I accidentally flashed my team during a video call

A reader writes:

After a video team meeting today, I hung up the call and proceeded to get undressed for a shower. After a few seconds, when I was significantly but not completely undressed, I noticed that the app had frozen and was still open. The rest of my team had been staying on for a different meeting, so I prayed it had disconnected on their end and closed it.

At a meeting with our team lead later in the afternoon, she (gently) let me know that it had not disconnected and told me it wasn’t a big deal. Obviously I am DEEPLY mortified and basically want to die right now.

Should I reach out to the other team members and offer an explanation/apology? Also, can you tell me that someday everyone will forget this happened and I’ll stop reliving it in my head while wanting to barf, even if it’s not true? Everyone on my team is great and I’m sure will act like it never happened, but I’ll always know what they’ve seen.

Do I have to quit now? Just kidding. I think. Ugggghhhh.

Oh nooooo, I’m sorry! With the drastic increase in video calls recently, this is everyone’s nightmare right now.

In fact, because it’s everyone’s nightmare right now, a lot/all of your colleagues are probably thinking, “There but for the grace of God go I.”

Stuff like this happens, and decent coworkers do not forever associate it with the person it happened to. Mostly they will feel empathy, and probably care about you feeling comfortable again.

There also might be comfort in the fact that you are one of many, many people who have had something like this happen in the last month. If you had to appear semi-nude on video in front of your coworkers, now is the time for it, because you are part of a sea of people who have shown too much on video calls. It is the secondary pandemic of the pandemic!

People will indeed forget this and you will stop reliving it in your head, because that is the way of mortifying moments. That doesn’t mean you won’t occasionally be struck with the memory, because that is also the way of mortifying moments, but it will not haunt you forever.

You don’t need to contact your team members to explain or apologize. I promise no one thinks you did this on purpose, as a sort of post-meeting novelty; they get what happened. That said, if you’d feel better if you acknowledged it in some way, do whatever will make you feel better. As somewhat of a connoisseur of embarrassing myself, I sometimes find that speaking of the incident can take some of the sting out of it (which of course means a second awkward moment, but I’m sometimes willing to pay that price for the relief it brings), but other people find more relief in never speaking of it again. It’s up to you! But you don’t need to do anything here; you can do or not do whatever will make you the most comfortable.

We are all with you in spirit.

{ 259 comments… read them below }

  1. Liz*

    Whoops. I’d feel the same way too! Horribly embarrassed. BUT, if i had been on the other end of it, and seen you, i would pretend like it never happened. I know its tough to let it go, but if everyone on your team is professional, it shouldn’t be an issue.

    1. Mama Bear*

      Something people should consider is a camera cover. If it’s not built-in then there are tons of add-ons or you can use a Post-It. Then you have a visual cue on YOUR end that the camera is off, even if it’s still somehow on the call. Make a habit to cover the camera before doing something potentially embarrassing.

      OP, I’d never mention it again. I was once on a call that was not muted when my spouse said something embarrassing. I switched to a different phone after that, with a more visible mute/unmute function. They never mentioned it and neither did I, but I did ensure that it didn’t happen again.

      1. Eponin*

        This! I used a post-it note for the longest time during online grad school and now I have a camera cover. It makes me feel so much more secure.

        1. Booklover13*

          My husband has a 3D printer and printed me off one since I’m work from home now. I keep getting tempted to start just mailing them to people because there is just something extra reassuring in physical switch.

          1. Blueberry*

            That would be supremely awesome of you to do, and if I knew you IRL I’d totally ask you for one. (Also, the USPS could use the business right now).

        2. SheLooksFamiliar*

          I have a Muppets Band Aid over mine, but might change that. A friend in Help Desk told me he uses black electrical tape because he has to work very hard to peel it off so there are no ‘oops!’ moments. He has a point.

          1. Mama Bear*

            One of my work laptops has black tape. I thought it was just to blend in, but maybe it’s because that camera is never to be used and it’s just easier to keep something on it that is hard to get off. (I inherited it that way.)

        1. Lynn*

          I agree-covering your camera when it isn’t in use is a really good idea. Probably more difficult for those who actually use their video camera and have to remember to cover it again after use (my company does voice calls-so I just leave mine covered all the time). But still a good idea to get in that habit. I used a post it for a really long time, but then my company actually sent out a camera cover slider with the logo on it. It is the most useful logo item I have ever gotten from my company-it beats out the little “book” of post it notes, the USB hub, not to mention the myriad of other things I am not thinking of right now. It even beats out the temporary tattoo (yes, really, and I still have it since I never actually used it). :>

          1. #WearAllTheHats*

            We did that this last round of promot items. A little white thing that goes up and down over the eye. Movement like a windshield wiper. So helpful. If you forget they get grey fuzz blocking the camera. It’s been a winner-winner and 1000 were like $100.

            1. Lynn*

              I am sure my company spent next to nothing on them-but they are pretty universally loved-I sure know I love mine! I am sure hoping to be able to move it over when I get my upgraded laptop (after IT can get back to the office to finish set up and ship it out). If I can’t move it, then a post it note works just fine. :>

      2. Coffee Bean*

        This is why my camera is always covered with a a piece of index card. I am inherently clumsy. I do many silly things. My facial expressions would belt my feelings when I am struggling to remain calm. I am better heard and not seen.

        1. Coffee Bean*

          This is why my camera is always covered with a a piece of index card. I am inherently clumsy. I do many silly things. My facial expressions would bely my feelings when I am struggling to remain calm. I am better heard and not seen.

          1. willow for now*

            I had a video call today that I thought was just going to be a phone call. I switched my camera on, then right off again – I was in jammies and had not combed my hair and it was a rat’s nest.

      3. Yes I’m still on this call.*

        My wife came into my home office a few months ago -prior to the pandemic- with a sick screaming baby and yelled “are you still on that fucking call or can I maybe get some help around here?” (We are both women and both work full time, but my job is remote and stressful and sometimes I work extremely long days so we struggle with those evening parenting hours.)

