Recently I worked for a client who stated: people on video calls should not be “looking at their phones, texting, reading emails, eating, wearing pyjamas/robes, have children or pets in the same room, have conversations with other people during the call, have other people in the room watching TV/scrolling through their phones… People seen doing any of these things will not get paid”.

Sooo, we obviously need to be told how to behave in a professional, businesslike way, after so many months working from home. On the other hand, some of us have small children, dogs, meals to eat, family members who need to (quietly) look at their phones in the same room etc. I do draw the line at plumbers who need to install bathrooms right next to the person presenting on a zoom call (as I had to listen to once: CLATTER CRASH BANG HAMMER SCRAPE etc…)

#wfh Sarah Lockett
#wfh Sarah Lockett

Professional etiquette has lapsed/relaxed during the pandemic. It has had to. People’s children have come in to ask questions, doorbells have to be answered, deliveries have to be signed for, gardeners/handymen have to be instructed/paid, very urgent calls from ailing elderly parents have to answered in case they’ve fallen (again). Cats need to be allowed to wander freely in a house otherwise they wonder why half of their territory is suddenly off-limits, and they scratch incessantly outside any closed door (but at least when they come in, they just mooch about fairly quietly).

I am afraid I do wonder, when people switch of their cameras and mute their mikes, whether thay’ve gone off to answer emails, watch TV, eat etc, or just generally not listen to ther session. Call me paranoid.

I am also conflicted about checking messages during a business meeting. If I am one of, say, 20 people in the room/on the call, and I know a child is worried about something or going through a trauma, I want to check they’re OK. Conversely, when I am on set acting, or presenting a PowerPoint, or teaching clients in a one-to-one session, I can’t really break my concentration for anyone. There isn’t much that can’t wait half an hour. It depends what you’re doing, I suppose. Brain surgery = no texts. Listening to a sales pitch for life insurance you don’t want = surreptitious texts.

I have certainly done zoom calls where people have been propped up in bed (I can see the headboard behind them!) but on the other hand, some people only have the one room to work from (and live, cook, sleep etc). So we have to be more accepting. But if how you present yourself is part of your value as an emplyee/contractor, then smarten up.

#PresentationSkills and #remotePresentationSkills are all part of my #mediaTraining sessions, so get in touch 🙂 Twitter: @sarahlockett

Sarah Lockett

Sarah Lockett is a former BBC News / Sky News anchor who currently presents a variety of content for corporate clients and delivers media training.
She has presented on BBC News and Sky News, plus reported for Channel Four News, 5 News, Reuters and others.
She now hosts webinars and conferences, chairs corporate/academic panel discussions, hosts award ceremonies and events. She writes, presents and produces training videos, as well as voiceovers (both factual and drama/comedy). She has written two books and is also working as an actor.

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