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Please stop assuming that video meetings are acceptable to everyone

Have we asked permission to enter our employee’s private homes?


“A drink with friends” — Raj Hayer, Germany 2020


We wouldn’t physically enter someone’s home without asking permission, would we? So why do we assume it’s okay to enter virtually? There is an expectation during quarantine that everyone is willing to join a video call, and that this is the only way to make a team dynamic work. In some cases it can bring teams closer, but not always.


Video calls do not work for everyone, for many legitimate and logical reasons, are we respecting that reality? Even now. Even when we have no choice but to move our interactions online. Video chat does not work for everyone.


Why do leaders and organisations feel they have the right to access their employees homes?


Some of us have the privilege of working with people who are friends, who are valued and trusted colleagues or partners. As an entrepreneur and a freelancer I have the luxury of working with people I respect and trust and would welcome into my home, and often do. But not everyone has that privilege and I am hearing from friends and colleagues about how this now seemingly necessary component of video meetings is a part of working life…and how this is impacting them personally.


. . .



First ask: Do they have space?

Having dedicated space to conduct calls is crucial for us to feel comfortable on a video call. As I see it there are three scenarios at play:


  1. Those who have home offices already

  2. Those who do not have home offices, but live alone so can work freely from anywhere

  3. Those who do not have home offices, and do not have freedom to work from anywhere in the house


The fact is that home offices do help, because we can control what we want to have visible in the background, what we want work colleagues to see, without revealing too much of our private lives.


Ask your team if they have the space for a call. Where they can feel comfortable turning the video on.


If we don’t have a home office, that means that suddenly our lives are on display for everyone to see and judge. Further still, if we are sharing space with other people unrelated to our work lives, they are now on display along with our interests, the way we live, our friends, roommates, partners and children.


Second ask: Do they have the capacity?

Some people believe you need to see each other to have a better team dynamic, but this is not always true. Not if you are struggling with balancing your home life and your work life, and don’t have dedicated time for a work call.


Ask your team if they have capacity for the call. Things have changed. Times have changed. Responsibilities have changed.


The Friday 9am meeting may not be feasible anymore. Not when you have children who are suddenly being home schooled and expect your attention. Or when if you are finding yourself working until midnight on Thursday evening because suddenly every day and night is time to work!


Third ask: Do they give us permission?

When did we grant permission for video to enter our home?


In most cases the answer is: we didn’t.


Story after story has been shared with me about the assumptions made during this quarantine — the expectations thrust upon employees.


One friend has been instructed to dress up as he would for the office, and be on camera working, even though no meeting is taking place! Never has there been a clearer lack of trust and integrity within a company.


Friends who are parents have children running around the house, they feel frazzled because they need to focus and concentrate on the meeting content but are just as likely going to be judged as poor mothers and father if they do not give attention to their children who are disturbing their calls constantly. If they do give attention they are judged for not focusing on work!


Or worse still, they are judged because of the way they discipline their child, i.e. that they cannot entertain them right now because “daddy is working”. If they were not on video these parents could do this, muted, and without people watching and judging.



Three simple questions to show respect

It is the leaders responsibility to conduct a checklist, to ensure they have permission from their team to conduct a video call. Try this:


  1. Do you have space where you feel comfortable conducting video calls?

  2. Do you have capacity to focus on work at this time?

  3. Do you give us permission to enter your home via video?


In some cases video is making working partnerships closer. We are revealing our intimate sides, we gain a look into people’s lives — their partners, their children and their struggles — and even a glance of their Star Wars figurine collection in the background. (Nothing but respect from me here!) However this should only be revealed with permission, not be expected as a requisite factor of our new work situations.


. . .


In some cases video is making working partnerships closer. We are revealing our intimate sides, we gain a look into people’s lives — their partners, their children and their struggles — and even a glance of their Star Wars figurine collection in the background. (Nothing but respect from me here!) However this should only be revealed with permission, not be expected as a requisite factor of our new work situations.


If we want healthy working relationships in the future, then they must be built through earned respect and trust, just as they would be in the physical workplace. Ask permission. Respect the response.


And if a colleague has invited us into their home and given us permission to be there, then let’s acknowledge this is indeed a privilege and an honour.




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