        I had noise canceling headphones on so I didn’t hear her coming, but everyone on the call heard her – I was leading it and I was recording it. In her defense, the baby was sick, it was 730, and my workday was supposed to end at 5:30 that day. I kept getting sucked into urgent calls and when she came in the office, she thought I was just working and didn’t realize I was actually still talking. I quickly told everyone I had to get off the phone, and I sent a group chat that said, “I’m sorry that you heard that. You’ll have to trust me that we don’t usually talk to each other like that around here, but tensions are high since the baby is sick and I’ve been working such long hours. I guess when work bleeds into personal time, personal noises bleed into work. Sorry!” Everyone was so kind about it. Quick graceful apology then never spoke of it again.

        1. Ladybird*

          “when work bleeds into personal time, personal noises bleed into work” is a wonderful phrase that I’ll be putting in my back pocket should anything like this happen to me, thank you!

          1. Mama Bear*

            Same. That is such a great way to put it and right now everything is in a blender so…

      4. Hey Nonnie*

        Came here to say this. I have a a vinyl static cling sticker that lives on my webcam lens. I only take it off if I intend to be on-camera on purpose, and it goes back on immediately when I’m done, so there can be no accidents. (Also no malicious actors getting anything useful should they hijack the camera.)

      5. ..Kat..*

        A camera cover is a good idea. Just remember that the audio portion can still be picking up. They cannot see you, but they can hear you.

    2. Librarian1*

      Yep, same. I’d be embarrassed if it happened to me and pretend it never happened if it happened to someone else!

      1. Cathie from Canada*

        I think this was in one of Peg Bracken’s books — if a male guest walks into a bathroom where his hostess is having a bath, what he is supposed to say is “Well, excuse me, SIR!”

      2. Instant Selective Amnesia*

        I would develop instant, selective amnesia and pretend it never happened. If the coworker then attempted to talk to me about it, I would pretend I had no idea what they were referring to and end the conversation immediately. If another coworker wanted to discuss it, I would shut that down so hard.

        OP, seriously, any of your coworkers who are halfway decent people were embarrassed for you (not judging you!) and would like to forget it. Anyone who judged you or doesn’t want to forget it is a creep.

    3. There’s probably a cat meme to describe it*

      I’m so sorry OP for how you must be feeling right now!

      There’s value in what Alison says about the relief that can come from owning it. I’ve had what feels like a disproportionately large amount of mortifying wardrobe malfunctions* (best ones: forgot to zip up my skirt one day and walked around all morning showing the entire world my butt/undies; zip broke up the back up my dress and had to crab-hobble down the main city mall to the nearest craft store and re-sew it while sitting in a public toilet cubicle; ripped the underarm stitching out of my new dress while nervously delivering a presentation (to new clients) and again showed everyone in the boardroom my top underwear; first day meeting my new (very senior) director and had this conversation “Hi lovely to meet you… err there appears to be an issue with your dress?” “Eek, yes, may I borrow your stapler please? Nice to meet you too, btw.”) It’s happened to me so much now that I just go with it and make a joke. Eg: “Sorry Jane, I’m all zipped up today so I can’t show you my undies! Just want to get that out of the way, in case of disappointment.” “Hi Bob, thanks for your time. Rest assured, your staple supply is safe for today.” We have a brief chuckle, the other person has always moved on quickly and I feel SO much better not worrying what they think.

      I promise you, nobody even remotely professional will ever bring this up. And your manager only did it in the same spirit that my Jane pointed out I’d been walking around all day with my zip undone.

      Own it if you dare, forget it if you don’t. It’ll be fine!

      *Mostly attributable to a particular online store, which I am now wary of.

      1. Aquawoman*

        I ran into a co-worker getting off the metro one day after a catastrophic menstrual containment malfunction; saw her notice. Neither of us ever mentioned it. (I held my purse in front of my…front, and went to the nearby Macy’s to buy new pants).

          1. There's probably a cat meme to describe it*

            See that, I would definitely have mentioned if I were your coworker. But only to offer to run to the store and bring you the pants if you wanted to hide in the restroom. Or something! You don’t leave a sister in that situation without offering to help.

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          Yeah, years of the surprise gusher taught me to hate light colored pants. Even now, after having been “fixed”, I still won’t wear white or tan pants. Too much bad history.

          1. willow for now*

            Oh, I hear that! Too many years of summer band in junior and senior high school – you know, the peak surprise years? – and white pants. No, thank you.

            1. Curmudgeon in California*

              Oh, gawd! I remember band, and the white uniforms, and having to wear shorts underneath “just in case”. I had forgotten that horror.

        1. There's probably a cat meme to describe it*

          Errr… bit of an awkward one. A saus… age? I’m not dissing it though, it’s actually a great store. I just had a bad run on a bunch of clearance stuff I bought with stitching coming apart after only a few wears – so now I check seams carefully before I keep an item. Especially on stretch fabrics or if there’s an invisible hem. Variable quality is something you get anywhere though.

      2. TardyTardis*

        I gave us all a surprise fire drill by leaving popcorn in the microwave too long (mine at home is an older, weaker model). I’d been there three weeks.

    4. kittymommy*

      This is something everyone involved will want to pretend never happened. Stick your head in the sand and ignore it. I guarantee your colleagues do not want to talk about his anymore than you do.

    5. Artemesia*

      No one will ever forget. Would you forget someone who did this on your conference call? The best we can do when this sort of disaster strikes is to acknowledge and joke about it ONCE and put up with whatever gentle teasing occurs and then shut down further talk about it. But no one ever forgets. But also everyone has one or two embarrassments in their past and we can all empathize. Like the executive who farted loudly when starting a public presentation, the only way to handle it is with humor and forge on.

      1. Oxford Comma*

        If this was pre-pandemic I would agree with you. But now….I am inclined to think that before this pandemic is done there are going to be far worse events done during conference calls. If people remember, it will probably not be in a judgmental way.

      2. Amy Sly*

        At the end of the next meeting, I’d make a comment along the lines of “And everyone remember to make sure your camera is off!” and let that be the end of it. Because, yeah, it could happen to anyone and everyone else knows that it was completely accidental.

      3. SheLooksFamiliar*

        Remember when Paul Reubens, aka Pee Wee Herman, was arrested at an adult movie theater in the 90s? He appeared as Pee Wee at an MTV awards show shortly afterward, went to the podium, and asked, ‘Heard any good jokes lately?’ He got a standing ovation. He later said the arrest will always be part of his history, but that moment on stage helped him take it out of the spotlight and rebuild his career.

