what do I do with my kids during remote meetings, leaving your camera off on video calls, and more

Throughout the coronavirus crisis, I’ll be answering questions at New York Magazine about the ways it’s impacting our jobs and the way we work now. This week I’m answering:

  • What do I do with my young kids during remote meetings?
  • What to do if your company claims it’s “essential” when it’s not
  • Is it OK for people to leave their cameras off on video calls?
  • How do I resign when I can’t do it face-to-face?
  • How can I explain my layoff in future interviews?

You can read it here.

{ 223 comments… read them below }

  1. Person from the Resume*

    Re:#1 … I know we all are under different local orders but if you are working from home because of the COVID-19 outbreak and your kids are not in day care because of the COVID-19 outbreak, you sure as hell cannot get a sitter or take your kids to a sitter. That’s so utterly irrational if a person says it, just say “no that defeats the purpose of distancing and isolation.”

    1. Mama Bear*


      In my county, there are a total of 12 daycare providers that are open for essential personnel. Every school is closed and every other daycare is closed. We are under stay at home orders for the state. I’d definitely push back if anyone complained about my kid in the background under current circumstances.

      1. Anne of Green Gables*

        I called my son’s former daycare yesterday to inquire about summer care–it was on my calendar long before this hit. That daycare has been told explicitly that they can currently *only* accept children of essential workers like medical and fire personnel. I got the impression it was coming from the government, presumably state.

    2. A*

      Exactly. I don’t have children, but 100% expect (and understand) that my colleagues that do will be unavailable at times and will be juggling child care among other things. Luckily our CEO has been really understanding and has been sending out weekly updates including that the expectation is not 100% productivity, and everyone will just be doing the best they can, family comes first etc.

      I’ve actually been enjoying that part – I’ve met so many of my colleagues children on camera, it’s great!

      1. Zombeyonce*

        I attended my weekly team meeting and spent most of it muted, but of course when it was my turn to talk, my toddler decided she wanted to start running around yelling and my baby started crying. My husband was there to try and corral them, but I was kind of happy that my coworkers got an idea of what it’s like trying to work with young kids around all day and why there’s no way to work at full capacity.

    3. Panthera uncia*

      Some online communities I follow have commenters with a much higher household income than me…they are talking about turning neighborhood teens into temporary au pairs: moving them into the home, paying room and board, and having them watch the kid(s). To live in a world where you can throw Benjamins at your problems!

      1. Llama Face!*

        “To live in a world where you can throw Benjamins at your problems!”
        I know you mean money in US slang but I am laughing immaturely at the idea of some teen named Benjamin being hijacked from video games and dropped into a fancy house to watch rich people’s kids.

        1. Mama Bear*

          This also amuses me because of the book Guess What I Found In Dragon Wood, where the dragons think all humans are Benjamins.

        2. Nita*

          Hahaha! Myself and two of my coworkers can try to throw Benjamins at our problems, since we all have kids named Benjamin. But often, the Benjamins ARE the problems. Guess who is banging a soccer ball against the wall right now while I’m trying to follow a conference call. Gaaaah.

      2. Artemesia*

        I have an acquaintance (one of my daughter’s high school classmates — they are now middle aged) who has done that and hired an au pair — they are currently on 14 day lockdown until the au pair has been in place for two weeks. While they are well off my many standards, they are not fabulously wealthy. But they have 3 kids and day care for the younger ones and after school care for the older one is enormously expensive such that repurposing that money for an au pair was not that much of a reach.

        This doesn’t help the LW who has babies, but for people with older kids — our 10 year old granddaughter is thrilled to be being paid to babysit her 2 year old brother mornings while her parents can do conference calls etc. She is young to be baby sitting as a business with others, but she is great with her brother and fully capable of keeping him entertained. She feels like she is doing something useful and important and she is counting her money and thinking about what she is going to spend several hundred dollars on when this is over. I would think kids as young as 8 or so might be able to do this with babies or toddlers for limited stretches of time. my grandkid’s parents get about 6 hours of free work time during the morning and during the toddler’s nap which means less time they have to trade with each other or work evenings to keep the toddler occupied.

        1. short'n'stout*

          This sounds like a decent solution! Ten- or eight-year-olds in sole charge of younger children would be unthinkable, but if there are adults in the house anyway, it should be perfectly safe.

      3. I would dye my hair purple and have an exploding devil party*

        Who are these neighborhood teens who are willing to work for room and board? Aren’t they getting that at home? This sounds more like throwing Abes at the problem.

      4. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Considering how many articles I’ve seen about parents who are having problems keeping their teens inside their own homes and preventing them from inviting friends over (!!), that’s not something I would risk even if the money dropped into my hat.

      5. JustaTech*

        I have friends who have a normal au pair (from Europe) and it sounds like she might quit and go home. I guess it isn’t much of a learning experience to be trapped in a house. Which would suck for them, but it’s not like there’s anything they can do.

    4. Analyst Editor*

      I assume that people who have to maintain contact still do – e.g. family members, caregivers who aren’t employed that way (e.g. children caring for for their sick or elderly parents).
      So if you can be guaranteed that the person coming to your house is trusted and part of your “safe circle” — coming to your house gloved, masked, driving, taking all precautions — or, better yet, staying quarantined in your house — then it’s feasible.
      Of course, it is probably very difficult and expensive to find someone to agree to such an arrangement and whom you could trust to maintain all the necessary precautions. It’s completely unreasonable to employers to EXPECT you to find such childcare.

      1. MeepMeep*

        It’s a risk, though, and it takes trust that the person is, in fact, taking all the safe precautions. And if the person makes one mistake, you’re all infected.

    5. Doug Judy*

      My work is being 100% understanding. In my area schools were the first to be closed and the moment they did my work sent out a message that they were forgoing the childcare while working policy and anyone who needed to work remotely could. Now we are all remote. I’m the only one on my team with younger kids and they all have been understanding that sometimes they’ll hear kids. No one cares. It’s just how it is. Upper management has gone out of their way to make sure those of us who are juggling working full time and now having to homeschool know they are completely understanding and help get us the tools we need. But I realize I’m super lucky.

      1. IheardItBothWays*

        mine too. there is a policy that if you are working from home and have kids you must have someone else in the house caring for the kids but that was relaxed for this situation. They just ask you to try to not let them interfere with any calls you are on – just like any other noise.

      2. WantonSeedStitch*

        We’re the same way in our office. Our executive director has made it clear that she isn’t expecting people to be able to put aside family duties for a full work day, and we’ve had a couple instances of people’s kids popping into the frame in our Zoom meetings, at which time we all embarrass the heck out of the kid by enthusiastically saying hi to them. :)

        1. Massive Dynamic*

          That is adorable. Glad to hear it too, because while we haven’t had many Zooms, there are a few coming up next week and we will definitely have at least one kid and/or cat join the meeting.

          1. Christmas Carol*

            So, is there any way to embarrass a cat when it pops into the frame of my Zoom meeting, or at any other time for that matter?

            1. Tiny Soprano*

              Alas not that I’ve found. With the added bonus that my cat is deaf, so you can hear him caterwauling at maximum volume from any area of the house. Thank glob for the mute button…

        2. blackcat*

          A faculty member in my research group has turned her 12 year old into the group notetaker and calling it science homeschooling.

            1. Zephy*

              That’ll be a great “fun fact” when she’s older – 10 years from now, she’s doing Two Truths and a Lie as an icebreaker, and one of her truths is “I had an internship with #Mom’sLab in seventh grade.”

