This Is the Rudest Thing You're Doing on Video Calls, Experts Say

Just because you're not in the office doesn't mean the rules don't apply.

Workplace etiquette has changed dramatically since COVID-19, with many of the touchstones of the office replaced by the chaotic comfort of working at home. With video calls becoming the new norm for many companies, this means that many of the rules for your average meeting have changed, too. However, there's one major facet of video call etiquette that even the most buttoned-up employees are guilty of breaking: browsing other content when you're on camera.

"We may be tempted to browse other articles or reply to emails when we're on a video conference, but it'll be easy for other participants to tell that you're distracted by something else," explains Bonnie Tsai, founder and director of etiquette training school Beyond Etiquette.

young asian woman on both ipad and phone

While this may seem like an innocuous habit to you, doing so makes it clear to other participants in your meeting that you're not providing them the full attention that they deserve.

"You want to offer the same respect and focus to the participants in the meeting whether it is a video conference or in-person meeting," says Tsai.

However, that's far from the only mistake you're making during your WFH meetings. With the help of experts, we've identified the biggest etiquette mistakes people make on video calls. And if you want to avoid a major faux pas, This Is the Rudest Thing You Can Ask Someone, Etiquette Experts Say.

Dressing inappropriately

woman wearing pajamas on video call
Shutterstock/Skydive Erick

While your coworkers likely won't notice or care if you're wearing jeans instead of a suit while you're working from home, that doesn't mean any old duds will do.

"It's important to wear appropriate clothing when you're in a video conference for work because you never know if you're going to have to get up suddenly or if your camera falls off your screen and shows that you're wearing a t-shirt with ketchup stains on it," says Tsai. She cautions that what you wear on video calls still represents your business. And for more ways the pandemic has changed day-to-day life, check out these Rude Behaviors We All Do Now, Thanks to Coronavirus.

Taking calls from the bathroom

white man in robe taking call in the bathroom
Shutterstock/Olena Yakobchuk

Nobody wants to get a call from someone on the toilet. Nobody.

"We would never conduct our in-person meetings while we're sitting on the toilet, therefore our video conference meetings shouldn't be any different," says Tsai.

Leaving your mic on

Young modern woman having Video Conference at home

The mute button exists for a reason, and if you're not using it while other people are talking, you're making a major etiquette error. Tsai says you should be muting your microphone any time you're not speaking

"By leaving your microphone on, you may be distracting others with background noises and it could slow down or stifle the meeting's flow," she explains. And for more etiquette tips delivered to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Obscuring your face with a weird angle

Happy man on video call

While you don't need to strike a pose for your Zoom calls, you should at least find a position in which other people on the call can see you head-on.

"It's important to position your camera so it's not too low, high, or on another screen because weird camera angles can become very distracting during a video conference and it'll take the focus away from the person speaking," explains Tsai.

Having pets or kids in the room with you

cat on human's lap during video call or zoom

Sure, it's sometimes cute to see a toddler or puppy waddle into the frame on a meeting, but they can quickly become the focus of the meeting, eating up your coworkers' valuable time.

"It does add some fun and positivity, [but] we should be mindful of when they are a part of the conversation," says Tsai. She recommends making sure any kids or pets are off-camera before the meeting starts.

But if you do want to give your close coworkers a peek into your life, Tsai says, "the best times to introduce your children or pets would be either at the beginning of the call when people are still joining or at the end of the call when things are wrapping up."

Showing up late

Woman looking at her watch

Just because you're not showing up to a meeting in person doesn't mean you can show up whenever you please.

"Being late is rude because it sends the message that your time is more important than everyone else's, and it interrupts the flow of the meeting; the leader now has to bring you up to speed," explains etiquette expert Heidi Dulebohn. And if you're concerned about your etiquette, get to know these Signs People Think You're Rude and You Don't Know It.

Moving from place to place

young black man walking outdoors on video call
Shutterstock/SFIO CRACHO

A word to the wise: if you need to seek out a comfy place from which to conduct your meeting, do so before the meeting starts.

"When you take us with you, moving your phone from place to place, we all get a wee bit seasick watching your screen," says confidence coach and video training expert Alexa Fischer. She says turning off your camera before you move around is always your best bet.

Getting tipsy

close up of bearded white man drinking a glass of beer

If you're not at a virtual workplace happy hour or other celebration, you shouldn't be drinking, full stop. However, if you are at a booze-friendly video event, that still doesn't mean it's cool to get sloshed.

"Be mindful of your intake," says Fischer. "That swirling glass, front and center, is a broadcast of your behavior." And for more etiquette errors to avoid, check out these Rude Things You Didn't Realize You're Doing Every Day.

Sarah Crow
Sarah Crow is a senior editor at Eat This, Not That!, where she focuses on celebrity news and health coverage. Read more
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