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Video on, formal dress, no screenshots — Maharashtra govt code for official online meetings

With virtual meetings becoming an integral part of governance due to pandemic, Maharashtra general administration department lays down rules for employees.

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Mumbai: Keep the video on, don’t take screenshots, wear formal clothes. These are some of the guidelines issued by the Uddhav Thackeray-led Maharashtra government to all its employees on how they should conduct themselves during online meetings.

With virtual meetings through video conferencing becoming an integral part of governance, just like private offices, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the state general administration department has come up with a set of rules for employees to follow during online meetings. The general administration department published a government resolution with the rules on 2 July.

“Due to Covid, there are restrictions on visitors coming into Mantralaya (the state headquarters) and so a lot of meetings that used to happen in person earlier are still happening online,” an official from the state general administration department said.

“We were thinking about laying down rules for online meetings since a long time. Now, it looks like online meetings are here to stay as part of government administration, so we decided to go ahead and publish certain guidelines. These will apply to all departments directly under Mantralaya.”

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The dos and don’ts

The state government has asked its departments to give sufficient notice to all participants via email about an online meeting, and has issued strict instructions to not share the meeting link with anyone not supposed to be part of the meeting, says the state’s government resolution.

Employees are expected to ensure that their Internet is working well much before a meeting and log in at least five minutes before it is expected to begin. The dress code is formal even for online meetings.

As a number of employees have been physically attending work, they are to log in to official meetings from their cabins in the Mantralaya. “The camera should be placed in such a way that the faces of all participants in any meeting room should be clearly visible and the meeting room should be well lit,” the guidelines say.

Employees also have been asked to put their microphones on mute when they are not speaking, but still ensure that their video cameras are on at all times, and also that there aren’t any other persons in the background.

“No mobile phones, no screenshots”

Employees have been instructed to use only desktops or office laptops as far as possible and refrain from using their personal mobile phones to log into meetings. They are also prohibited from attending to phone calls from the meeting room.

The guidelines strictly prohibit recording online presentations, the audio or taking screenshots without permission.

Speaking out of turn, without the meeting chairman’s permission, is not allowed. If participants have any suggestions on the ongoing discussion, they are encouraged to use the ‘chat box’ function on online meeting tools. Participants can exit a meeting only when the meeting chairman declares it to be over.

“Basically, we want to ensure that employees follow the same discipline in online meetings that they do in physical meetings,” the above mentioned official said.

(Edited by Paramita Ghosh)

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