    6. hbc*

      Seriously. We have two or three people who were happy to watch our kids all day when there’s a school shutdown or break or whatnot. With all of them, the conversations were basically a race for who would say, “I know this is what we’d usually do, but this doesn’t make sense.” These are not normal circumstances.

    7. SheLooksFamiliar*

      I’ve worked remotely for most of the past 20 years, and just take it in stride if my team or a colleague has to attend to their child while at home. Child care arrangements fall through even during non-pandemic times, and we just deal with it. IF it becomes an ongoing problem, THEN we have a talk.

      But now? Schools are closed! There’s a shortage of child care options! Citizens are being ordered to stay home! And it is not even remotely possible to expect children to be neither seen nor heard just because parents are working from home. Things just can’t be ‘business as usual’, no matter how much we all miss it. Anyone who expects their employees or teammates to ignore home-bound children during these truly extraordinary circumstances is hopelessly deluded and probably heartless.

      1. Rationally Neurotic*

        So much yes about the whole “children should not be seen or heard”. In normal circumstances, kids are going to school, doing activities, getting lots of stimulation. Now they are quarantined at home. Even kids that would otherwise be pretty good for an hour or two are dealing with being cooped up at home and are so over occupying themselves for a couple hours each day for calls (not to mention the rest of the day when parents are attempting to work). There’s not just a shortage of child care options, we’ve literally been instructed to avoid almost all child care options. If you don’t have a family member in the household to look after the kids, you don’t have any options (that you should actually be using). It’s frustrating because I worry sometimes that there might be a perception of how our children should be behaving, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter. The kids are behaving how the kids are behaving. It is what it is. Even if you’re perceiving someone is not doing what you would expect or think they are taking advantage somehow, it’s almost certain they are dealing with stuff you aren’t seeing.

  2. Jedi Squirrel*

    In some areas, bandwidth is definitely going to be an issue. When I lived in the country, we had no wired internet, just satellite and hotspots. You get very limited capacity on these. Even watching YouTube was out of the question a lot of the time. Every time I needed to upgrade software, I had to go to the library, because the connection was usually lost during such a long download.

    Companies, please manage, not monitor, and let employees opt out of video calls. You have no idea what they are dealing with at home.

    1. Mama Bear*

      Some people also just don’t like their faces on video and it’s distracting and uncomfortable. Let them be on via icon only if they are otherwise participating. I’d ask OP why the video is so important to them and if it’s really about their own perceptions or biases and not about the coworker at all.

      1. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

        I’d urge people to put a headshot on if they aren’t using a video camera. It’s much more friendly others.

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          My company has a ton of virtual meetings, first through Skype and now through Teams, and we’ve never used video – we’re audio-only because we’re global and a lot of people are on calls with folks from different timezones. No one wants to see their colleagues in their pajamas late at night or just climbing out of the shower early in the morning, so yes, we all just upload photos and call it a day.

      2. ArtsNerd*

        I did a video chat with a coworker to trouble shoot an issue and she was SO self-conscious about how she looked that she did not even notice that I have stressed-pulled out my entire eyebrow. (And yes, she would absolutely comment if she had noticed.) Forcing people to be on video ever, but especially right now, is unkind.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      Some households now have two adults trying to work over video chat while multiple kids go to school over video chat. For most of our bandwidth, something’s gotta give there.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        This is were we are – we have good, high-speed internet, but we also have to adults working off of it with frequent VoIP and WebEx meetings, and now we have two kids doing distance learning, including live class meetings. I like the kids to be have the option to see their friends and don’t want their feed to lock up while a teacher is going over a math process, so I tend to call in on my cell unless there is a need for me to present from my screen. And my internet still drops momentarily and kills at least 1-2 VoIP calls a day.

    3. Diahann Carroll*

      In some areas, bandwidth is definitely going to be an issue.

      This. I live downtown in a mid-size midwestern city, and I live in an apartment building with 150 units surrounded by three other apartment buildings – we are all working from home, and we only have two local internet providers. I never had issues doing video calls or FaceTime, and I’ve been full time WFH for 10 months now, until our city issued its shelter-in-place order. Last week, my Teams calls kept cutting in and out and FaceTime was a herky jerk mess. I told my boss I would attend all of our mandatory meetings as I could, but there would be times where I just wouldn’t be able to talk or would have to jump off early, and he understood.

      We all need to give each other a break right now.

    4. LTaylor*

      I’d like to offer another point. Some of us are hard of hearing and depend on speech reading (lip reading). This wfh has meant a lot of listening. If someone asks, they may have a good reason. Thanks for your consideration.

        1. the Viking Diva*

          not so rare! Hearing loss is a common and invisible disability. WHO estimates about 15% of the world’s population has hearing loss, and for about a third of these it is considered disabling. People may not know they have lost hearing function or may not wish to disclose. You may well have a colleague who uses lip reading.

      1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

        We’ve also found it useful to have everyone on video in meetings with 10-15 people so we can do a quick thumbs up/thumbs down poll and other similar things. (Zoom has a thumbs up reaction, but no thumbs down reaction.) When you’re trying to quickly confirm “does noon on Thursday work for everyone?” it’s incredibly useful to have everyone just thumbs up/thumbs down synchronously rather than having to use chat and make sure everyone responded or un-mute each person in term to get an auditory yes/no.

        1. EH*

          At my job, we have similar stuff for sizing user stories, people hold up fingers. Even before the pandemic, we always had at least a few people whose video wasn’t on. When someone isn’t on video, they use the chat associated with the call. You can have the chat open next to the meeting, so you see everyone who’s on video and then also the text input from the other folks.

    5. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

      Many employers, like mine, use a VPN to access internal sites and services, like Skype. We’ve been told video must be turned off during conference calls.

    6. Rationally Neurotic*

      Not to mention a lot of people have slower internet right now because of increased demand on towers/providers. And others might have put Netflix on for the kids to keep them busy during the call. Others might be drowning and barely keeping their heads above water and the prospect of looking put together enough to be on video is overwhelming. My office is pro-video but it’s definitely up to the individual right now – most of us will do once every couple of meetings but not all.

  3. Wordnerd*

    My work laptop connects the video fine to Zoom, but my personal laptop’s camera wouldn’t connect, for some reason. (The camera itself works, though, bc I was able to use it with screencastomatic the same night.) I still came up in the Zoom meeting with my black screen and my name on it. So her camera might not be working properly anyway, in addition to all the reasons Alison pointed out about not wanting to be on video for some reason.

    1. CL Cox*

      And some people truly have no idea how to enable/disable cameras or microphones.About a third of our teachers had to be walked through shutting off their audio during a recent meeting and a few others had no idea how to turn their speakers on so they could hear the boss talking. It took a bit of time for everyone to be connected right. And desktops often don’t even have cameras OR microphones unless you buy them and install them on your own.

      1. Lyudie*

        And you can’t get a webcam for love or money (well, money, but a lot of it, the cheap ones were sold out when I looked a few days ago).

      2. Rationally Neurotic*

        This, too. The drivers on my audio failed about 3 days after we started working from home, and we have been asked to avoid sending IT calls that are not urgent (even if I wanted to fix it on my own, I would need an IT admin password to change anything). The same could easily happen with a video cam, and it would look like the person was not turning it on. I was able to get around it by using my personal laptop and finally found a pair of headphones with a microphone, but that wouldn’t be an option for everyone.