        OP, you will likely remember the moment longer than your colleagues will, and I’m willing to bet they’re not going to remember it in a way that insults you. We ALL have those moments that we cringe over, it’s what makes us human!

      4. MayLou*

        People might well forget who it happened to, even if they remember it happened. I say this as someone who fainted in the top row of a large lecture hall, to the accompaniment of my friend swearing very loudly, so that the lecture paused while everyone watched me being carried out. Having wet myself. Two years later several people who were in the lecture hall that day remembered it had happened but had no idea it had been me (we were comparing greatest hits just before graduating).

      5. Llama Face!*

        Actually I would forget! Admittedly I have what is most likely a variant of face blindness that makes it hard for me to match people with names and remember data about them unless I really work at it. But seriously, my first reaction would be a terrible case of secondhand embarrassment after which I’d pretend it never happened. And then I would forget. Or I might remember vaguely that it happened but not be sure who was involved or the exact details.

      6. Sciencer*

        Yeah, I’ve always hated the comforting line of “no one will remember this in five/ten years” because I absolutely remember embarrassing things that happened to other people. Not like they’re running in a constant reel in my mind, but they pop up in my memory when something jogs it (like reading this post!). The more comforting reality is that when people remember, they’ll either have little emotion attached to it (the good thing about remembering often – it wears down) or have a quick chuckle and move on. They won’t remember it as a stain on your character, but as a funny thing that they once got to witness (and maybe were glad not to have been on the other side of!).

        As a teacher, I have to assume students will remember my embarrassing slip-ups, and I’m super vigilant about wardrobe issues to try to prevent anything of that nature. My new fear is that I do something mindlessly embarrassing on Zoom while my students are in breakout rooms – i.e. I’m “alone” in the main session, but it’s still being recorded, and presumably some of them will watch later.

        For anyone running meetings on Zoom, know that as the host you have the power to turn off the mics of your attendees (this might be a setting you have to enable). I’m not sure if this extends to cameras but it’s good to have in mind if you start hearing an argument or embarrassing convo during a meeting. The other person might be distracted or not realize they can be heard; you can quickly mute them, and send a private chat to alert them to the situation.

        Also, I 100% use a piece of a sticky note to cover my camera when I’m not using it. I stick it just next to the camera when I’m on, so that it’s there in my view afterward and I remember to put it back. Hugely comforting.

  2. CeeKee*

    I’m kind of annoyed with the team lead for saying anything!! What was the point of conveying this info? Especially if it was obvious from those watching the feed that OP had noticed what was happening and closed the app immediately?

    1. KimberlyR*

      But I also see it from another side-if the team lead thought it would be haunting her to not know for sure, she probably did it to help her know for sure.

      1. boo bot*

        That’s how I saw it, too – the team lead had to either say nothing (and let the OP worry) or reassure OP it was fine (and risk alerting her to a problem she had been blissfully unaware of). It’s a tough choice, but in the OP’s position, I’d rather know and have the reassurance.

        I also think if they saw, it might have been clear the OP knew when she switched off her webcam?

        1. Kate Daniels*

          I am so sorry! As soon as I learned we were going to work remotely for the foreseeable future, I bought a web cam cover for my laptop. Now my routine is to always close it shut after the end of every meeting. It’s nice to have the extra physical layer of protection for privacy.

      2. Artemesia*

        When it is obvious something happened and everyone acts as if it didn’t and says nothing, the person doing the embarrassing thing is often left feeling it was worse than it was.

    2. Kiwi*

      If a coworker says “You flashed everyone,” that might make OP wonder if her team lead has concerns, or wondering what her team lead thought of her. Since the team lead addressed it and got it out of the way, OP won’t be caught off-guard if someone else mentions it and won’t have to feel like she should check in with the team lead.

    3. Jedi Squirrel*

      The team lead sets the tone for the rest of the team. If it’s no big deal to the team lead, it’s not going to be a big deal to the rest of the team.

      There is also a politely implied suggestion to not undress in front of your computer in the future. An extra sticky post-it note over the webcam will suffice if they’re not working on a laptop where OP can just put the lid down.

    4. LadyByTheLake*

      I would have mentioned it if I had been team lead but not in a “shame” way but in a “oops, you might not realize” way. I took it that way. Just as a friendly warning, like a zipper being down or their being spinach in my teeth.

      1. Dr. Glowcat Twinklepuff*

        The OP writes that the team leader spoke very kindly, so I assume she was doing the friendly warning way, I see no reason to believe she was scolding or teasing. I would also mention it, like you, but I can also see that someone else may prefer to pretend no one saw anything. It’s a know-your-person situation, I guess.

      2. MistOrMister*

        That is how I thought of it…akin to letting someone know they have something on their face.

        Also the TL might have pointed it out as a sort of warning so OP knows to check to be absolutely sure the meeting is shut down/camera is off, etc. Although I doubt OP will have this happen again!!

        1. TiffIf*

          Yup–and not to assume that even if you are having issues receiving, you might still be sending, and act accordingly.

    5. Lala*

      It’s a tricky situation a team lead has no preparation for and she handled it as best she could. If she had approached OP in a rude way or suggested she was in trouble that would be way out of line. But “approach with kindness” and “just leave it alone” are two valid options for a lead.

    6. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Damned if you do, damned if you don’t! It’s really no one real answer here that will ever please everyone.

      I don’t think she did anything wrong by mentioning it in that kind “FYI” kind of way to confirm, yep that happened but it’s not a big deal.

      But I can see why others would go ahead and pretend it never happened at all!

    1. Snark no more!*

      Oh, I don’t know. I might open the next meeting with something like, “I’ll try to keep all my clothes on this time.”

      Of course, I’m kind of a smart @ss. :-)

      1. SweetestCin*

        Exactly. You know your team.

        My own, there’d be a pile of obnoxiousness from all sides, including the accidental nudist, eventually something else dumb would happen, we’d move on to that, and everyone would still be decent coworkers. Its just how my own team functions and how our personalities work together.

