You wouldn’t dream of showing up to an in-person meeting dressed in your pajamas with a kid in tow, but when you work from home and are only ever seen on a computer screen, what is and isn’t appropriate grows fuzzy.
One of the biggest pros of working from home is the ability to walk your dogs midday and wear whatever you want while working from your couch. Even so, appearance and professionalism are important. A remote work call may be the only time your team sees your face and hears your voice, so you won’t want to mess it up.
Our tribe of Remoters shared their most embarrassing remote call mishaps so you can avoid these rookie mistakes.
Not having a backup Wifi plan
There’s nothing worse than finding out right before a work call that the internet is out. The only way to avoid that frantic moment is to always have a backup plan. Your phone hot spot can help in a pinch, but your data will be long gone if you have a video call. If you’re working from home, find a nearby coffee shop you could hustle to. If you usually work from a coworking space or coffee shop, have a backup spot ready.
This Remoter experienced a Wifi blackout mid-call and ended up at Dunkin’ Donuts during tweenager happy hour.
“My internet blacked out in the middle of a call, with another one to go that afternoon. Resetting the Wifi didn’t work, so I hustled down the street to Dunkin’, which in my neighborhood is the hotspot for screaming tweenagers after school. I had to stay muted for the call, despite discussing my department for most of it.”
Not containing your kids (and dogs) during a remote work call
A barking dog or screaming kid makes for an unsettling background noise. Before you hop on a work call, put the dogs out and find a way to keep your kids occupied. If you’re not careful, you might end up experiencing something like this viral video nightmare or this real-life story from one of our Remoters:
“I had severe morning sickness with my second pregnancy, but was still working from home. I was busy throwing up right before a big interview with a bank president and the source called early. I could not get to the phone fast enough, but “luckily’ my 3-year-old son did it for me. I can still remember him picking up the phone and saying to this important source, ‘This is Buzz Lightyear! Who are you and what do you want?’ I was mortified.”
Not knowing how to mute yourself
Before you hop on a work call, take a few moments to familiarize yourself with the application you’re calling through. Knowing how to mute yourself will eliminate background noise and help out if you have a coughing attack.
Thanks to mute, this Remoter avoided a lot of explaining after a bear showed up at her campsite during a work call.
“The first summer I was working remotely, I decided to go on several different camping trips all over the country with my laptop and wireless hotspot. One day, I was camped out in a remote part of Yosemite that thankfully had good cell service (how does that even happen?). I was on a really important conference call when I looked up to see a bear rummaging around my cooler and camp stove. I muted my call, jumped out of my car, and waved my arms and yelled to scare the bear off. To this day my boss has no idea!”
Not checking to see if your shirt is “video call appropriate”
A strapless dress or shirt may look find in-person, but on a video call the look will have a completely different effect.
As this Remoter explains, “I don’t have air conditioning, and in the middle of a particularly hot summer, while I was pregnant, I was wearing a dress that didn’t have any sleeves. It looked perfectly fine in person and wasn’t overly revealing. It didn’t really matter while I was working and not on camera, but I had to go into a meeting and as soon as I saw the camera display it looked like I wasn’t wearing a shirt at all because you could only see me from the top of my chest and up. I quickly put on a sweater but I could hear people snickering on the other end of the call.”
Not having a cover on your webcam
Some video call programs like Google Meet allow you to see yourself before you join a work call, but other programs like appear.in don’t provide that buffer. As this Remoter remembers, “I had no shirt, messy hair, and sleepy eyes when I decided to assist a US firm with debugging. I immediately turned off my webcam, but it was too late. From that point on, I always cover my webcam.”