  4. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

    #5 – the layoff thing is much less of a big deal than you think. I’ve been laid off twice in my career, and there are noticeable gaps on my resume. I never bring it up, and when (or even if) asked, I simply say that I was laid off due to restructuring. I don’t believe I’ve ever been asked follow up questions. And as Alison mentioned, during this current crisis, no reasonable person is going to question you being laid off due to the pandemic.

    1. A Simple Narwhal*

      100%. I’ve been laid off a couple times and each time I panicked that I was tainted goods and would never be hired again. I’ve learned that most hiring managers don’t really care, layoffs happen for so many reasons, most of them benign and boring.

      Similarly, I was nervous when I quit a job with nothing lined up and thought I would also be seen negatively, but when every interview asked about it and I told them the truth (our small employee owned business was purchased by a global giant and a lot of changes made the company unrecognizable, yadda yadda), every single interviewer nodded knowingly and then moved right on.

      Most interviewers just want to make sure you didn’t literally light a match and walk away, getting laid off due to coronavirus is a perfectly valid and understandable explanation.

    2. Data Nerd*

      I would bet all the change in my wallet right now that anyone leaving their job between say February 21 and May 15th of this year wouldn’t even be asked why in future interviews.

    3. Artemesia*

      Right now is even a good time to be fired for cause but let it be called a layoff because as things start up in a few months, millions of strong employees will have been laid off and be gearing up. No one is going to have the ‘you must have been a loser to be let go’ frame and you can mask an unfortunate job transition.

    4. Pennalynn Lott*

      So the thing that worries me about this (furloughs and layoffs right now) is that, so far, at the companies I know who have done let people go, it was obvious to everyone on each team that the “slackers” were furloughed. So I’m worried that if I, the newest staff person on my team (today is literally my two-month anniversary), am let go because I’m the newest/least productive right now, future employers will secretly be thinking I was let go because I was a slacker.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        How would future employers come to this conclusion though? Unless the hiring committee/manager worked at your company, they wouldn’t know what the motivation was behind your employer letting you go.

      2. Anne of Green Gables*

        Pennalynn Lott, while I believe you that is the case in companies you are aware of, that is not always the case. I don’t think most people assume that, especially in times such as these.

        I was laid off in 2010. (2008 recession hit my city a little later than most) The world for my profession is very small. My employer laid off 1/3 of its staff–this was national news within my profession at the time. It didn’t stay long on the national radar, but at the state level and certainly in my metro area, if I say “I was part of Llama Teapots’ 2010 layoffs” everyone in the profession knows what I am talking about. They also know A) it’s impossible to layoff that many people and not include some great staff and B) in this employer’s case, they actually did a terrible job of using it as an excuse to get rid of staff who weren’t great, and a lot of great people were let go while a lot of people on PIPs or known to be not great kept their jobs.

        All I’m trying to say is, while your experience may be that those laid off or furloughed are the weakest links, that’s not universally the case and I don’t think most employers will assume it is. (Also, I love your screen name!)

      3. JustaTech*

        It has not been my experience that only “slackers” get laid off during big layoffs.
        One layoff was a plain old haircut and we lots a bunch of very good (and needed!) workers.
        One layoff eliminated an entire department, the good, the bad and the knowledgeable.
        One layoff was only of a specific class of employee (middle management), and kept a bunch of slacker workers who upper management didn’t know were slackers because they’d fired their bosses.

        So there’s no hard-and-fast rule that layoffs are only slackers. Sometimes they’re only the new folks! So any future employer won’t assume you’re a slacker because you got laid off.

        1. Rationally Neurotic*

          Agreeing with @Justatech – my employer did mass layoffs a few years ago and they were by positions, not people, so some really amazing people got let go (even someone I knew for a fact they were grooming for management – she just happened to be the newest hire for that team). In fact, I only avoided it because I had recently joined a new department – they let my previous position go and I’m certain that would have been the case for me had I stayed.

          And honestly, even if everyone let the “slackers” go, it doesn’t change the fact that they totally would have kept those people if not for the reduction in work force, so it’s not comparable in any way to being let go for cause. In some cases, thousands of people are being let go, there’s no way even a majority of those are slackers, unless their employer is beyond incompetent. I know if I were hiring right now I wouldn’t blink at someone saying they were let go under these circumstances; if anything, it means there will be lots of good people on the job market now.

  5. many bells down*

    I’ve mentioned before that my sister’s work is claiming they’re “essential” (they make jacuzzi parts) and refusing to let people work from home. Yesterday she told me there’s two confirmed cases in their warehouse. They still only want to close for a week. It’s ridiculous.

    1. Not All*

      I don’t suppose she’s in Oregon is she? They announced OSHA is going to start doing inspections of companies that have received complaints to the hotline & will be immediately fining any company found in violation. No warnings.

      1. Kitten Caboodle*

        In my state they (the Dept of Labor & OSHA) have set up anonymous reporting online and you can request an inspection specifically if you believe your company is nonessential and open in violation of the ordinance. They’ve fined (and shut down) over 30 companies statewide so far.

        Unfortunately, our parent company is essential, and even though our little piece of the corporate pie is definitely NOT essential, we are forced to work by order of a waiver from the Governor. No WFH option. It’s nothing short of terrifying to be here right now.

      2. many bells down*

        She’s in California. I want to report them but I’m afraid they’ll just fire everyone instead.

    2. A Simple Narwhal*

      Geez louise, I’m a giant jacuzzi enthusiast but heavens that is not essential.

      1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

        Well, not jacuzzi parts, but pool chemicals/pool parts are if this goes on. Jacuzzis can, I think, safely be drained and stored empty for a while without damage (I don’t have one, so please correct me if I’m wrong about that) so you can just not have one for a while if yours breaks. In-ground swimming pools, however, are challenging to drain (and you’d need the pump working to do it anyway) but become mosquito breeding grounds if you don’t maintain their chemical balance and filter systems. If my pump broke, I’d have to fix it to keep up my part of mosquito control, and I’d need to order parts from somewhere to do that. (Or treat it with yet other pesticides used on “abandoned” swimming pools/other standing water to prevent mosquitoes, which I’d also need to be able to buy from somewhere.) Luckily, I have enough chemicals on hand that I probably won’t need to figure out how to source more for a few months and my pump is working just fine, but eventually I will need to buy more chlorine and such.

        It’s tricky to figure out what is and isn’t “essential” right now. There are a ton of things that can wait a day, most of them can wait a week, and some of them can wait a month. However, few of them can wait a year, so we’ll all be figuring out how to deal with those “still should be done soon, but doesn’t have to be done today” things as this wears on. We’re still mostly in snowstorm-mode thinking right now, and snowstorms just don’t last this long.

        1. Oh No She Di'int*

          To add to the complexity, there are people *right now* who were already behind schedule before coronavirus and who are already at the one year mark now. So there will certainly be all manner of unforeseen consequences from shutting down inessential businesses. That’s not to say anything different should be done–perhaps that is just the price we have to pay. But we should all be ready for any number of weird, unpredictable outages and shortages once this is all over.

    3. anon for this*

      One of our good customers supplies to car washes, and we finally had to tell them that they needed to give us a letter stating the essential nature of their next order. I don’t know what mental gymnastics they do to justify staying open during the Stay Home order. I dunno, maybe they need to wash ambulances or large medical equipment or something–but at least put something believable in writing for me, because no customer is worth risking jail time for.

      1. Coverage Associate*

        I thought not washing my car could mess up the paint. In California, auto maintenance is “essential.”