      2. Iconic Bloomingdale*

        Ditto. Last year when a young woman approached me in the subway station to tell me that the back of my dress was stuck in the waistband of my tights (meaning that I walked out of my office building and down two long avenues during the evening rush hour with my butt on display), I thanked her and then said, “well, it’s a good thing I wore underwear today.” We both started laughing and to me, that helped quell a bit of the awkwardness/embarrassment of the situation.

        A few weeks ago, I was trying to figure out how to use Zoom to participate in a video chat with a group I ordinarily attend in person. When I joined the meeting, I did not realize I was on display to the group while sitting on my bed in just my bra. Yikes! I left the meeting to attend to something else briefly and later rejoined the group.

        The group facilitator mentioned that she’d seen me a bit earlier. I was like, “Oh you saw me?” Then the realization hit me, so I then said, “Wow I guess you guys saw a whole lot more of me than you ever intended to see. Well, at least I wasn’t nude.” We laughed and the video chat continued. Hey, what else could I do? lol

      3. Ariaflame*

        Or possibly at the end of the meeting a quick ‘everyone double check your camera is off as you leave the call’

  3. Amber Rose*

    Yep, quit now and resign yourself to life in the hills with the deer, away from all technology and surrounded by a people who are always naked anyway. ;)

    Don’t worry about it. As weird as we as a society are about nudity, let’s be honest here: it’s not really that remarkable. We see naked and half naked people all the time. Literally any beach in a (typical) summer is covered in them, most of us use change rooms and stuff, the internet is primarily naked people, etc. Yeah, it sucks and it’s embarrassing to have this happen around coworkers because we want to keep them separate in our heads from that kind of thing. But they just aren’t going to remember it pretty soon because in the end, a person in their underwear isn’t inherently that interesting.

    Maybe if you’d done a little dance.

    1. Jedi Squirrel*

      As weird as we as a society are about nudity, let’s be honest here: it’s not really that remarkable.

      Yep, this. Other cultures don’t have this hang up. But really, there’s nothing to be hung up about.

    2. Dr. Glowcat Twinklepuff*

      Yes, really. At least you weren’t picking your nose or shouting that the job sucks and the team lead is an idiot ;)
      I think by the end of the epidemic everyone will have a bunch of stories of webcam malfunctions.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        And not just webcams either. Last week I sent a message to the person who was screensharing, because Jabber blocks popups while you’re screensharing, but we just recently switched to Teams, which – SURPRISE – doesn’t, at least not efficiently. So here we are, in a meeting that is being recorded, someone just said something boneheaded and here’s my big purple popup to my boss, “ARE YOU EVEN FRIGGIN KIDDING ME RIGHT NOW.” Everyone was reeeeeeeeeal quiet for a sec, and at least I was muted while I yelled at my screen CAN YOU CLOSE THE DAMN POPUP AT LEAST OH MY GOD.

        And then four other people messaged me and thanked me for saying what they were thinking, so at least there’s that. But. :P

        1. TCO*

          Ha, a friend told me that she had a similar snafu in Zoom this week. Apparently the meeting host can see a transcript of all chat messages sent in the meeting, even if they were sent “privately” between two participants. I’m glad I learned that before it happened to me!

          1. Rachel in NYC*

            Good to know that my boss could know about the conversation I had with a co-worker letting her know that her webcam was focused on her boobs for our group meeting.

          2. Dr. Glowcat Twinklepuff*

            And I’m glad you told us!
            I managed to somehow take a very unflattering screenshot of the speaker which was automatically broadcasted to all participants, and I appeared on camera with a dinocat plush lurking behind my back. It’s still going better than expected.

          3. bmore pm*

            I am not sure what happened to your friend, but I looked this up and it appears to be true only a set of pretty limited circumstances-that the meeting is being recorded locally (usually recorded to the cloud, at least at my place of work) and that one of the participants in the message is the host…like it wouldn’t apply to messages between coworkers 2 and 3 when coworker 1 is the host. That being said, it still makes me paranoid :)

          4. many bells down*

            The host can only see them if they’re saving the transcript on the local computer. We do cloud saves, which I manage, and I have never seen a private chat that wasn’t my own.

        2. many bells down*

          During Sunday worship last week I sent a funny chat to my boss, the meeting host, regarding the minister. Two minutes later, when she shared a slide, her chat was somehow pasted on top of it for everyone to see.

      2. There’s probably a cat meme to describe it*

        I was going to say this. Half-nakie has got nothing on picking your nose and eating it. Getting undressed for a shower isn’t a horrifying personal habit.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          This… we are more weirded out by bad hygiene habits then unintentionally revealing good hygiene habits.
          (But I have now pulled out a scarf to throw over the laptop after work, so thanks.)

  4. Rainy*

    I promise that if this happened and I was one of the people staying on the call, I would simply Never Speak Of It Again, while being extremely grateful it wasn’t me.

  5. Jessica will remember in November*

    If I were one of your employees I would absolutely never, never speak of this again. And if anyone tried to joke or gossip with me about it I’d be like “Poor OP, it could have been any one of us, LET’S NEVER SPEAK OF IT AGAIN.” I know the other approach Alison mentions exists and is perfectly valid, but I’m more a fan of the “this was so mortifying that we all silently consent to obliterate it from memory” approach.

    1. fposte*

      Yeah, my approach is either “Oh, I was looking at my notes” or “I saw there was still movement but couldn’t tell what it was.”

    2. Caroline Bowman*

      Yes. It would be consigned to my quite large and already-groaning at the seams ”well that never happened” file that I keep locked a long way out of sight.

      If someone did mention it in a teasing / joking way (I don’t mean in a nasty or unkind manner), you just laugh and go ”I know, RIGHT? SO embarrassing, oh well could have been worse! Now. About those June projections for the new teapot handles, I’m just not convinced that that timeline will work. Can you explain more?”.

      And then revert back to ”it never happened” as all right-thinking people should.

  6. A*

    Oh gosh, I’m so sorry OP! I would leave it be. If I had witnessed this I would never mention it and hope it just fades in oblivion.

