Over the course of the past 3 weeks, with the huge increase of video calls we’ve all experienced, I have found there are practices we might adapt to help maintain a professional perception of our work and our teams—even as work takes on a more casual air. Thus, I put forth for your consideration this list of video calling best practices, which I have put in place for myself:

Margaret’s at home work station.
1. Pick a space with a “work-appropriate” background.
  • Be deliberate about your background. 
    This can be an opportunity to show a piece of your life, but be sure you’re sending a favorable message. In my case, I took down the last remaining Christmas decoration and adjusted a crooked painting.
  • Surroundings should be primarily neat and orderly
    No matter which room you work from—I have seen them all function as a good space, but make sure your background is neat, plates are put away, bed is made, etc. Rule of thumb: If your mother/father wouldn’t be proud of how your space looks, adjust it. 😉
  • Ensure your face can be seen. 
    Lighting varies from room to room, so ensure your face is front lit, either by natural light or lamps. This is a light I use for both front lighting and some extra vitamin D.
  • Avoid having your back to an open doorway.
    It’s a bit awkward for the viewer and increases the likelihood of people passing by.
2. Keep yourself neat and orderly.
  • Ensure your clothes are neat and put together.
    Working from home has led to more diverse and casual attire. Depending on the team, try to target matching normal team attire and ensure you always look neat and put together.
  • Ensure you are maintaining a “kept” look.
    Many of us can’t get our hair cut, dyed, or trimmed as usual. You be you, but stick by the rule of neat and clean. Aim to avoid being called a “werewolf,” as I heard on a call when someone joked to a colleague about their unkept appearance. (No offense was taken, as it was between friends, but the point was made.)
3. Keep distractions to a minimum, but focus on being polite and kind.
  • We will be interrupted and it will be okay.
    Many of us have busy houses with young children, partners/spouses/housemates, and older children in distance learning. Distractions are unavoidable, but you can control how you handle the interruptions. (It’s okay to include children in your space if they just want to look!)
  • Let politeness prevail.
    • For the benefit of your callers: In most cases, if there are people moving around in the background or you need to address an interruption, it’s better to turn off your video. Also, mute your microphone if there is ambient noise.
    • For the benefit of your home: Be polite and kind to household members who may need your attention. If you need to address something urgent, speak up to graciously excuse yourself from the call. 
    • Callers on the other side: Please continue to be patient, as we’re all adapting to the new normal.