        See above about how there’s “essential” today and “essential” this year. Also see articles here and elsewhere about how “essential” is a legal term when it comes to whether the government can force a business to shut down.

      2. Pennalynn Lott*

        This is what my county says about car washes: “Car washes are essential to the extent that they provide services that are necessary to the safety, sanitation, and essential operations of residents and essential businesses.”

        So if your car is covered in bird poop because of the tree over your driveway and you can’t see out of the windows very well, and can’t clean your car yourself because of physical disabilities or lack of equipment to clean it (I’m thinking of apartment dwellers with no outdoor spigot and a long enough hose), then it is essential that you get your car cleaned or you can’t drive it safely.

        And since it’s possible to operate a car wash completely touchless (either DIY drive-thru, DIY hoses and vacuums, or do-it-for-me services) then it seems like the time and money spent policing people who get their car washed (could they have done it themselves??) would be a massive waste of resources.

  6. Nobody Here by That Name*

    Re: the answer to #5. Is there any concern that a stigma might get attached to workers who got laid off, if they weren’t in a company where everyone got laid off? For example it’d be understood that everyone working at a restaurant that had to close would be laid off. But in office settings it seems like it’s more that some get laid off and some don’t. Should candidates anticipate a need to explain to hiring managers why they, specifically, weren’t considered essential to the day to day operations of the business?

    This situation doesn’t apply to me, I’m just curious.

    1. A Simple Narwhal*

      Nope! Sometimes layoffs are very small, it would be weird to attach stigma to it.

      Sure, sometimes it’s a cover up for getting rid of a weak employee, but there’s infinite other reasons and a lot of them the employee may never be privy to. Were they the most expensive person so it made financial sense to cut them? Were they the least tenured? Was it luck of the draw? Did their counterpart swap jokes with the big boss once at the water cooler which endeared them to them and saved their job? There’s so many reasons why an individual would be laid off that isn’t related to their competency, it’s generally not A Thing.

    2. The Original K.*

      I was laid off in 2015 (the whole team was; it was the second restructuring in a year) and if asked about it, “we were laid off in a restructuring” usually cuts it, particularly since that lay-off is years in the past now. Immediately after when I was interviewing, I said a bit more about the changes in senior leadership that led to the restructuring and that sufficed.

    3. CupcakeCounter*

      A lot of companies are anticipating a recession after the virus clears as well so there might be quite a few people who don’t get the call back.
      Now if they laid off 100 people and called back 99…that might be a hint to you, but is also not usually public information either so I wouldn’t worry about it affecting the job search.

    4. Curmudgeon in California*

      I worked for a company that did restructuring every April. The fact that I lasted four years there impresses people.

      In tech, lots long running companies restructure and do layoffs periodically.

      It’s not a scarlet letter. Go out and get a better job.

    5. anon for this*

      I can’t imagine anyone digging like that. I mean, sure, if I lay off half of our buyers and there’s no other factors, I’m going to lay off the weakest half. But there are probably other factors–who already deals with the suppliers we’re going to keep buying from? Who has to be reminded repeatedly about social distancing? Who might be great at maintaining relationships but not as good at doing quantity over quality?

      1. anon for this*

        I meant to add, all that goes into it before you even get to whether a hiring manager is going to know how many were laid off and bother asking the question of someone let go in Spring 2020.

      2. Mill Miker*

        Even if you’re laying off the weakest half, I would hope hiring managers would know that you were at least good enough to keep the job until layoffs, and that the weak/strong assessment would include some bias, subjectivity, and context. There’s also no way to tell where in the “weaker half” you are. You could be the best of the bunch, and therefore everyone “better” than you is already happily employed.

    6. Marthooh*

      “Should candidates anticipate a need to explain to hiring managers why they, specifically, weren’t considered essential to the day to day operations of the business?”

      Because management made the hard decision to terminate that position. Layoffs aren’t personal; there’s no question of being fired for cause. Or if there is a question, consider it a sign of what you can expect from that potential new employer. And don’t forget to ask them how they managed during the pandemic.

    7. Jeffrey Deutsch*

      Data have shown that prospective employers tend to view those who were laid off selectively as damaged goods compared to those laid off under strict rules of seniority, via loss of contracts or elimination of departments or by the employers themselves going under. The former, when they finally do find jobs, have new average salaries 5.5 percentage points lower (compared to their previous pay) than the latter. The former also go unemployed on average 25% longer than the latter.

      Then again, the data in question are from the 1980s. Have things changed that much now?

      Former HR VP and career author Cynthia Shapiro doesn’t think so. She’s written that layoffs are most commonly soft firings — often for failure to fit in.

      Also, there are ways to keep your name off that layoff list.

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        It’s really unkind to give OP advice about “keeping your name off the layoff list” once they’ve already been laid off.

        1. Jeffrey Deutsch*

          Hello Gazebo Slayer,

          (1) I wasn’t addressing the OP. I was responding to Nobody Here by That Name’s general speculation about what layoffs mean.

          (2) In any case, the aftermath of a bad thing is psychologically one of the best times, if not the best time, to address how to prevent its happening again. It’s all fresh in your mind — including any warning signs that you didn’t notice at the time. You’ll most likely have the strong resolve to do what’s necessary to stop it next time around.

          If a fire broke out in your house, wouldn’t you make sure going forward to, say, not keep paper or other combustibles within a yard of your space heater? And to make sure to use only safe power strips? And wouldn’t you appreciate all the help and advice you could get to avoid another fire?

    8. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I graduated into a recession and had more short stints than I like to remember. Practice short explanations that show you’re a reasonable person who can be calm & professional about business decisions even when they adversely affect you.
      This is a reasonable person: “The company had hired me to cover two roles while they grew, but they needed a full-time receptionist before they could afford a receptionist *and* a junior marketing associate. I didn’t want the receptionist role, so I was let go.”
      This is a bitter person to avoid: “They hired me into marketing, then said I’d do some admin work for a month or two. Months later I was on the phones all day and they fired me because I didn’t want to be a full-time receptionist.”
      Same story, different attitude. Practice the story until you don’t come across like a bitter drama llama.

  7. cmcinnyc*

    UGH #2! I hate doing video calls. My grandboss is always chirpily saying “it would be so nice to see more faces!” Yeah, NO. I don’t care if you want to see my face. You can see my name. You can see I’m on the call. I contribute/answer questions as appropriate. Get over it, lady.

    1. Bunny Girl*

      This is my attitude too. We have an all department meeting over Zoom to “connect and talk” and I plan on just using my audio. First of all, I don’t want to put a strain on the system, but also, I just don’t like to be on camera. It doesn’t help that I’ve REALLY been enjoying being bra-less and not having to fuss with my hair.

      1. Panthera uncia*

        I’m willing to put in a bit of effort to comb my hair and whatnot, but my house isn’t big enough for a work-only office. Our housekeeping is not video ready, and I can’t spend 12 hours a day cleaning up company dumpster fires while also shrieking at my husband to put away his tools and his piles of laundry.

        1. OtterB*

          On Zoom, you can set a “virtual background” of a photo, yours or one of theirs. I also don’t have a space with uncluttered background for working in, and that lets me be on video without worrying about that.

          1. The IT Plebe*

            I’m not sure if this is the case on Zoom, but we’ve been using Microsoft Teams and you can blur your background to hide any mess/undesirables.

            1. BlackBelt Jones*

              Sometimes Teams un-blurs, though. Say, if there’s a window in the background, and some activity happens there.

              I just started using Teams regularly in the last couple of weeks, and I’ve seen it happen with different colleagues’ screens. It kind of fades in and out.

