Video conferences have become such a big part of the work day during this coronavirus pandemic period. For me, at least, video calls emerged abruptly, and went from a once-in-a-while thing to a routine, several times a day occurrence. And now, nobody seems to use regular phone calls anymore.
But the thing about video calls is that they don’t seem to have a standard, accepted etiquette yet. Their sudden burst onto the daily work scene means we’re still thrashing around and trying to figure out how to behave. As a result, you wonder how you are supposed to deal with certain issues that are presented by videoconferences. With people having heightened sensitivity during this whole weird period we are in, you don’t want to unwittingly be rude, crude, and socially unacceptable, or otherwise give offense. And muddling through doesn’t seem like a really wise, viable option.
For example, when you get a video call, do you always answer with your video enabled? Is it considered rude or a kind of affront not to do so? What if the person who calls turns out not to have their video enabled? Should you immediately conform to the video-enabling practices of the caller, or is the act of disabling, with no apparent technical reason for doing so, itself considered impolite? And if you don’t have the video enabled, is the well-mannered course to explain why — or is that just wasting people’s time?
The fact that these video conferences are occurring from people’s homes adds another layer of potential faux pas to the mix. Is it acceptable to ask where the person you are talking to is, or comment on the background, or is that considered really intrusive? If kids, spouses, or pets appear in the picture, are you supposed to comment, or act like you haven’t seen them? If someone is totally backlit and you can’t see their face, do you say something or hold your tongue? Is it considered appropriate to ask somebody to move to a different location or adjust their screen so that their face is more visible, or is that unforgivably untoward?
Where is the modern-day Emily Post, ready to instruct us on the dos and don’ts of the new situations that are being created by technological advancements? It sure would be helpful to have somebody give us some instruction on this stuff.