as your computer's webcam, speakers, and microphone, are running smoothly. 

"First and foremost, you need to be on time," Stafford said. "You don't just want to log on three minutes before the meeting and find out that your sound isn't working or your mic isn't working. Now, it's five after and you're not in the meeting yet."

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The workspace at home usually looks a lot different than in an office. Kids, pets, or even spouses may disrupt your meeting by being too loud or wandering into the background of your video. So Stafford recommends they be removed during conferences.

"If the kids are playing or the dogs are playing, ask them to play on the other side of the house," Stafford said. 

She described a moment when she was in a serious business meeting when one of her colleague's kids were walking back and forth having a sibling spat.

"While we're all a lot more forgiving about those kinds of things now, there are things you can try and do to minimize those embarrassing situations," she said.

If you're the host of a video conference, Stafford recommends introducing everyone in the call, using the chat function, giving your participants some tips and tricks when joining a meeting for the first time. All of these will make your participants feel more at ease and, more importantly, remind them to be professional.

But professionalism doesn't end when you think the call has ended. Stafford said to be sure you have completely left the call to avoid any accidental mishaps.

"Be sure to leave the meeting. Shut the browser down if you have to," Stafford said with a laugh. "Otherwise, there could be unintended information shared."

The more instruction the people who have been thrust into this virtual world have, the better, she said. 

We aren't sure how long our home-space and workspace will be the same place, so we better gain some video-conferencing skills in the meantime.

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