How to boost your virtual equalizer in the workplace


Welcome back to our Workplace newsletter. Today: how to up your virtual meeting game, the future of hiring and turnover of black tech workers.

—Amber Burton, Journalist (Twitter | E-mail)

What is your virtual equalizer?

We have been in hybrid working for two years and are still learning hybrid working etiquette. And, let’s face it, our virtual ways are pretty rough. There is no need to be embarrassed; we’ve all talked about our colleagues on a video call at this point, and many Protocol editors probably won’t mind me telling you that we’re still working on healthy breaks to allow all of our staff to express themselves in meetings (Observation: It takes about 10 seconds before the silence becomes awkward during a video call).

Truth be told, we’re all still learning how to boost our “virtual EQ”. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned from reporting in the workplace, it’s that a little emotional intelligence goes a long way in the hybrid workplace.

Cisco Executive Vice President and General Manager of Security and Collaboration Jeetu Patel spends much of his day thinking about virtual equalization as he helps companies navigate the hybrid workplace through various Webex initiatives. He sat down with me (virtually) this week to share how we can all improve our video meeting etiquette as we enter our third year of remote and hybrid working.

Patel’s top tips for boosting our virtual equalizer in meetings:

  1. Make sure everyone has a seat at the virtual table and feels able to participate by providing ideas at the right time during a meeting. Patel warns to make sure no one individually dominates 90% of the airwaves. “The more virtual communication looks like a conversation rather than a lecture, the better off we’ll be,” he said.
  2. Create a human connection rather than a transaction. This means allowing more natural wandering and conversation in meetings as if everyone were in a physical conference room. Also, leave room for dialogue so that meetings don’t feel one-sided or transactional. “If you’ve been talking in a meeting for a while and no one else is talking, pausing and asking them what they’re thinking once in a while isn’t a bad idea,” Patel said. “If you’re in a meeting that doesn’t speak, providing cues with your body language so the person speaking understands whether they’re relating to you or not is an equal responsibility.”
  3. Avoid multitasking in virtual meetings. As for nonverbal cues, avoid just staring at the screen and responding to emails. “Multitasking tends to be a very common occurrence that people have when they’re in virtual meetings. And that’s when you’re multitasking at the expense of hearing what the other person is saying, and you don’t don’t give body language cues on the video where it’s hard enough to communicate. I think that leads to a degradation in the quality of the interaction,” he said.
  4. Show up to meetings early to engage with your colleagues. Just because you’re no longer walking to a conference room doesn’t mean you can’t show up to a meeting early. This is when some of the most engaging conversations happen. When else would you find out your co-worker’s son just threw up in the back seat of the car on the way to school? It can create a different energy for meetings and foster a sense of authenticity, known to build both trust and connection.
  5. Virtual icebreakers: they are no longer just for orientation. Patel suggests using the virtual tools now at your disposal to keep your colleagues engaged during meetings. He is personally adept at polls during major meetings.
  6. Don’t stick to your schedule. Patel says don’t be afraid to wander off during meetings.

Patel said the most important thing to consider when it comes to virtual meeting etiquette is the time zone. Many companies continue to struggle with this as the workforce grows globally. He urges people to remember that not every meeting has to be a synchronous interaction. He recently started recording five-minute videos of what matters most to him, which he sends out to a large group of Cisco employees.

“It might be a work question, it might not be a work question, it might be something I thought I wanted to share with the team, and I’ll just send it out to the whole group of 12,000 people and anyone who wants to comment can comment and interact,” he said. “Now you’ve created a conversation about something without taxing people’s time. You have to be efficient, because you have to do something in five minutes, not 25 minutes. That’s a classic example of things we can think about from a hygiene perspective.”

video meeting etiquette lightning tower

Patel agreed to do a series of whirlwind questions about his hottest views on the virtual workplace. Here is what he had to say:

Virtual happy hours or let everyone log out early? Virtual happy hour.

Walking meetings or staying at your desk? Both.

For hybrid meetings: Everyone in a conference room when in the office or connecting from their desk? Mix mode. It’s the future.

There is a big debate online about sending Calendly invitations. Are they intrusive or welcoming? Welcoming.

Favorite non-verbal cue in a videoconference? Thumbs up.

A 20-minute or 30-minute 1:1 catch-up call? 20 minutes.

The future of hiring

Monster recently released its Global Future of Work Report, and while there aren’t too many surprises, the report predicts some of the biggest challenges employers will face in the coming years. It will likely be harder to find skilled workers, and employers will have to do more work to ensure employees have an adequate work-life balance, according to Monster. In technology, 39% of respondents said they struggled with a lack of skills and it was hurting their hiring efforts. “While employers want to hire, their confidence in finding the right person continues its downward trend for the third year in a row,” the report said. “Hiring managers and recruiters expect fierce competition to find new talent.”

Read the full story.


Whether you work on the top floor or in the shop floor, Workplace celebrates who you are and what you can bring to your business. Discover where you can be more you.

Learn more

Compensation, Benefits and Perks

The latest in compensation, benefits and workplace benefits.

Last month, NYC passed a new law requiring companies to share pay scales on job postings beginning in May. Already, some business organizations, including major tech companies in New York, have expressed disgust. The main argument: providing salaries on all job offers would be heavy and time-consuming work. Feelings aside, here’s a refresher on pay transparency best practices from Protocol’s Salary Series to better prepare your New York workforce for the changes ahead.

  • Provide your employees with a payroll calculator to ensure fair compensation.
  • Remember, mistakes happen. Payroll audits can detect your salary mishaps.
  • Finally, keep in mind that geoneutral compensation is still one of the most important benefits of technology and has caught the attention of many people in a competitive market.

Who is leaving your business?

Turnover in the tech industry is far from scarce. Tech workers are notorious for moving from company to company in a short period of time. But recent data from Russell Reynolds Associates found that black tech professionals in the United States are switching companies more frequently. They also feel less connected to their employer. Here are the highlights of the survey of approximately 400 technology professionals:

  • Black tech workers were found to change companies every 3.5 years on average in order to advance in their careers. By comparison, non-black tech workers changed companies every 5.1 years on average.
  • Among tech workers who are earlier in their careers with 10 years or less of tech experience, black employees spend significantly less time in an organization. Black tech workers’ tenure at a company is about two years, while non-Black tech workers stay at a company for about 4.5 years on average.
  • On average, a black tech worker with 10 years or less of tech experience reported working at 4.8 companies. Non-black tech workers with the same experience report working at an average of 2.7 companies.

More stories from us

The future of work may hinge on this gig workers fight in Massachusetts.

Two separate groups of Staten Island Amazon warehouse workers have filed petitions to unionize.

The US Department of Labor said remote work in January rose to 15.4% from around 11% in December.

around the internet

A roundup of workplace news from the furthest corners of the internet.

  • Ikea is recruiting technicians with 3D-printed vegan meatballs. Yes, you read that right.
  • Our team debated the merits of what makes a good email signature. That one at the top of the list for me. It’s all about setting boundaries.
  • A great list of ideas to end your work day and create better boundaries – something many of us have struggled with in life.
  • It turns out that managing a hybrid team is tough. Here are some good tips for managing stress.


Whether you work on the top floor or in the shop floor, Workplace celebrates who you are and what you can bring to your business. Discover where you can be more you.

Learn more

Thoughts, questions, advice? Send them to [email protected]. Good day, see you Tuesday.

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