            1. Pennalynn Lott*

              If you’re willing to spend $100 on a green screen, you can have the background of your choice on any video-call platform.

              The [global] company I left two months ago used video for every single interaction, even just, “Hey, I think there’s a typo in paragraph three of the TPS report.”

              My commute was horrendous so I was “allowed” to WFH one day a week. My house is not camera-ready, my “office” is a rolling laptop desk in the corner of my bedroom, and — in general — my coworkers and bosses do not need to see the inside of my house. So I bought a green screen and had tons of fun showing up to team meetings, trainings, and 1:1’s from various offices, libraries, parks, and even (in one instance with a manager who wouldn’t be offended) from the inside of a men’s restroom at a bus station. (I am not a man).

          2. Artemesia*

            I just discovered this for my zoom cocktail parties and it is fun to join the party from Paris which is where I should be right now but for the pandemic (and the airline still won’t refund the tickets although they cancelled the flight)

          3. Jaid*

            I remember seeing an image of a guy wearing a green t-shirt and using a virtual background of a platter…so it looked like he was a head on a platter.

    2. Aggretsuko*

      Hear, hear. I am bursting into tears at random these days and I will get in trouble for it if caught :(

      Right now I have no camera so I am okay, but they are going to send me a webcam :(

      1. The Original K.*

        I can feel myself unraveling a bit and have had my share of spontaneous tears the last few days. Saturday was bad. Thankfully I don’t have to do video calls – audio-only WebEx seems to suffice for now. Hang in there.

        1. une autre Cassandra*

          Weirdly, I’m comforted that I’m not the only one experiencing seemingly random sobbing spells. Solidarity.

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            You are not alone.
            Stress can make our emotions swing wildly. Hang in there!

      2. Diahann Carroll*

        Yes, hang in there, Aggretsuko. I too have not been at my best (spontaneous crying has happened off work hours, thank goodness), but we have to remember that this will be over at some point. It has to be.

      3. hey anony*

        I am definitely crying on and off, which means that I look like hell even when I’m not crying. Also, my department has some toxic people and I’m having stress about having workplace Mean Girls beaming into my home on a daily basis. They don’t need to see what my home looks like, thanks. My camera is ALWAYS off for meetings.

      4. 'Tis Me*

        Are you sure about that? Having a physiological reaction to extraordinary stress is not a personal failing!

        Also virtual hugs.

    3. OrigCassandra*

      Not gonna mince words here — I am ugly. That’s just a fact of my life. Video magnifies it. I’m more or less at peace with my looks, but I vastly prefer video-off during online meetings.

      People can absolutely positively live without seeing my face. They’ve done so quite contentedly on any number of conference calls. The video-on sticklers can bite my shiny metal butt.

      1. pancakes*

        That’s beside the point, though. The reason(s) people have video meetings aren’t aesthetic.

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I’d be more likely to say they can bite my shiny pointy nose but you do you. ;)

    4. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

      Nobody would like to see my face right now. My usual rosacea has worsened with a severe allergy, and my forehead is peeling so much I look like a lizard about to shed my skin. I can’t stand BB cream, only aloe and wheat.

    5. Turtlewings*

      I’m also not sure why the LW suspects the webcam does actually work. Mine doesn’t, and never has; I don’t have the drivers installed. I’m pretty sure I also show up as a name instead of a black space.

    6. Mockingdragon*

      hahaa yeah….my team keeps saying how nice it is to see everyone and I’m the only one who really doesn’t care XD they don’t make a big deal about my not being on camera, and i try to be on 2-3 times a week instead of never. But it doesn’t really help me connect to see them the way it seems for them.

      1. alienor*

        The only benefit to being on camera for me is that I have to pay attention to the meeting and not do other work, read AAM, check my Instagram feed etc. I don’t feel any more connected to people when I see them either, but I’ve spent years working with freelancers and agencies who I only ever talk to on the phone, plus I have a lot of online-only friends and am used to building relationships without being face to face.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          There’s a huge benefit to NOT being on camera for ADHD me. I can stand up, stretch, sit down, repeat as needed to keep myself focused on the content–and not upset anybody who thinks it means the opposite.

  8. Claire*

    #3 – Is this a time when we can forgo convention and prioritize expediency of communicating information and just resign over email? My bosses might prefer that given everything that’s on their plates right now. I think finding time to schedule a call to resign might just add additional stress, but I’m not sure.

  9. Anonymous Educator*

    What do I do with my young kids during remote meetings?

    As Alison says, you’re definitely not the only one in this situation. Maybe hope your kid actually walks in on the meeting, elbows out and bouncing her head back and forth?

    1. cmcinnyc*

      With little brother floating in behind? That was perfect.

      The pres of our company has little ones. We know the call will be wrapping up when we hear screaming.

      1. The Original K.*

        There’s a video with that family in the present day floating around the internet. The kids are so big!

    2. Mama Bear*

      I’d keep myself on mute/no video and try things like having the baby in a playpen near you and letting the toddler watch extra TV. It might not buy you a whole 2 hrs, but it might get you some of that time. I used to attend calls (sans video) with a baby on my lap or in the exersaucer. If the boss complains, remind him that there’s no childcare available and you’re doing the best you can. I’d be surprised if you are the only parent on the team.

    3. Anon Anon*

      I work for an employer that even with the COVID-19 stuff requires you to have childcare. I’m in a state where daycares are still open for non-essential personnel. I struggle so much with sending my kid to daycare. I have to keep my job to keep a roof over our heads (I’m a single mom), but I recognize that sending him to daycare is probably going to be contributing to the problem (and I am very worried that he may catch something).

      1. Tuckerman*

        I don’t know about you, but another piece of this for me is that even though I’m working from home and have a flexible, understandable employer, we’re going to need daycare again when things return to (somewhat) normal. It doesn’t make sense to give up the spot and risk not having care when we need to be back in the office. Sure, we could just keep paying and keep our 14 month old home, which we’re considering, but with my husband gone long days for work, I’d probably need to work 4 am- 9 pm to get in 8 hours of work.

        1. Anon Anon*

          I have an infant, and finding an infant slot is almost impossible. I’m so lucky that my son’s daycare is within walking distance of my house. I definitely don’t want to lose the spot. Which I wouldn’t mind paying to keep the spot if my employer would allow it. But, they won’t. Although I think they may need to reconsider if the state closes daycares to everyone but essential employees. But, I also recognize it’s a gamble. I’m gambling not just my son’s health, but mine, and the community I live in. And I hate that, but I don’t really have a choice if I want to keep a roof over our head and health insurance.

        2. MCMonkeyBean*

          Sorry to say, but quite a lot of things don’t make sense right now and we should all be taking those type of risks wherever possible to try to minimize the spread.

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            Could you reread that? It sounds to me like maybe half your sentence got twisted around.

        1. Anon Anon*

          It wouldn’t make a difference as the state is encouraging childcare facilities to stay open.

      2. Artemesia*

        You would probably be safer hiring a local teen who is sheltering in place for part of the day if you can. A day care has so many moving parts that your exposure skyrockets — and a single mother with COVID trying to care for herself and her kids? What a nightmare even if your case is mild. One teen who would like to earn some money and who is not out and about might be an option.

    4. KR*

      My manager the other week brought his kids into the meeting and had them wave to everyone in the meeting. It was a nice break from the monotony of work.

