It’s been almost a year since COVID-19 made the ubiquitous Zoom call (or Teams, or Meet, or whatever flavor you prefer) a part of our daily lives.  We conduct business, stay connected to family, raise money for charity, socialize, and sell right from our home office desk chair these days.

Even as public health restrictions begin to ease and in-person meetings contemplate a comeback, Zoom won’t be leaving our lives anytime soon.  Simply put, people have found the one-hour Zoom call to be a much more efficient way to conduct business than spending twice that long traveling to a routine business meeting.

Parent-teacher meetings. Board meetings. The end of the hotel fundraiser chicken dinner. Some will never go back to the old way of doing things.

Plus, you don’t have to worry as much about wearing pants. You can grab a snack from your own refrigerator.  You can let your dog out. You can hit mute for a moment and help your kid with her math problem.

However, as Zoom becomes more normalized and the novelty wears off, we are faced with the question of what, exactly, is acceptable on a Zoom call, and what’s not?  As this method of doing business becomes less about survival and more about choice, is it time for some etiquette standards?

Let’s be honest… lots of us have turned off the camera and mic and then carried our phone into the restroom during a meeting. A few unlucky souls scored a huge fail and earned immense ridicule for not doing it properly!

Is it OK to take a Zoom call on your phone while you run on a treadmill?  How about visibly drinking a glass of wine on a 1pm staff call?  Is it OK to use the first 15 minutes of staff meeting holding up and praising each other’s babies?  Is it OK to pet your dog on your lap – its cute nose entering the screen every few seconds?

If I’m hungry, is it OK if I mute and chew my lunch?  Although it would never be allowable in the office, is it OK for a meeting participant who is a smoker to light up during a Zoom meeting when he sits in his own home?

What about those participants clearly multitasking, clacking away on their keyboards, looking down on their phones, or obviously doing something other than engaging with the content of the meeting? What about those staff members who don’t turn on their video or microphone at all?  Are these stealth participants even there and are they getting paid to barely show up?

You can expect more of these conversations this year.  Will employees be confronted if they aren’t clearly looking straight ahead at their screens during meetings?  Will virtual backgrounds move from clever add-on to a requirement to avoid background distraction? Will virtual trainers demand participant cameras on?

If your team relies heavily on Zoom or another virtual meeting platform to conduct business, conversations about expectations and standards are probably headed your way. Books will be written, policies adopted, and mandatory training developed. Some will rejoice at greater accountability and shared expectations, and others will push back, having enjoyed unregulated freedom for almost a year now. Certainly, Zoom etiquette is headed onto some employee annual reviews.