Folks, we’re stuck with Zoom. When 2020 struck, it was there to swoop in and grab market share (what happened, Skype?) and now it’s here to stay. As a fully remote company who works with and sees the inner workings of hundreds of other companies, our team at Bright + Early has seen it all. From logging on with last night’s virtual trivia name still set (good morning, Fwuffy!) to on-cam vaping (weird, but is it hurting anyone?) it’s hard to know what really matters on camera anymore, especially if your workplace is generally relaxed. Curious, we spoke to other HR pros and founders about their Zoom feelings and pet peeves. 

My coworker got one of those desk treadmills. Are we working out on camera?

“If you are going to be doing something that can attract attention (walking on a treadmill, eating, sitting on a bouncy ball), turn off your camera or make sure the other person in the meeting is okay with that at the beginning of the meeting. I'd keep these alternative ways of being on camera to internal meetings only.” - Yolanda Ho, Director of People Operations, SeamlessMD

“I once had a client meeting where they showed up completely out of breath, sweating and swinging kettlebells. This was on a fully scheduled call. I wondered if it was some sort of weird power move, but we did end up getting some work done.” - Anonymous

“Go for (a desk treadmill) if it's appropriate to the situation. It allows for more productive, creative meetings, so it's great if you have a meeting that requires creative problem solving. Would it be right for a meeting in which you're firing someone? Probably not.” - Sanne Creusen, People Lead and Founding Partner, 7People

What about eating? Is it cool to finish my salad in a virtual meeting?

“A quick bite in a casual meeting is fine, but would you bring a heaping plate of spaghetti to a meeting? Hopefully, not.” - Erin Campbell, Chief Revenue and People Officer, Altis Recruitment

“Our staff work coast to coast so eating lunch over a meeting sometimes can’t be helped. People will say hi up front then post in the zoom chat they’ll be eating their lunch and take themselves off camera. This isn’t a rule, rather a custom that happened organically as a social norm for us.” - Amanda DiFalco, Senior Director, Strategy and People, Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness

“I definitely do not mind folks eating during the meeting, if they are using a desk treadmill , if they show up in PJ's; everything is a-okay with me. It’s actually an indicator of trust for me. A strange one, but it shows they are comfortable around me and I've created a space for them to show up as they are.” - Anonymous

“If you're regularly eating during meetings because you're constantly in back to backs, you need to talk to your manager/block out your schedule to make sure you have time for yourself! You need to take ownership of your own wellbeing!” - Yolanda Ho

Is it rude to turn your camera off? What if my cat or kid wanders in?

“As a remote-by-choice organization with team members across the country, video calls are part of life for us, and yes, sometimes life enters them in a big way! Whether it’s kids, pets or partners joining the call, I’ve seen a lot of ‘videobombing’ since we made the switch to remote work. For example, kids grabbing headsets, pets walking across keyboards and partners strolling in the background—I think it’s all par for the course when you work from home and acceptable, especially for internal, casual meetings.

 For client meetings, we always aim to keep it professional (although again, sometimes pets and kids will try to join in). And when it comes to video job interviews, I recall meeting with a candidate who suddenly burst out laughing mid-sentence, which struck me as odd. Turns out, his five-year-old was tickling his feet under the desk during the interview. Life happens!”  - Erin Campbell

“As someone who facilitates a lot of meetings, it can sometimes be really hard to gage how much everyone else is engaged in the topic. I don't want to present to a wall of blank screens or to people who are uninterested in what I'm talking about”. - Erin O'Hanley, Director of Operations and Finance, Venture for Canada

“I think it's important to recognize that video off may be the best option for some folks. Examples could include some neurodivergence, people who may be dealing with chronic health issues, folks who may need to wear a head covering while seen by non-family members, or scenarios where someone's gender identity may make video off feel safer. By all means, encourage but do not coerce video on. There are lots of ways to connect with people respectfully and psychologically safely.” - Malumir Logan, Operations and Strategy Manager/Adjunct Professor

OK, but when my camera is on, should I have a virtual background? What about filters?

"Backgrounds might be impacting our mental health. They began as a means of hiding the “mess” or “unprofessional” aspects of our personal lives when Covid sent us home to work. They grew into a form of self expression, and created a world where we could all ‘own’ this season’s sofa or have a gallery wall in our home office (or even have a home office to begin with). But there’s a harmful cycle they can create due to how accurate the tech is. We often can’t tell if a background is virtual or not and it’s creating very subtle but growing pressure on people to “live up to” the backgrounds they’re seeing.”  - Samantha Stilwell, Founder, CultureDynamiq

 “I am all for people using the touch up filters. I think it’s a lovely option for people! We never used to see our own faces as much as we do now, and I think the touch up features can help people feel more confident. But one tip: if you use the lipstick feature, it glitches if you take a sip of water or put your pen or hand near your mouth” - Steph Little, Senior HR Consultant and Policy and Compliance Lead, Bright + Early

At least it’s not this bad:

“Try to make sure you don't bring your computer to the bathroom in a meeting. I’ve seen this too many times.” - Marlies Farrill, Senior Recruiter, Pinterest

“My sister (who would be MORTIFIED if I told this story) was a senior policy advisor with the provincial government. For her first video meeting she set herself up in her bedroom at home, forgetting that her bras and undies were drying behind her!” - Anonymous

“I had a meeting with a partner who I could clearly tell was breaking wind. It was audible, and he did the little lift each time and everything. I wondered if he thought we wouldn’t notice?” - Anonymous

“I once jumped on a call and realized as it was connecting that I didn't have a shirt on. Luckily my video calls are set up by default to have video OFF when joining, but it gave me a good scare” - Anonymous

The best advice we all agreed on? Set expectations. 

“Overall, I think teams should decide for themselves and state clearly what their “zoom rules” or “virtual meeting” rules are and then be open to evolving as the team and its diverse needs evolve. I also just very selfishly want different liberties on zoom than in-person. I love sitting with one knee up on a call, or having snacks, even being able to check my phone without getting side eye.” - Samantha Stilwell

“I've taken a Zoom call from my pool. I ate popcorn on a Zoom call yesterday, talking about Mat/Pat leave. I've sung songs, danced, and dressed as my alter-ego, Trivia Master Danny Questionz. 3 years ago, I met my current CEO over Zoom and he was like, "how are you?" and I said, "well, Mike. I am just finishing lunch and I currently have the 'soup sweats'". I'm probably the wrong person to ask about Zoom etiquette.” - Joel Soucy, Employee Experience Specialist, Solink

“I believe in practicing a non judgmental approach to meetings, etiquette is where everyone should feel like they can show up just as they are. Having a bad day and want your camera off? No problem! Hungry? Enjoy your meal! Didn't brush your hair or teeth? Embrace it! The best etiquette is purely non judgmental, positively assuming and psychologically safe so the meeting can focus on what it needs to” - Anonymous

“I don’t care what it is, but I do think you need a written policy in your handbook on what is and isn’t cool on video calls. Prefer people turn their cameras on when possible? Want everyone to use a company-set zoom background? Require a tie for client calls but t-shirts are fine internally? Write it down! Even if you prefer everyone to be their full selves on Zoom with no restrictions (looking at you, Joel), it’s best to communicate that clearly and openly.” - Nora Jenkins Townson, Founder, Bright + Early

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