  10. Jennifer*

    #2 Why are you so adamant about everyone being on video? Not everyone has a home office where they can shut the door. I don’t really want everyone to see my messy apartment and dog running around throwing toys in the air.

    1. [insert witty user name here]*

      Yes but…. *I* want to see your dog throwing toys in the air!!

      Not actually kidding about the dog, but I agree with you that people shouldn’t be adamant about people HAVING to be on video. My messy office and I are very grateful my company doesn’t do video calls.

      1. Third or Nothing!*

        I also would enjoy a dog being silly in the background. Also kids running around as long as they’re not screaming. It’s just so nice to see slices of other peoples’s lives. Makes things feel a little less awful to me.

    2. Constance Lloyd*

      We are learning ASL at work, which we’ve been able to continue with the help zoom. Even in this context video is optional for all of us! There truly is no need to require video for standard check in meetings.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I want to work where you work. I have a couple of Deaf and seriously hearing impaired co-workers who I’d love to be able to get to know better. I had a few months of lessons, but that was 25 years ago at another employer.

    3. Llama Face!*

      Yeah! My home office is also my extra closet, storage room, and laundry basket space. You would have a good chance of seeing things (aka underwear) you don’t need to see if I did video calls there. Plus at certain times of morning the sun comes in at an awkward angle so I’m either blinded or glowing like a supernova. Let the poor woman do calls without her video.

    4. Elitist Semicolon*

      I’m just waiting for the cat to hork up a stomach’s worth of crunchies in the background of one of my video calls.

    5. NotAnotherManager!*

      Same. My husband keeps trying to move me out of the kitchen, too, which is driving me nuts. This is the only place I can have calls with an appropriate, not crapped up by the Cabin Fever Crew background. Leave me alone!

      And I’d love to clean it up, but I’m working full time and now home-schooling/managing distance learning for two kids with special needs, which I am not trained or qualified to do, plus tele-medicine appointments. So, my standard is currently as-long-as-it’s-just-clutter-and-not-gross, which is not going to be enough for some of the clean-desk people I work with/for.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          My meticulous coworker had trouble figuring out how to turn off video. He had never tell a commuted before, and he is more than a little frustrated to have shown up unnecessarily, because he is in a storage room with stacked Rubbermaid tubs. He probably didn’t intend us to know that someone in his family is a crafter…

  11. Leah K.*

    I am currently working in the living room with my kids’ toys scattered around and said kids running around in their pajamas. I don’t have the time or the mental bandwidth to tidy up every time someone at work “wants to see my face”.

    1. A Simple Narwhal*

      Seriously, it’s been nice to skip my hair and makeup routine, I don’t want to do it every day just in the off-chance someone on a meeting might want to see my face. I’ve appreciated that my manager assumes audio only, and the one time he wanted to do a video call he gave everyone a heads up the day before.

        1. James*

          My wife decided to remodel the house. Painting, stripping carpet, laying tile, etc. My job is one where I can walk away for an hour or two and come back to it later, so I’ve helped her out during some breaks.

          Video calls would be a bad idea for me these days. :D

    2. blackcat*

      I definitely show up to video meetings with my hair half pulled out of a messy bun, full on frazzled mom style.
      I told people my kid naps from about 1 to about 3, and people have been really good about keeping meetings to that 2 hour window.
      But if it’s right at 1 and he woke up late or something happens that delays nap…. I literally drop him into his bed and run downstairs without having a minute to prepare myself.
      Relatedly, I think I have persuaded some people that having kids is a lot harder than they thought.

    3. BlackBelt Jones*

      Amen! I really think that some of these people just want to see where you live!

      And I’m not using a curling iron every day when I don’t need to!

  12. DecorativeCacti*

    RE: #3 I know there was a post the other day with some information, but if you are in Washington state, the governor has created an online form to report businesses who are defying the Stay at Home order.

    I don’t want the link to get stuck in moderation, so you can go to Governor Inslee’s website, go to the News & Media tab and right now the top link is telling you how to report businesses.

  13. Anonymous Zoomer*

    #2 – The employee may be telling the truth. I’m new-ish to my job and didn’t find out until the WFH order that my laptop camera doesn’t work properly. I don’t enable video on Zoom calls precisely because my camera doesn’t work. I haven’t felt I needed to subject everyone to a staticky black screen to prove my camera isn’t working – what’s the point?

    1. [insert witty user name here]*

      Seconding this. Fortunately, my company doesn’t really do video calls, even though we have the capabilities. But when we do conference calls with someone presenting their screen, I am not able to access the screenshare through my VPN (and it’s not just me), so I could see how someone could actually have difficulties getting their camera to work in differing situations.

  14. Delta Delta*

    #1 – I don’t have kids, but I get it that people are home with kids, and that sometimes kids do kid stuff while the grownups are doing boring grownup stuff, like zoom calls. We are all understanding of one another.

    That said, I – and everyone else on all the calls – beg of everyone else, if it’s not your turn to talk, mute yourself! I was on a 2 1/2 hour call the other day while someone’s spouse and kids were clanging around fixing lunch. We all heard how they were having grilled cheese, and how it was tasty, and then someone dropped the pan, etc. there were a lot of diplomatic people saying, “gee, that lunch sounds good!” Or “hey! Grilled cheese!” Or “it sounds like someone forgot to mute.” And the person Still. Didn’t. Mute.

    1. I'm A Little Teapot*

      Oh, I will be much more direct. “Will whoever’s got the kids making lunch in the background please mute?” I get it, I don’t mind – but mute yourself or I WILL mind.

    2. Washi*

      I was on a call the other day where someone left video AND audio on while blowing their nose, multiple times. Same as you, people were politely going “…you ok” and the person just continued honking.

      I consider muting yourself/turning off video unless you want to say something to be a best practice for these big calls.

    3. Panthera uncia*

      That is one good feature on Skype–the moderator can force mute callers. People don’t take a hint and always think they’re not the ones causing the problem.

      1. Extroverted Bean Counter*

        I’ve been burned at least once that I know of these last two weeks by getting complacent about that feature. My company tends to use “mute all” as the default, and I’ve forgotten to check that I’m on mute a couple times. Luckily I got the hint right away when someone spoke up “sounds like some exciting times over there!” instead of just obliviously carrying on.

    4. Senor Montoya*

      If you’re on zoom and don’t want to publicly shame the person with the clanging lunch family, you can private chat them within zoom. At our first all-staff zoom meeting two weeks ago, I chatted at half a dozen colleagues.

      One thing that’s been good about these meetings is that the obnoxious side chatter has died off. Plus I can feel like a naughty middle schooler and pass notes thru the private chats.

      1. Stella*

        Just a caution, in Zoom, if chat is stored and retrieved by the meeting host, all chats (even private ones) are recorded.

    5. Mill Miker*

      I was in an all-hands zoom meeting once where someone higher-up called in with their phone, and then put the call on hold. We all got to listen to the tone play every 30 seconds through the entire meeting. I don’t know if the host didn’t mute it because they didn’t know about the feature, or because they didn’t know who was the culprit, or because they did know who it was, but it was bad.

      1. Not All*

        I was on one where someone put the conference call on hold without muting and the host kept asking over & over that they not use the hold feature. Someone else finally pointed out to the host that the person who had us on hold clearly couldn’t hear his announcements. There was a long pause while the host processed that before he opted to have everyone hang up & call back in so it booted the unknown hold music person off.

        It was almost worth the irritation of the hold music for the amusement factor (host was known for not thinking things through but being quite forceful over his half baked opinions).

