On Zoom boundaries and giving each other respect

Zoom calls and working from home

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Since the pandemic hit, and we’ve shifted to living our lives on Zoom and social media, expectations for meetings and even one-to-one manager calls have changed. For many, the occasional video call was the norm, but more and more, we’re finding ourselves on the receiving end of “can everyone turn on their cameras, please?” While full engagement from everyone on the team is certainly the goal, that engagement might look different for each participant. It’ll depend on their situation at home and what they’re juggling on any given day, whether or not they’ve elected to share their entire backstory with you.

Over the last week, we’ve had numerous conversations with a number of people about the expectations of the growing number of video calls on their calendars, and think it’s an important conversation to open up more widely.

Are you finding every single call expecting you to turn on your camera and be 100% engaged? How do you feel about that? What kind of pressure does that add? Finally, are you aware of Room Rater? Talk about added pressure.

Allow for boundaries, and respect them

Simone is a current MBA candidate, on-campus club officer and mother seamlessly juggling multiple responsibilities and managing not to drop the ball. In a recent social media share, she described the balancing act that is participating in Zoom calls in a way that is most supportive and respectful of her work style and environment for the day.

With a snapshot of her sitting with her laptop behind her daughter playing and watching TV, she explains:

I’m never turning on my camera if this is my setup on a given day. I personally don’t believe you should demand seeing my home, daughter or undone hair. #sorrynotsorry

I’m so appreciative of people saying things like, “I don’t mind seeing [my daughter]!” or “She’s so cute, we love seeing her!” While those messages are well-meaning, they assume I’m not showing her because you’ll feel some type of way. Actually, it makes me feel some type of way: distracted, different, off my game, singled out

Are these insecurities? Of course. I show up every day combatting them.

But: if I’m on camera, know that I’m there feeling ready for the day.

And if I’m not on camera, know that I’m also feeling ready for the day, but keeping my professional face or headshot on screen, if something in my background is not matching my “mental readiness.”

If you use a background filter on Zoom, you get it. If you’ve never felt the need to do so, maybe this insight will help you understand why others do.

After posting these thoughts, I received massive encouragement from those following me and really felt supported in sharing. Being open and trustful as you respect the boundaries of colleagues and classmates can make a real difference. It literally takes nothing but awareness for people to respect the boundaries. And in turn, feeling respected and supported will make you want to do even more for those you’re working with.

Supporting your people

The sheer number of responsibilities your colleagues are managing while working from home have grown exponentially (as we’ve seen, it’s mostly our female colleagues, but the responsibilities have grown for everyone). It’s important that we give our colleagues what they need to be successful – where someone might have paced back and forth while on calls, someone else might be Peloton-ing to stay engaged. It’s important to offer each other the same respect, even if work as we know it has changed so dramatically.

How have you carved out space or boundaries while working from home? How do you ensure you’re successful in all areas of your life during the pandemic?

If you’re struggling at all, I truly hope this helps you start a helpful conversation around personal comfort and what you need to be your best. If you’re managing a team or leading any group, I hope this also helps you to give your people what they need.

Zoom calls and working from home

Images from PxHere and Simone Kendle.

About the author

At Wharton, she has been active in building multiple start ups, acted as an Investor on the Penn Wharton Innovation Fund, and currently serves as a board member for the African American MBA Association and Wharton Women in Business. Prior to Wharton, Simone spent 8 years at Capital One working in Project & Process Management, People Leadership, and CX insights. She also founded Venita Hair Boutique, a hair extension company that benefited women battling cancer, and most recently was a co-founder of Life Is Content and co-host of The Twinsetters Podcast.

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Responses

  1. Really appreciate this point of view… it uncovers some blind spots for a lot of us. Working from home is going to look different for different people and their domestic situations, so while WFH is a new way of life for many, approaching it with the mindset of, “what’s going to work best for each team member?” as opposed to expecting everyone to show up the same way they would in the office is going to go far in getting your team engaged and invested in the work they’re doing. Thank you for sharing!

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