Remember the famous 'BBC Dad'? American political analyst Robert Kelly whose kids crashed his interview with the BBC while he was on a live video call from his home office? The video went viral and the world fell in love with Kelly and his little children.

We are all Robert Kelly now, as one commentator put it. With social distancing in place to halt the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, many of us are working from home for long stretches for the first time. 

And as our worlds turn upside down, we’re learning the hard way that remote working is no piece of cake. We are often at risk of committing a faux pas beyond the bounds of our imagination as video conference calls take over our lives—such as forgetting to shut the door to our home office, like Kelly.

Sure, we’ve heard all the advice about working from home and video conference calls: make sure you’re wearing pants and remember to switch off your webcam and mic when the call is over.

But mistakes happen. And sometimes you can have some epic fails.

A few weeks ago, somebody forgot to turn the camera off as she went to the toilet during a work video call. Then there’s the boss who accidentally turned herself into a potato during a work video meeting because she couldn’t understand how to switch off the video filter she had downloaded earlier. Or you have a half-naked person who walked behind somebody on a live video call.

If there is anything you can learn from all these gaffes, it’s this: You need to follow some rules when you work from home. Here are some dos and don’ts that might help: 

1. Wear appropriate clothing during video calls. We can’t emphasize this enough. No one likes seeing someone without their pants or in their pyjamas during a work call.

2. Don’t lie down on your bed when you are taking video calls. And yes, we know you can turn off your webcam. But it will be super awkward if you accidentally turn it on during a really important work call. 

3. Remember, when you are on a video call, people aren’t just looking at you, they are also looking at what’s behind you. So, make sure you find a clean spot without any clutter or anything inappropriate in your background. Like a pile of clothes or a half-naked poster of your favourite artist, for instance.

4. Don’t forget to check your audio, especially when you think you are on mute. Nobody wants to hear your parents scream asking you to do your laundry while discussing an important pitch. 

5. Please keep your phones on silent during a call. It can be really distracting, especially if your ringtone is the latest hit pop song or the Game of Thrones theme music.

6. Set boundaries with people at home. Whether it’s your parents or roommates, let it be known that when you’re at work, you are at work. If your parents keep barging into your room with food, let them know that while it's very sweet, it can also be distracting, especially during a work call.

While this is in no way an exhaustive list, I hope you find it useful and avoid the many pitfalls of working from home for the unforeseeable future. Signing off (in my pyjamas). 

Sanjay is a Senior Specialist in the Curriculum team at Harappa Education. He is a Young India Fellow and a graduate from St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai. He hopes to help people realize the power of building social-emotional skills. 


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