I remember the first time I really noticed the change in etiquette around cell phones. I was at a bus stop listening to a young woman discuss medical matters with her gynecologist. No shame at all. The very next day, I walked out of a nail salon after they refused to ask a client to lower the volume on the video they were watching at full sound.
I learned to accept what I cannot change – at least when it comes to cell phones, only to have a new nemesis – Zoom Etiquette – or the lack thereof!
By now we’ve all been on enough Zoom (or other video) calls to last a lifetime. Unfortunately, they won’t be going away any time soon. While I find it really nice to actually talk to someone face to face (even though there’s a screen between us), staring at the screen for an extended period of time, you can’t help noticing what’s going on behind your attendees.
How many noses have you looked up?
How many times have bright lights have reflected on you practically blinding you while your “guest” seems oblivious?
Is it only me who finds it terribly distracting and annoying when people walk while they’re on a call?
How about those that are preparing lunch (in their bathrobe no less)?
Was there someone in the background who was doing their own thing distracting you?
Call me old fashioned (or maybe just a Baby Boomer) but I still believe we need to adhere to certain guidelines when showing up in the world. Perhaps I’m too sensitive or too much of a stickler for rules (I did grow up with a former Officer in the army as a father). I can’t seem to let go of poor manners, and I’m highly distractable!
In the spirit of helping each other navigate and endure this never-ending quarantine, I am humbly asking the following:
1. When you’re on a video call, check your surroundings. What’s behind you? Who’s behind you? What are they doing? I understand that not everyone has the luxury of space to take their calls privately, but perhaps you can angle your camera with a wall behind you or something that doesn’t move while we’re watching. I was watching Demi Lovato singing to one of the late-night hosts. There was a man in the background on his phone. I couldn’t stop trying to figure out who it was.
2. Turn off your notifications on your computer and phone. That ding that keeps ringing incessantly might be music to your ears but to me, it’s an alarm that continuously interrupts our interaction.
3. Stay in one place or turn off your video if you have to move. When I’m staring at a Zoom Room of 10 plus screens and one person keeps changing rooms, or walking around outside, I find it much more interesting to watch where they’re going than to listen to the person talking.
4. Make your coffee and eat your meals before you get on the call. I know you have to eat, but please, not while I’m doing business with you.
5. I understand that you can’t turn off the demands of your children. I’m a mom, I get it. The most important time of you day is exactly when they need to speak with you. It’s totally okay but can you at least excuse yourself for a minute? I was speaking with an attorney who I’d never spoken to before and his baby was shrieking in the background. He likely had nowhere to go for our call, yet not once did he acknowledge the noise. I know he can’t control the baby and I don’t blame him for trying to do business, I did expect him to at least say something.
6. Mute when it’s not your turn to speak. Figuring out who’s sound is distracting the whole group is really annoying!
7. Wear headphones rather than using the computer’s speakers. Not only will you hear better, you will be blocking out external sounds.
We’re all trying to navigate this new world perhaps, in time I will no longer in be bothered by bad Zoom etiquette, but in the meantime let’s all do our part to make it work for everyone.