Most of our work worlds drastically shifted overnight. We now live in the world of virtual meetings, remote networking, and online classrooms.  We have never been more exposed, and the need for self-awareness has never been more necessary.  If you’re like me, you’ve already been privy to (no pun intended) some surprising etiquette situations.  Common sense for virtual meetings is not so common. Considering the new normal for communication, I wanted to spotlight how to remain professional when we’re working in our private spaces.  Take this all tongue-in-cheek.

  1. Be mindful of mute.  If you aren’t on mute, we can hear everything.  That includes the construction behind your house, your typing, your coughing, your dog, your microwave, your chewing, your fight with your one-night-stand, and when you fart.  Not even kidding.  If you are multi-tasking during a webinar, make sure that you are on mute!  If you learn just one thing from this writing, let this be it.
  2. Dress to impress.  Unless you typically roll into class wearing your hunter plaid pajamas (that was me drinking coffee this morning), or wearing a sweatshirt with no pants, you need to wake up and “get ready for work.”  Business casual is totally okay!  Even if “going to class” means that you are now walking 15 feet from the kitchen to your desk in your bedroom, you still need to go through the motions.  Some of that has to do with just shifting your mindset from being relaxed at home, to being engaged in treating school like a full-time job.
  3. Be on time!  Back-to-back virtual classes means that there’s little-to-no time between logging in for you to take care of personal needs.  If you can, try to space out your calls.  Plan for breaks!  Or if you can’t do that, log on on-time, but keep your video off.  When you show up “late” and apologize to the professor, it stops the momentum of the presentation. 
  4. Visibility.  If you haven’t already, please clean your camera lens.  Regardless of if you’re using your laptop, iPad, or cell phone to participate in a video call you need to make sure you’re visible on camera.  No one wants to see just your ear, or only your ceiling.  The reason we’re on a video call is to make sure we can see each other, face-to-face. If your placement is off, it makes the call extremely weird.  Also know, if you wear glasses we might be able to see the reflection from your screen. Please have clothes on.
  5. Being stationary.  To piggyback off being visible, we also need to highlight movement.  If you need to walk away from your laptop, or what to change locations, please temporarily turn off your camera.  The rest of us on the call will be extremely distracted with your movements. If you cannot be visible, then don’t use video at all.  Just be on audio.  And please, revert to #1. And whatever you do, don’t take your laptop around with you.  Especially if you need to go to the bathroom.
  6. Pay attention to non-verbals.  We can see you.  We can all see you (if your video is on).  If you are rolling your eyes, waving your hands, making funny faces, playing with your dog, or clearly texting on your phone, this is all sharing valuable information about who you are as a person to all the other participants in the video call.  Be self-aware.  
  7. Know your environment.  Do you have a mirror behind your camera, and you don’t have pants on?  Is the kitchen right behind your desk and your family members are busting into your room?  Do you have artwork that may be offensive to others? Or are you sitting on a couch with your laptop on your lap and the camera angle is highlighting what’s up your nose?  We need to switch up locations so we aren’t getting bored, however it’s important to do a test run and know what will be visible to anyone else who can see you!
  8. Understand the purpose of why you’re online.  Is this a consultation call?  Is it a professional-member organization webinar?  Is it a lecture for a college class?  Is it a sorority meeting?  Is it a panel on a trending topic within your academic department?  Or is it a friends happy hour?  It doesn’t matter what it is, just keep in mind the purpose of that meeting. In knowing the purpose, also know whether the presenter is expecting to see you.  If yes, please be on video!  All of these can be fun or informative.  Regardless, just know which one is which at the appropriate times and be present.

We were forced to shift to doing virtual interactions overnight.  Now that we are in the thick of it, it’s important to make sure we don’t lose motivation for work, or lose respect for ourselves and others because of our online behaviors.  Just because COVID-19 has working from home, doesn’t mean that we need to lose our professional selves in this madness!  Speak up if you see someone who may need a little guidance in these areas.  There is nothing more productive than an uneventful Zoom meeting!

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For questions or comments contact Joanna at 970-218-9958 or via email.


  • Joanna Lilley, MA, NCC

    Therapeutic Consultant / Young Adult Transition Specialist / College Success Coach

    Lilley Consulting

    After previously working at two institutions of higher education, specifically in Student Success & Retention, Joanna hung up her shingle to provide support for the flight of students leaving colleges campuses.  She now dedicates herself to working solely with emerging adults who unravel when they land on a college campus.  Her passion and drive is to coach this population back into good academic standing, or connect this population to mental health and substance abuse treatment programs that will provide stability, sobriety, and the executive functioning skills this population needs to move forward in life.  Most of her clients are currently enrolled on campus, or those who have already left feeling defeated.  With a magic wand, Joanna supports young adults with mental health issues with their the transition into adulthood and back into higher education.  Fear not, she works with the entire family system to help them heal and grow as this is not a "quick fix."  You can learn more about Lilley Consulting by checking out the website.  You can also listen to the Success is Subjective Podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or any podcast listening platform where she interviews individuals across the country who took a break during their emerging adulthood years.  This podcast is ideal for young adults or families members who are looking for hope and relief in supporting a loved one.  When not working with young adults, you will find Joanna writing or playing outdoors with her rescue pup in the mountains of western Colorado.