A nonprofit associate writes to Kathryn, at the MissionBox Expert Advice Column:
"I work at a nonprofit that provides critical support service to families and children. We all must keep to our scheduled meetings and conferences, despite COVID-19. Now, of course, we are working via video conferencing and I am shocked at what I am seeing during these meetings. My co-workers seem to think that anything goes when working from home. I’ll never feel the same about some of these people!
On many of these calls, I really cannot believe my eyes. It’s 8:00 AM and I get to see our CFO’s bedhead, the program manager’s kitchen table littered with dirty dishes or the receptionist’s dining table, with her laptop adjacent to a laundry basket of dirty clothes. One team-mate persists in lying in bed, in her flannel pajamas, while Skype-ing. What a treat!
Am I the only person who is fed up with this unprofessional behavior? Work is work, whether from home or at the office. Honestly, I could have lived my whole life without seeing the not-so-appealing interior of my cube partner’s bedroom.
Is it OK to chat them a pointed comment? Or am I being insensitive and have the rules about work etiquette and dress codes forever changed? Help!”
It didn’t take COVID-19 for some folks to assume no one could really see them when they showed up on Google Hangouts without bothering to wash their face or brush their hair. I’ve been video conferencing for years and I am sometimes taken aback by what I see.
Given our current situation, it is obviously time for us all to take a moment to reflect on what it means to work from home. We are likely to be doing so for some time.
The usual strict delineation between home habits vs. workplace expectations have suddenly blurred. To make matters worse, I don’t know too many folks who are not struggling with social distancing and the sense of loneliness, alienation and downright depression that comes with enforced lock-down. It unexpectedly seems harder to get out of bed and get a shower, much less “dress for success” and present a home-beautiful setting.
For many people working at home during the pandemic, even if they’d like to put their best foot forward, they are contending with additional complicating factors. Some of my colleagues have the constant clutter and noise of children at home, 24/7. Some live in smaller homes or apartments and lack the space to find a quiet zone. Others are providing sheltering-in-place for elderly relatives or friends. We all abruptly find ourselves mired in unusual and challenging personal situations and coping isn’t always easy.
Many have have made up their own video conference rules. For me, it’s OK not to wear makeup, but I must be dressed and coiffed as I would be for the office. Appropriately enough, Zoom provides the few following simple tips (with my comments) so that we don’t have to rely on our own judgement:
Dress to Impress – think office casual, from the waist up, anyway.
Be aware of your actions – people can see you when you are blowing your nose or yawning.
Adjust video and audio quality – your audience deserves a professional presentation.
Adjust lighting and in-screen surroundings – move the dirty dishes, the laundry or rumpled bedclothes out of the line of vision. Turn on a lamp so your (hopefully clean) face is visible.
Mute your mic when not speaking (especially if you have children or pets in the room).
I think that this time of pandemic is going to have a lasting impact on the way we all work in future. We are going to get used to, and more skilled at, remote working solutions such as video conferencing. There will be new employee policies and procedures to guide workers on remote work standards and etiquette. We will all get a lot better at this.
In the meanwhile, my advice is to be more patient, more kind and more forbearing than you may be in normal circumstances. If anyone’s video conferencing behavior becomes truly unacceptable (your cube mate calling in from bed is a good example) ask your supervisor to say a word.
My daily advice to myself (and to you) no matter how impatient I feel: don’t start remote spats or be snarky during a pandemic, for heaven’s sake! An extra measure of forgiveness and goodness can help us all through these troubling days.
If any reader has an idea or opinion on this subject, I’d love to hear it in the “COMMENT” box, below.
Thanks and STAY HEALTHY