    6. Windchime*

      I think people who dial into meetings and then create a lot of racket are not really on the call. In other words, the person probably dialed in and then went off to make grilled cheese and didn’t hear people requesting her to mute. It’s so annoying. I dint know why people dial in if they aren’t going to pay attention.

    7. AcademiaNut*

      Directly telling people to mute is something the person running the meeting should be doing, as part of the process. If they aren’t, I think it’s totally acceptable to tell someone that they need to mute because you can’t hear the person who is presenting.

      I do telecons from home regularly under normal circumstances, and this is completely normal.

    8. MML*

      We just switched from Skype to Teams and my headset controls do NOT collaborate, but I have ingrained muscle memory and am always doing it all wrong on calls these days.

    9. Impska*

      I’ve been on four different video conference calls since this all started and they all had children/babies make appearances. One had a noisy dog who decided to bark any time the owner had to talk. One had chickens. Seriously, a guy had received a dozen baby chickens and had them next to his desk chirping. The kids really liked the chickens. Mute yourself as much as possible and otherwise do your best. People understand.

    10. high school teacher*

      Yeah. My coworker has a 6 month old baby and he was holding him in his lap during a meeting yesterday. Baby is cute but he didn’t mute his microphone so at one point baby noises were just taking over the call entirely. Super annoying. Just mute!

  15. General von Klinkerhoffen*

    “What do I do with young kids during meetings?”

    If the baby has a reliable nap, and LW is the only one with kids, perhaps she could suggest that the team meeting be rescheduled over the baby’s nap. 3yos aren’t totally self-sufficient but they don’t tend to suddenly need nursing or diaper-changing, and they can entertain themselves for a time with a TV or tablet or toys.

    1. Third or Nothing!*

      My 2.5 year old has been going through a phase where she wants to do everything all by herself. So earlier this year, I set up a little bin for healthy snacks so she can get something when she wants it. We’ve been encouraging independent play and problem solving and going out into the backyard by herself. And then BOOM suddenly my daycare closes and I’m trying to work from home with Little Miss Feistypants and I am SUPER GRATEFUL that she happened to start craving independence right before the entire world shut down.

    2. Batty Twerp*

      For 2 hours though? I worked ina nursery and nap time was 55 minutes between the last kid going down and the first one getting up.
      And 3 year olds will almost certainly need some kind of supervision during 120 minutes! Theres a truth behind the saying that when they are quiet is the time to worry…

  16. Jedi Squirrel*

    I honestly don’t know what I would do with myself during a two+ hour staff meeting. I can’t sit still that long.

    How much of that meeting is just information dissemination (which could be done via email) or information gathering (which could be done via Google Forms or something similar)? Maybe they could do as much as possible off camera before the meeting, and keep the video call portion sensibly short.

    1. Admin1*

      LW1 here and yes these meetings are way too long. At least when we were at work they provided lunch. But they are only 1 a month so it doesn’t warrant pushing back too hard.

      1. Jedi Squirrel*

        Once a month isn’t awful, but still.

        Maybe they will learn from this situation how to be a bit more…efficient?

        Best of luck to you, OP!

      2. Senor Montoya*

        Turn off the camera and get some other work done while you listen in. We had a two hour staff meeting last week, good lord people, I didn’t even turn off the camera while I was catching up on work. I’m typing away, looking like I’m taking notes LOL.

        Just turn off the camera if you have to get up. I saw way too many behinds last week, I’m scarred.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Also mute your microphone if you are typing on our system that comes through as a chatter in the background.

    2. James*

      Play the ergonomics card. Sitting for 2 hours straight is counter-indicated by most medical guidelines; you should stand up and stretch or move around at least once an hour. This may not work for your company, but at mine it would be considered a very good thing to raise the issue (they want to have a strong safety culture).

  17. Admin1*

    Hello! LW1 here.

    Thank you for all your kind words. It’s good to know that I’m not alone In my situation and that I should not be worried about this. Allison answer makes perfect sense and has definitely helped with my stress.

    PS Alison does a good job editing these letters to be even more anonymous. I was scared of writing in in case someone recognized my situation and could link it back to me, but she makes the letter vague enough that it could be anyone.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I think that may have been NYMag! They edit letters down a lot more than I do here – I usually err on the side of leaving details in unless something is really wordy or confusing or clearly a tangent. (Just noting this so people know they still should do whatever anonymizing they want on their end before they send anything in!)

  18. Rosalita*

    I dont have children but i have a dog that loses it if a leaf passes our driveway so before i could explain and mute myself she lost her ever loving mind when my spouse came home. Everyone heard and laughed and I just explained and kept myself muted. No one minded. I would just take allison’s advice and explain. Any sensible person would be understanding.

    1. Jedi Squirrel*

      Any sensible person would be understanding.

      One thing we are learning from this is that there are not a lot of sensible people out there.

      I may have to write an article about this just to keep from losing my damn mind!

      Also, your dog sounds awesome!

      1. Rosalita*

        I almost changed that sentence but left it in because if OPs workplace isnt sensible then nothing Allison could say would help OP fix it. And she is awesome the only time she barks is to warn us when SOMETHING ANYTHING is near the house. :)

    2. Not All*

      I am so feeling you on the dog thing! I don’t have kids & live alone but my dogs are guard dogs and (probably because I don’t even generally watch tv) the voices coming out of the laptop during webcalls are making them lose their ever loving minds barking & looking for the intruders. I finally had a coworker help me yesterday afternoon for a bit, just talking while I did training with them.

      They are lucky they’re cute!

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        So okay I have to put something out here, I hope it’s okay to mention as helpful. There’s an online training class called “The WFH Dog” starting tomorrow through Doggie Academy in Brooklyn, NY.
        (I have no financial interest… I’m just a proud auntie.)

    3. CL Cox*

      Mine aroos when she wants to tell you something. And talks even more if you try to shush her. She has interrupted video chats with friends (who had their own pets crashing the chat). Luckily I can mute my meetings unless I need to add something to the conversation.

      1. Third or Nothing!*

        Husky? I love their cute little noises. I’d love to have one to run with if my climate were more moderate.

    4. Sydney Ellen Wade*

      “i have a dog that loses it if a leaf passes our driveway”

      Thanks for the laugh! :) My dog is the same way.

      1. MayLou*

        So is mine! I was on a call to a client the other day and he lost his mind at the postman arriving – I told the client that my dog wanted to sing her the song of his people and thankfully she laughed and said it was fine. It’s not ideal though, especially when discussing personal and upsetting things (I’m a debt adviser).

        1. Rosalita*

          Oooh yea she REALLY hates the postman. And the amazon guy/gal, the fed ex guy/gal and ups guy/gal

        2. Filosofickle*

          What is it about postal carriers? The dogs downstairs hear the mail truck and go bananas every blessed day — actually, twice a day since we are on the intersection of two routes. At first I thought they must hear the roll-down door on the truck or maybe the rattle of the mailbox keys, but it turns out they start reacting before the mail carrier even gets out so it’s the sound of the truck itself that alarms them. They bark at others, too, but not nearly as vehemently or consistently.

          1. Jennifer @unchartedworlds*

            I don’t know how true it is, but I read a thing once explaining it along the lines of: the postie comes to the house every day and never gets invited in, so the dogs conclude this person isn’t welcome, & isn’t part of their pack. And every time the postie leaves, they feel like they successfully scared the intruder away!

