I should qualify the title of this article. As you can imagine, there are plenty of inappropriate behaviours that people could display on Zoom or Teams. Some are obvious: taking phone calls, talking to coworkers in the background, forgetting to wear pants (yikes)! In terms of virtual rudeness, I’m referring to the most common etiquette sin many people commit in the first five seconds, without being aware of it.

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I’m referring to logging in late, and by late I mean arriving at exactly the appointed meeting time. I learned the lesson decades ago as a university student at a business class where they had invited a vice president of Trimac Transportation as guest speaker to share real-world advice on unwritten rules of advancing your career and enhancing your workplace reputation.

One of his tips was the importance of arriving for meetings on time. He explained that if you arrive 10 minutes early, the client may feel rushed. And it looks like you didn’t have much else to do. If you arrive just one or two minutes early or at exactly the appointed time, it seems like you barely made it, and they might have already been wondering if you’d show up. Let’s not even talk about arriving late! “The ideal time to arrive for a meeting,” he advised, “is five minutes early.”

I believe that five-minute rule still applies, particularly for virtual meetings. I was reminded of it recently when I was asked to mentor a business student as a favour to a colleague. The student and I scheduled a Zoom meeting, and he arrived at exactly the appointed time. I was slightly annoyed. He requested the meeting, yet he isn’t there to greet me as I arrive? Imagine if you were invited to someone’s home and you show up a few minutes early (which you shouldn’t, but that’s a different tip), only to find the host doing chores and surprised to see you. Doesn’t exactly make you feel special or welcome, does it?

More importantly these days, we all may be suffering from a lack of in-person connections with customers, colleagues and coworkers. Arriving at meeting start time means losing the opportunity for pre-meeting chit chat. In person, you arrive for a meeting five minutes ahead of time, get settled in and quietly ask your colleague next to you, “How is your mom doing after her surgery?” We lose that kind of intimacy when there are five people on a Teams call covering agenda point #3. Plus, with technology there’s a chance we may have some technical glitches that take some time to get sorted.

What do you think – is just in time really on time? I’d love to hear your thoughts.


  1. I am 99.9% early (5-10) minutes for any apt One of my clients said to me that if you are not 15 minutes early then you are late. He was military. If by chance i am running late for an unforeseen circumstances than i make it a point to call my clients and give then my new arrival time as soon as i can.

    • I am always “early” but wait till about a minute to ring the door bell. For all I know they could be in the shower…..lol.

  2. I attend a regularly scheduled (bi-weekly) Zoom meeting where the “host” has taken to admitting those of us in the waiting room (many who have been there at least five minutes) PRECISELY on time (at the announced start time). Unfortunately, she then “waits a few minutes” for the late-comers to sign in before starting. This leaves the rest of us sitting around, staring at our screens, waiting for the meeting to start. As an occasional guest “presenter” at these meetings, I find this lack of early arrival by attendees, as well as the host’s reluctance to insist on promptness, disrespectful and annoying (it also seriously reduces the time I have to make my points and engage others in relevant discussion before being “cut off” because the allocated time has run out). I’ve always adhered to the “5 minutes early” rule; I’m shocked and dismayed that so many others think it’s unimportant (arriving late, either virtually or in person, is rude – that’s all there is to it!)

  3. At our weekly ZOOM business meeting, the host always wait for an additional 3 minutes to let in the stragglers which I find quite annoying as I am always there ahead of time!

  4. Private Assistant Marketer – meeting

    Be a little bit careful who you choose to let into your inner business circle (meetings?); first do adequate research. Because they will soon know all your secrets. And perhaps see the interior of your home, and your valuables. Choose a neutral background for zooms and such. Maybe your good ideas to pass on to others of their various clients.

    Following reading a REM article I left three messages asking for a call back, plenty of time before the busy Christmas time approaching. It would have been good even to hear back that contact would be made in the new year.

    They lost a would-be client right from the get go. According to their website they have more than enough business already, (and she previously ran a law office?) and has plenty of staff. But the world is a different place we live in now.

    Then an interesting email I recently received: “marketing” the services of his expertise as a private office assistant. The email actually was a good call to action with the writer’s full name and contact information. I was thinking of my gourmet cookbook. So I called, we had a very brief conversation and we booked a specific time slot appointment to discuss. He would call.

    I tried to find him on the Net. He serves from Durham to Port Hope with an office address in downtown Toronto he had said. Maybe you got that same email, too. WHOOPS! His offer to be your marketing assistant. I tried to confirm his history, on line.

    Seems like he doesn’t market “himself” maybe. I couldn’t find him on the Internet at all. And he didn’t call for our dedicated time slot pre-arranged. So after waiting a couple of hours, I called him to see if he was just running behind, and left a message and sent email.

    His email reply: So sorry. He forgot. That can happen. But when he apologized and said he would just call the next day, not asking how my schedule was, I said I wasn’t available and would do business with someone else, thank you.

    It must be me… I just can’t turn my brain off. I’m an i-dotter and t-crosser but many people aren’t.

    How can he market you, when he doesn’t seem to even market himself except to send to an email list to get clients?

    Carolyne L

    Sent from my iPhone

      • Thanks for your comment, Carlos. Forever I was always complimented by colleagues and clients for my promptness in replying even if only to say I would catch up in an actual connect in a couple of hours (if I was on an appointment perhaps).

        People really appreciated the temporary touch point. Truly that was one of the simplistic secrets to my outrageous success I do believe. They understood I carried a heavy business load but noted they thought they were my only client. That’s because I made them feel that way on purpose.

        Nothing phoney about that. It was said on purpose. I appreciated them and I always thought I had no competition. LOL – how presumptuous of me. I considered their call or email guaranteed business down the pipeline if not immediately. I truly had a blessed career doing the simplest things for more than 35 years.

        Carolyne L

        Sent from my iPhone

  5. I learned that lesson early in my career in a weekend retreat called the Success Factor back in the late ‘80s. The host, Martin Rutt, laid out the lecture format and, at first break, suggested we all come back at 8.23pm The last person to return to the lecture room did so at about 8:30. The host took that individual to task for wasting the time of all those who had arrived on time. “What makes you so special? The next 5 minute exchange on the importance of punctuality and the perpetrator’s lame excuses was received loud and clear I still will not be late for a meeting that I set up or was asked to attend.
    Thanks for expanding punctuality and good practices in a changing work environment

  6. Absolutely agree. I cannot stand it when people are late and show little regard for anyone else’s time. It is just plan rude. People need a course before they participate in a virtual meeting. Eating, jumping up and down, cooking, playing with their kids, totally oblivious to the fact they are visible to everyone – at least turn off your camera. Have come to the conclusion there are many unprofessional people out there. Have some self-respect and be considerate of others.


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