    1. Sue*

      Not the same but..years ago as a young attorney, I went to Court wearing 2 different shoes. Same pump, different colors (taupe and navy). A clerk came up and sweetly mentioned and I wanted to melt into the ground. Had to race home (after Court) to change and just couldn’t fathom how I had gotten dressed, driven to work and gone to the Courthouse..without noticing.
      It took a little while, but then it became one of my stories. It’s humanizing, we all have our foibles and hopefully, can laugh at ourselves. And I completely agree, it will occupy a gazillion times more headspace for you than for anyone else, so I hope you can ease up on yourself and eventually have it be a funny story.

      1. Copenhagen*

        My mom once went to Tivoli Gardens wearing her slippers. She drove 2+ hours to get there and meet up with me. Somehow she managed to put on her coat without considering… Putting on shoes. At least you put on actual shoes, even if they were a bit mis-matched.

        1. [insert witty user name here]*

          I accidentally wore my furry crocs to work one day. Yes, I have furry crocs. They are ugly as sin but they are darn comfortable, cozy, and waterproof for walking my dog. I forgot to switch shoes one morning and wore the stupid things in to the office. Fortunately, we have a pretty casual office and most people probably didn’t notice/care. I laughed about it to my teammates, and they couldn’t have cared less, but laughed along with me and that was it. I was grateful I didn’t have a customer meeting that day, however.

          1. E*

            This is my mortal fear, because I load the car up in my “farm shoes” and feed the goats in the morning…but one of these days I will forget to change into work shoes. For a while I kept a spare pair of neutral work shoes in my car just in case.

      2. Yvette*

        Someone I worked with once came in wearing a dress that absolutely positively HAD to have a slip underneath. She forgot it. Fortunately she was wearing a raincoat and was able to run to a close K-Mart and buy one quickly.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          In the days of slips, I too have forgotten to wear one. More than once. I rarely wear dresses anymore.

      3. PhyllisB*

        I’ve had that happen to me. We were getting ready to go to a birthday skating party and I was trying to decide what shoes to wear so had one of each on trying to decide. My husband started yelling from the car that we needed to leave NOW. So I rushed out the door and when we got there and I got out I happened to look down and I was wearing a blue loafer and a white wedge sandal. Luckily I was still young enough to skate, so I quickly got my skates on and no one noticed.
        Our pastor’s wife came to church with two different shoes; like you same shoe just different colors. No one noticed until her mother pointed it out. Her kids said, “Wow, Momma. We must have really stressed you out today!!”

      4. Iconic Bloomingdale*

        OMG! I have done this also. Many years ago at my former job, I showed up one morning wearing one black loafer and one navy blue loafer – same shoe style, just different colors.

        I realized it when walking down the hallway with a co-worker where the light was bright enough to show the different color of each shoe. My co-worker and I laughed hysterically and I was careful from then on to keep each pair of loafers separate from each other at home.

      5. aubrey*

        Back when we actually went on planes, I was putting my stuff in the bins at 5 am next to some random guy in a nice suit. He suddenly said “Aw no” and held up his shoes which were the same shoe but one was brown and the other black. He told me that he has to fly to NYC and multiple meetings like that now! I hope he had time to buy new shoes before his meetings. One downside of buying multiple pairs of shoes you really like I guess.

      6. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        Lean into it!! I intentionally buy the same styles of shoes in multiple colors and mix and match; I have one pile of Rothys flats and one pile of Converse low-tops. I don’t usually mix and match at work, but they know I do outside of work, so I don’t think it would actually surprise anyone if I did.

        And little kids love it. I was at Disneyworld once wearing a red shoe and a blue shoe, and a bunch of little kids came up to me, “Are you allowed to wear shoes that don’t match?” I said “Yep, I had breakfast with Mickey this morning and he said it was fine!” Damn if those little kids didn’t sit down on the ground and start trading their shoes around with each other. Another time, kid at the zoo asked me if I knew my shoes didn’t match. I said yes, but thanks for checking. He goes “How come?” I said “Guess!” and he decided that I must have lost one running from the bears and that was why his mom was super paranoid about making sure he didn’t climb on the bear exhibit. Shine on, munchkin!

      7. Nerfmobile*

        I had once had the same loafers in two colors – saddle brown, and black. I ended up with wearing one shoe from each pair together more than once!

  7. Roy G. Biv*

    The only correct answer from her coworkers would be — “You say your video froze up and it’s possible you flashed us? No, I didn’t see anything on my end, so no worries.”

    This is the ongoing polite fiction of manners. THIS is how we survive with dignity more or less intact.

    1. Katt*

      Absolutely right. We live in a society. “Oh, no, didn’t see a thing, I’d walked away for coffee.”

  8. LGC*

    Like, I can’t make any guarantees, but…please follow your team lead’s lead. She said it wasn’t a big deal. You say you like and trust your coworkers (and I think that includes her, right?). So in the unlikely case anyone does try to make a big deal, I would expect her to reinforce that it is most definitely not.

  9. Sir Freelancelot*

    OP, I survived accidentally showing my boss my person clothed in a dragon suit, you can survive as well! I know it’s not the same at all, but I 100% can assure you that one day (not now, not even the next month, but one day) you’ll be able to cut yourself some slack! Your colleagues are aware that this could have happened to anyone at any time. And they will try to forget what they see (and probably they turned the videos off when they realized what was happening).

    1. Lala*

      “I survived accidentally showing my boss my person clothed in a dragon suit, you can survive as well”

      Well, we’ve all been there.

    2. SomebodyElse*

      I feel like I remember this story :)

      It’s a great one if it’s what I’m thinking about.

      1. TiffIf*

        Thank you so much for sharing. I somehow, even though I remembered reading the other stories in that post, had missed the glorious dragon video call.

    3. Curmudgeon in California*

      Oh, I loved that story! The dragon suit is perfect for late night troubleshooting anyway – “Here There Be DRAGONS!!”

    4. Sara(h)*

      Sir Freelancelot – I remember the dragon story well — it’s one of my all-time favorites! And you told the story well, too!

  10. SleepyTimeTay*

    An embarrassing whoopsie was kind of fear of mine, especially with more drain on the wifi with us working from home. I actually bought some of those privacy webcam covers from Amazon. As soon as I’m done with the meeting, I slide it closed for no oopsies. Not a perfect solution, but I always feel that after I do something mortifying (in my head) I need to take some future precaution to feel better.

