Videoconferencing has been around a long time, but now that the COVID-19 crisis has forced millions of Americans into remote work arrangements, more and more people are using platforms like Zoom (ZM -0.11%) to stay in touch with their colleagues. If you're now doing your job from home, there's a good chance you've already had at least a few online meetings to date. But just as there are rules you should follow for in-person meetings, so too is there a certain etiquette to adhere to when you're videoconferencing. Here are a few guidelines to keep in mind.

1. Mute yourself when you're not talking

You wouldn't start making random noises during an in-person meeting, would you? Well, it's equally important to stay quiet during a video meeting. After all, it's hard enough to hear other people in that scenario, especially when two or more inadvertently start talking at once, and so the last thing your colleagues and manager need to hear is the sound of you pounding your laptop keyboard, yelling at your kids, or playing background videos on your computer (more on that in a bit). As such, if you're not the one speaking, mute yourself. It's that simple. And don't worry about forgetting to un-mute -- your colleagues will surely make you aware if you attempt to speak and aren't heard.

Woman at laptop with four people on her screen as though videoconferencing


2. Don't chow down on lunch

There's nothing wrong with sipping coffee or water during an online meeting. But nobody needs to be distracted by your triple-decker sandwich, or the sight of soup dripping down your chin. Unless you're attending a lengthy meeting during your normally scheduled lunch hour, hold off on eating until you're really alone. And if your stomach is truly growling, choose a snack you can subtly sneak into your mouth -- think nuts, crackers, or something that won't require exaggerated chewing motions on your part.

3. Assume you're being watched -- and heard -- at all times

Those viral videos of Zoom participants taking their laptops to the bathroom and forgetting to kill their video feeds? You really don't want that to be you. Once you log into an online meeting, watch what you do and say, because you may think you've muted yourself, only to mutter "bumbling idiot" out loud following a well-intentioned suggestion by your boss.

4. Stay focused

When you're participating in an online meeting, it's easy enough to give into distractions. You might check your text messages, read articles, or browse through social media sites to help pass the time. But while you might think you're getting away with spacing out, you never know when you might miss out on important information that's discussed while your mind is elsewhere. As such, pay attention during those Zoom meetings -- even if you're less likely to get caught doing the opposite.

Online meetings are something a lot of people are still getting used to. Follow these rules to stay on your manager's and co-workers' good side -- and perhaps spare yourself the embarrassment others before you have experienced.