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Web-based meetings are becoming more and more popular as spaces for staff to communicate when they cannot meet in person. While video conferencing is certainly useful, these meetings can drive some team members a little crazy.

With many of us working from home, employers are starting to notice some behaviors on video meetings that would not be acceptable if they were happening in the office. The line between personal and professional blurs when employees regularly work at home or only work from their home office.

To reduce problems, employers may want to add video conferencing etiquette to their Employee Handbooks, manuals, or as part of their work-from-home policy. 

What is video conferencing etiquette?

In short, video conferencing etiquette involves conducting a video conference in a socially acceptable way. However, "socially acceptable" is not the same for everyone.

It can be hard to determine what actions are socially acceptable and which ones might be considered disrespectful or rude. Some people do not like when others eat during a video meeting, while others draw the line at smoking on camera or showing up in pajamas.

Video conferencing use has spiked because of COVID-19, and its use may continue on even after the pandemic has subsided. As a result, knowing how to use this technology in a way that is acceptable with in-house staff and clients is important.

Video conferencing etiquette can include a range of considerations:

  • Muting the computer or microphone when not speaking
  • Ensuring others are not in the room to cause distractions
  • Dressing appropriately considering those in attendance
  • Maintaining  appropriate backgrounds
  • Using sufficient identification
  • Ensuring hardware is up to specification

Even something as simple as paying attention can be part of basic video conferencing etiquette.

What can employers legally require when employees are working from home and attending a video meeting?

An employer can make policies and procedures that should be followed while working from home. A good work-from-home policy will set out guidelines for how work can be conducted, hours of operation, equipment, and general expectations.

Work From Home Policy might also include information about how to use video conferencing software. In general, employers can make  rules for video conferencing just as they would for staff meetings at the office.

Can employers require that employees turn on their cameras during meetings?

The answer is, usually, "Yes."

Consider an example. An employer can require that all employees have a certain dress code. They might also require an appearance at a meeting as well. Just like these requirements, an employer can set expectations about what to wear and whether to activate the computer camera during a video conference.

There is always a concern about overstepping and invading employee privacy because of video conferencing. Because an employee is at home, their privacy is more extensive than at the office. Those privacy interests must be balanced with the employer's need to manage employees. For example, an hour-long video call with the camera on is reasonable. Forcing employees to have the camera on for the entire workday may cross a line.

What is the best way to establish and communicate company policies for video conferencing and etiquette?

Clear communication about video conference etiquette will be the most effective way for employers and employees to be on the same page. A specific, written policy about expectations on video calls is a great idea. When policies are written, both employers and employees will better understand expectations.

An employer may want to add the requirements to an employee handbook or Work From Home Policy. If added to the policy, employers may want to send a company-wide memo to announce these rules.

How can employers get help creating new policies about video conferencing?

Employers can use Rocket Lawyer Employment and HR documents and resources as a starting point to create their Work From Home Policies and guidelines about using video conferencing for work. Those who need additional help can reach out to a Rocket Lawyer network attorney for legal advice about specific workplace issues and policies. Rocket Lawyer also has additional business resources related to the pandemic in the COVID Legal Center.

This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. Rocket Lawyer is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and changes often. For legal advice, please ask a lawyer.

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