    Don’t stress OP. I’m sure people understand that things happen and will probably forget about it within the craziness of their current situation. Sending you an air hug!

    1. pancakes*

      I have my laptop camera covered with a double layer of patterned paper tape. I already had it & it seems to work fine.

    2. SomebodyElse*

      I use washi tape on mine. Not a big video conference user so it doesn’t get removed often, but it’s low tack and works well. The colors help too so that I notice right away if my camera is active. It helps when using new video conferencing services which each have their own wacky way of starting video.

    3. FungirlAndFunguy*

      Yes, I was looking for this comment! I also use tape to cover my camera anytime it’s not in use. LW, taking a step like this could help reassure you that this was a one time event that won’t happen again, and that might help with the mortification.

    4. TimeTravlR*

      I just keep a post it on my camera. It comes off when the call starts and goes back on when it’s over. Does not prevent me from forgetting to mute my audio though and inadvertently swearing at the whole team when I have an issue with the system.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        My co-workers know about amy overdue school assignment because my teen didn’t wait to ask help until after a department meeting at which I was talking. I have kept that detail from my easily mortified teen. (Possibly until now.)

  11. Casey in the sunshine*

    We have a conference call each week, and someone takes roll. Most people of course mute themselves when not speaking, but on one occasion, as roll was being taken, when John Smith’s name was called, someone on the call was NOT on mute, and said, “John Smith is a .” He soon realized he wasn’t on mute and apologized. John Smith had not joined the call and did not hear it.
    When I joined this company, some other people who are regularly on this call told me they have a private text group that makes fun of people on the call and they would add me to it. Thankfully, they never did, but I’m sure that means they are making fun of me too now.
    My point is, this stuff happens. Don’t worry about it. Anyone who brings it up in a hurtful way is a child. High school cliques still exist in the real world. The rest of us just rise above it. And those who rise above it typically have less drama in life.

  12. Beautiful, talented, brilliant, powerful musk ox*

    If this happened to a coworker while I was on a call, I would feel awful for them and never, ever bring it up. Your coworkers probably feel some sympathy toward you, but there’s no need to apologize. It was a mortifying accident that we’re all afraid might happen to us! I don’t even video call often, but I find myself checking multiple times per day that the lens cover is on my webcam. I promise people are aware that this sort of thing can happen and won’t think poorly of you (or, if anyone does, THEY’RE the ridiculous one).

  13. Elenia*

    I saw this about embarrassment: next time you remember something horribly embarrassing you did, try to think of someone else’s embarrassing moment. You probably can’t, unless it’s very recent. Which is exactly how much space you occupy in other people’s heads – they may remember for a while, but they’ll forget pretty quick.
    Yes it is mortifying, and any one of us would be mortified, but think what you would do if you saw someone else do it – you wouldn’t think they did it on purpose, and you’d be worried about them.

    1. M. Albertine*

      I just read this, too, and it immediately came to mind. It’s so true, and is a good argument for not bringing it up again: bringing it back to people’s minds will make them remember it. Let them forget!

    2. Corporate Lawyer*

      This is an excellent way of thinking about it! I’ve been sitting here for several minutes trying to come up with something horribly embarrassing that happened to someone else in my presence – and I can’t. Not because I’ve never witnessed such a thing, but because it hasn’t stuck in my brain. Everyone will forget about this, if they haven’t already.

    3. V*

      I love this. It works the other way too – if I can remember someone else’s embarrassing moment, well then at least I’m not the only who has embarrassing moments, and if they got through it, so can I.

  14. Secret Squirrel*

    You’re fine OP. I was on a call where a coworker didn’t realize her camera was on and she must have just taken a shower. She was walking back and forth wrapped in a towel and had a towel wrapped around her head. Our boss texted her and she walked over and calmly turned off her camera. No one cared.

    1. Cat*

      I feel like the “walked over and calmly turned off her camera” says volumes more than any behavioral interview question ever could!

      1. RabbitRabbit*

        Is this going to be the next interview question? “What was your biggest video conferencing goof-up, and how did you respond?”

        1. MtnLaurel*

          YES. It’ll get some great answers too, I’m sure! Perhaps that would be a good Ask the Readers, Alison?

  15. RabbitRabbit*

    My husband showed off his boxer briefs during a Skype job interview; he was interviewing while on vacation. It was a longish interview and they decided to pause for a quick break; he stood up forgetting he wasn’t wearing pants. Fortunately he knew the majority of the panel well enough to have gone out drinking with them before, and they were all men and burst out laughing and razzing him. (And yes he got the job.)

    1. Texan In Exile*

      I kinda feel like this is going to be a covid theme for all of us: “he forgot he wasn’t wearing pants.”

    1. anonybear*

      Yesssss! This will most certainly make OP feel better, and I for one would find it enjoyable and/or hilarious.

  16. AnonMinion*

    I will never understand why people don’t say anything when this happens? WHY wouldn’t someone shout out “Hey you’re still on video!”? I don’t get it!

    1. Secret Squirrel*

      If you were in public around a group of people and you saw someone with their fly unzipped would you tell them in a way that everyone can hear that their fly is unzipped, or would you tell them quietly so as to not embarrass? It’s like that.

      1. NyaChan*

        There’s a big difference between an unzipped fly and undressing though. The unzipped fly is already in existence and isn’t likely to get worse. Undressing is an ongoing process that will absolutely get worse in terms of exposure the longer you let it continue, no way would I not exclaim or say whoa we are all still here. Far more likely that the sound didn’t come through if people were trying to say something.

  17. CET*

    This is why I have a little piece of sticky note covering my camera. I take it off for video meetings and put it back on when i sign off. Everyone should do this according to my IT person bc of hackers hacking your computer and accessing your camera anytime.

    1. TimeTravlR*

      I started doing it for the reasons your IT person mentioned and now I have more reason in light of current 100% remote work!

    2. Jennifer Thneed*

      Thank you, this is what I came here to say. (I’m not video calling for work, but I am with friends, and sometimes they’ll compliment the shade of yellow that my camera is showing, which reminds me to move the bit of sticky-note.)