            1. Seeking Second Childhood*

              That makes more sense than anything else I’ve heard. And it makes sense for one friend’s dog who liked the regular postman — and not any of the substitutes. He wasn’t a snack-giver, but he was very chatty with the people. Maybe his visits with the family on the covered front porch were enough for the dog to accept him — but the substitutes just dropped things off and left.

    5. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      The Junior Ambassador gets YELLY FURIOUS at every vehicle that drives past my house, like don’t they know they’re supposed to be STAYING HOME?! Thank god I live on a cul-de-sac. :P

  19. Nini*

    Re: video. I’m a remote contractor and would be working remote anyway during all of this, and I’ve found that it does help when you’re meeting people or getting to know them. If you haven’t met in person before, then you should turn video on for calls, at least at first. But if you’ve worked together before, and have met in person, then having it off is fine. No one wants to do their hair and makeup just for a one hour call. (I have noticed that people at my job are looking a little rough in video calls over the past couple weeks!)

    1. James*

      Our company has always had the opposite views. I’ve worked with people for years without seeing their faces. We use the video portion to include things like maps, diagrams, reports–things far more useful than looking at my ugly face the whole time.

      1. cmcinnyc*

        I have met people in person who shout my email address when we’re introduced. “It’s you!” “It’s me!” “You exist!” And yet we have worked together and accomplished things.

        I realize this makes me sound like I might be an AI…

  20. Parenthetically*

    Listen, ENTIRELY SCREW EVERY COMPANY that isn’t essential but declares itself to be essential right now. I’m never buying a GE appliance again because of how the GE appliance factory in my city has acted through this. It is sick.

    1. WorkingGirl*

      Honestly. I happened to be texting our one PT admin assistant yesterday (I’d bought a lotion that she recommended), and she told me she was worried the boss would make her come in to the office (the rest of the office had been remote, but our other assistant had been in the office…). I want to fight back on her behalf if this happens (her job can be done remotely, no issues) but I also don’t want to get in trouble for speaking up!

    2. KAG*

      In general, I agree, but I think a GE appliance factory can easily justify itself as an essential business. For example, retooling to make ventilators.

      1. Jedi Squirrel*

        I’ve worked in manufacturing for a long time. It’s not that easy to retool to suddenly make a completely different product. That’s not how the Defense Production Act works.

        Honestly, the auto industry shuts down for two weeks every summer just to retool to make next year’s model. It takes them two weeks just to change from one kind of car to another. It would literally take months to retool production lines (to say nothing of supply chain logistics) to switch from washing machines to ventilators.

    3. Jedi Squirrel*

      What really worries me is people who feel sick but won’t call in because their bosses will think they’re lying just to get out of going in to work.

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        Same…. though it’s those scummy bosses I worry about (well, blame) not their employees.

  21. Jostling*

    #2 – My company had an informal video conference town hall today, and at the end of it they announced that everyone who had their video on for the meeting would get a $50 bonus. I realize that there are a lot of circumstances that would make this wildly unfair, but in the case of our company I can’t think of anyone who would be wildly disadvantaged by using video – it’s strictly preference. I didn’t “win” because I didn’t have my video on, but I thought that was an effective way of gently driving home the point that using video is encouraged for communication’s sake even though it’s not required.

    1. No Tribble At All*

      WTF, that’s terrible! Don’t bribe people — make it a rule, or not, and address it with individuals who have conerns!

    2. WorkingGirl*

      Ugh, I hate that! You really, really don’t know what anyone’s home situation is like right now, so it feels super unfair to give those who don’t have kids, a spouse, an elderly relative to care for (etc etc) that might make me video tough, or those who don’t have a “nice” home office set up, just lose out on the $50!

    3. MayLou*

      That’s ridiculous. I’m using video to tutor online and the internet was so poor last week that I had to turn off the video so we could keep screensharing, aka continue actually doing the tutoring rather than just having a face to face chat. If there’s a good reason to encourage video, state that reason and address any problems as much as you can. Don’t throw money at it!

  22. lived experience*

    I’m fairly disturbed that only a few of the comments here, including Allison’s, start from the supposition that, you know, the team member in question #2 might actually be TELLING THE TRUTH. Maybe we could actually believe her when she says her camera doesn’t work. Functionally, from a user’s perspective, there is no difference between not having the tech savvy to enable something and having it be broken. We all, clearly, have emotions and opinions about this, including which white lie is the best one if you don’t want to be on camera, but why aren’t we starting from a point of assumed honesty?

  23. Daffy Duck*

    WFH with kids – most (all?) online meeting platforms have a way to record, ask your manager to be sure this is done and make the link available to those attending. Put yourself on mute, and feel free to deal with your children as needed. If you miss part of the meeting you can go back and listen at a later time.

  24. cmcinnyc*

    I have met people in person who shout my email address when we’re introduced. “It’s you!” “It’s me!” “You exist!” And yet we have worked together and accomplished things.

    I realize this makes me sound like I might be an AI…

  25. Tallulah in the Sky*

    AT our job we’ve started to work from home two days a week a year ago… And nobody puts their camera on, mainly because it seemed to slow or crash the Skype session when we started. So this hasn’t been a real issue.

    Some colleagues are the only ones in their household to work from home, and have to take care of their kids (we’re working 100% remote). There’s one colleague who has two toddlers, who needs to talk in many meetings, and so his mic is very often on. We hear his kids in the background, because he can’t leave them in another room alone, his partner is working as a nurse, and everyone understands and no one says anything.

    I’m so effing happy I work at a company for who that’s not a problem, where people understand things are going to be weird and less then ideal for a while.

    1. Drago Cucina*

      Yes. We’re using teams for our weekly national library consortium meetings. We asked everyone to mute microphones and video unless speaking. It made a big difference in cutting down glitchiness.

  26. La Triviata*

    My office has everyone working from home and, to stay in touch, we have weekly Zoom meetings. They’re short, but help keep us working as a team. Invariably, someone’s kid will make kid noises in the background or a dog will bark. One person takes the call with the dog in their lap, since the dog’s one of those that will bark frantically at anything (or nothing).

    Two things: (1) West Elm has a series of backgrounds; one person on last week’s call had one up that made it look like they were in an office with a view; and (2) there’s been a run on pajama pants – seemingly, people wear nice tops for video calls, but prefer comfort for the bottom.

  27. Colorado*

    I don’t understand people’s fascination with monitoring people’s computers, asking them to leave cameras on (!!!) and video calls for work. Managers – let your employees deal and stop policing their every move. I live in the mountains and video kills my connection. My kid is also on-line doing school. I just don’t get this mentality that people need to see us. When I’m working in my office, we would never do a video call. They are all conference calls. Cut it out right now please.

    1. Fieldpoppy*

      I have the same response to so many of the questions right now, which seem to translate into “I feel anxious and like I can’t do my job as a manager if I can’t see every details of what my people are doing, and I don’t really trust them anyway, and all of my anxieties are thrown up in the air right now and I’m putting pressure on other people to alleviate them instead of reflecting on why I’m so controlling.”

  28. Aphrodite*

    ACK! OMG!

    I do not and will not appear on video. My computer’s camera is taped over at all times. I will never use it. As Alison says, do not force this issue. Leave those of us who hate this alone. Please. It is nothing to do with you and everything to do with me.

  29. Drago Cucina*

    I confess to using the Zoom beauty filter during a meeting last week. It wasn’t extreme, just made me look less zombie like.

  30. whisk-y business*

    Somewhat related to Q5: I started a job at the beginning of March that was a new direction in my career towards event planning but I got laid off last week. Is it even worth putting on my resume or bringing up in interviews?

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