  18. Jennifer*

    Awww, it’s okay. People have a lot of compassion for mishaps like these nowadays. Look at it this way – you’ve gotten your video call awkward moment out of the way, you know how to avoid it in the future, and you can relax. Best wishes!

  19. Lala*

    My gut instinct would be to bring it up and make a joke about it. And years of professional experience and even more years of being a goober experience has taught me that my gut instinct is mostly wrong. People just want to move on.

    It’s different with friends or people you are close to. But bringing it up again even to laugh it off is really about reassurance for you. And you don’t need that because it’s fine! It’s one of the weird things that comes up when we aren’t used to working 100% from home. You did nothing wrong. No sane person would think ill of you.

    1. Phony Genius*

      A couple of suggestions to make a joke about it on your next call:
      Dress from head to toe in winter clothes – parka, ski cap, mask, etc., just to make sure you’re covered up.
      Draw a stick figure and place that in front of your camera instead of yourself. Suggest that you’re still hiding.
      Both of the above require knowing your office culture.

      1. Lala*

        If it was one of the co-workers I was close with I’d start the next call with the old timey burlesque strip tease music.

      2. There’s probably a cat meme to describe it*

        “Hi everyone, what I want to cover for today’s meeting is my person and status reports. I’m keeping my top on, Jane: what’s the latest on teapot glazing?”

        “We won’t get the data till Friday, so unfortunately I can’t… reveal… my set until then.”

        “Is it getting hot in here or are we just on fire at the moment..?”

      3. willow for now*

        I was looking at my stuffed hedgehog today while on a video call and was thinking of holding it up to the camera instead of me.

        And I assume we have all seen Potato Boss?

  20. Jennifer*

    I also agree that speaking about it can sometimes take the sting out of it so it’s not the elephant in the room. “This call won’t be as exciting as the last, sorry folks!” Make fun of yourself a bit. If you’re up to it.

  21. CaVanaMana*

    If my coworker did that, I’d probably laugh a little out of embarrassment and never speak of it to them, or with anyone else and hope to forget it ever happened.

  22. Cat*

    Now Alison, tell the truth, you’ve been waiting since the creation of this site to be able to use “If you had to appear semi-nude on video in front of your coworkers, now is the time for it…” in a response, haven’t you? ;-)

    Video call paranoia is right up there with “Is it allergies or coronavirus?”

  23. Carlie*

    OP, you fell on your sword and gave everyone a very valuable lesson in double-checking their video feed. You have done a major service, and that is all anyone will think of it as – they won’t see it as embarrassing you, but as “thank goodness someone gave me that reminder”. Those who noticed are grateful to you for the reminder, at least half didn’t notice at all because they weren’t paying attention to their screens, and no one will speak of it. Do not speak of it. It has vanished.

    1. Carlie*

      Also – I know not everyone has this ability, but I’ve set up my “zoom area” as a very specific corner of a room. There is room for the wall, my chair, and the table with computer is smashed up against it. The only thing I have room to do there is sit in the chair and be on the computer, and the only thing the computer can see is a wall 3 feet in front of it. This makes me feel better that the camera won’t catch anything happening in the rest of the room. If a wall isn’t a possibility, maybe you can rig up a partition or curtain on a rod/line just behind your chair to wall off the conference zone.

      1. Jennifer Thneed*

        I have an old shoji screen (the rice-paper kind) that I got when I had a washer/dryer setup in my kitchen and I didn’t want to look at them all the time. I’ve been hanging onto it, even thru a move, because “it might be useful”! And it is. I make myself a little phone booth when I have video calls.

        1. willow for now*

          I would love to get one of those screens, but I have a fully-clawed cat, so in about a day it would just be the bare wood bones.

  24. NW Mossy*

    As someone whose laptop camera is aimed squarely at the door into my master bathroom, this scenario could all too easily happen to me! Thankfully (?), I’m also paranoid as can be, which translates into excessive diligence about making sure the camera is off and the door is closed before I enter a state of dishabille.

  25. SushiRoll*

    My husband has been doing Zoom happy hours many days at the end of his work day. Recently I had called him to dinner during one because we needed to get moving on some house projects (getting ready to sell). So he left his office to come eat. We ate quickly and I went into the office (where I also happen to keep my clothes) and started to look for sweats to change. I was starting to unbutton my pants when I realized he left the Zoom on and people were still on it! I was like AHHHHHHHHHH! Luckily I didnt take them off before I noticed. But I also happen to know and be friends with all of the people on that call since we hang out with his coworkers so it would have been extra awkward. I was not happy with him after that!

  26. Purt's Peas*

    For me, the advantage of telling the story is that it becomes A Funny Story instead of An Embarrassing Memory in my mind. I’ve gotta figure out how to tell it so it’s funny and doesn’t make my interlocutor die of embarrassment with me–and once I’ve done that and told it, the embarrassing memory is generally overridden. Because I’ve figured out the version that’s maybe embarrassing but not Shameful.

    Doesn’t work for everything embarrassing, but it certainly works to tip funny-embarrassing wayyyy more toward funny.

    I’ve found it’s tough to maintain more than one “story” about an incident, unless they’re really clearly delineated into “what I tell” and “what was really happening” (ie, unless one of them is inching toward a lie, haha). So that’s why the story overwrites the embarrassing memory for me.

    1. anonybear*

      Agreed!! To Never Speak Of It Again, for me, is to give way to shame. To share and laugh about it with. my colleagues and/or best friends would really help ease the stinging shame (that is totally not worth feeling!)

  27. Roseclef*

    I recently saw something on Twitter that said, try to remember a time something embarrassing happened to someone ELSE. You probably can only think of a few, and not with any real emotional resonance, because most people are primarily focused on themselves. Even 5 minutes after this happened, your colleagues’ investment in it had probably diminished by a huge amount. By this time next week, you will absolutely be the only person who still cares.

  28. very anonymous*

    if you want to pretend it didn’t happen, i would pretend along with you. i once accidentally full on flashed a friend’s husband in person. we do not speak of it ever.

  29. Britta Perry*

    This is not as bad of course, but on the second or third day after our transition to remote work, my camera (an external one, propped up on my desktop monitor) was knocked over by my cat…somehow it fell all the way to the floor behind my desk, and was suddenly showing a closeup of my BARE FEET to the 3 team members that I supervise. Instead of just turning off the camera, I panicked, yelled, “Don’t look at my feet!” and struggled to pick it up from behind the desk (and of course, that struggle meant that the team likely got some other not-so-flattering views for a few seconds there)…if that’s the worst that happens while we work from home, I will be glad.

  30. Elizabeth West*

    Oh nooooooooooooooooo D:

    I’m sorry your meeting became an SNL skit, but it will be okay. Considering the amount of people who are now using teleconferencing apps and are not used to them, I think everyone will have an I-or-a-family-member-flashed-on-Zoom story.

  31. Jam Today*

    When the smoke clears from all of this, there are going to be so many incidents that fall under the cone of silence. People’s ability to memory-hole things is underestimated, and as someone above also said: how much do you remember *other people’s* embarrassing moments? Rarely, if ever.

    1. BookishMiss*

      Also something to keep in mind, unless you’re the main presenter, usually your image on a videoconference is itty bitty. So that will make it so much easier for your colleagues (and you) to pretend no one actually saw anything, if you choose to go that route.

  32. Grbtw*

    So, trick I learned when dealing with embarrassing situations, don’t try to not think about it, it will keep coming back, take time to reflect, look at the situation rationally, be kind to yourself. Once you’ve faced it and made peace, laugh about it. If anyone approaches you about it in the future, tell you charge for that or some other joke, or, ask them if they continued to look, why didn’t you look away? Put it on them, they’ll never bring it up again. In a few years, this will be an epic work story you bring up over cocktails.

  33. PR Girl*

    Nothing to add, but just wanted to send you some love and support. The good news is there’s never been more compassion for things like this, and with everything going on, it won’t be what people remember. In the meantime though, I’m so sorry this happened and I’m sending you a virtual hug.

    Hang in there.

  34. Sarah H.*

    I know it’s cold comfort but this has pretty much happened in every office at this point. I was on a call the other day where one of my coworkers wives didn’t realize he was on Zoom and started undressing for a shower. I’ve also heard MULTIPLE similar stories from friends.

    We all know it easily could have happened to ANY of us so everyone has been understandably kind about it. Don’t beat yourself up. We’ll all have a story like this soon!

  35. Nananna*

    This might be off topic but I’m confused as to why so many people have video calls for work. All my calls are without any video whatsoever. I don’t see the point of a video

    1. A Poster Has No Name*

      My dev team has started asking people to turn on webcams for our standup on Wednesdays, just to have at least some “face to face” contact during this time. Most of us just turned them on while we were talking and left them off otherwise, which was fine.

      It was kind of nice to see what some of the full time remote people look like, to put faces to names, and I imagine they felt the same way about us.

    2. Kimmy Schmidt*

      For me, it helps to follow the conversation if there’s a lot of back and forth. Much of our communication is nonverbal, so it provides some of those cues. I can tell if someone looks confused or if they have any doubts. At my workplace, we often do a quick thumbs-up to show we’re in agreement without having to say so.

      If I’m in a meeting that’s more for receiving information than discussion, I generally don’t use my camera. But I like it for smaller meetings with more participation.

    3. miho*

      there really isn’t a need for video, but i do find it provides a nice human touch. i help run a toastmasters club at my workplace, and we’re currently doing all of our meetings via zoom. all the members agreed that having the video on, even if you’re not speaking, helps the speaker feel less awkward. being able to see your audience’s expressions also provides instant feedback to the speaker. plus, it’s just nice to see everyone when we’ve been out of the office for a little over a month.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Same–my Buddhist group from my former city has gone to Zoom group meditation sits instead of in-person, which means I get to see them and sit with them again (I asked to stay on the mailing list). Some folks don’t use video. Most of us do, so we can see each other. I won’t be able to participate the pandemic lets up and we can gather again. Hopefully, by then I’ll be settled in a new place and have found a group here.

    4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I understand why they’re a thing but that doesn’t mean it’s a thing I like. Yuck.

      I hate the phone enough, please don’t add video to it!

      1. Ariaflame*

        Oddly I prefer it with video to pure audio, I can do that little bit of unconscious lipreading that helps your brain process sounds and distinguish between similar ones.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          This is an excellent point and I now feel better with the video part.

          I’m not really warm and fuzzy enough [at the moment] to by “it adds personal touch!” BAH HUMBUG, I hate my voice on the phone and the delaysssssss” but yes, if it seriously helps people process even a little bit better without knowing it, I’m less crotchety.

  36. boop the first*

    Honestly, you sound kind of admirably care free! I have an actual cover on my camera, no communication apps open or microphones enabled, and even I won’t undress in front of my computer knowing all this. XD I was definitely one of those kids who felt uncomfortable undressing in my cousin’s room in front of all of her seemingly-leering boy band posters. Act cool about it, because you kind of are?

  37. anon for now*

    So I think the thing that will make this easier to get over is that it was clearly an accident, and one that everyone can empathize with.

    Whereas, pre-COVID, a story had gone around my industry about an intern who, during a video call, took her laptop with her to the bathroom. I assumed she at least *thought* she had turned off her camera, but apparently from the way she adjusted the angle it seemed that she knew it was on… while on the toilet… with audio on too…

    1. Curmudgeon in California*

      Oh, shiiiiiiit….

      I get nervous if I’m in the bathroom and have an audio call. I am very selective with the mute. Usually it’s the doctor’s office – their timing just sucks.

  38. A Poster Has No Name*

    (BRB, just going to slide the cover onto my webcam real quick)

    Man, it sucks so much when technology fails you in the worst possible way. I’d probably make a quick crack at the end of next meeting around hoping the meeting lets you hang up this time or something like that, but that might depend on the culture of your team.

    I think anything odd/embarrasing that happens on webcams during this time should officially be declared “things that never actually happened” in everyone’s minds, but that’s just me.

    1. TimeTravlR*

      This is why I keep post it on my camera. As soon as the video calls are over, that sucker goes right back in place. People used to laugh at me. Who’s laughing now?!?!?!?

      1. A Poster Has No Name*

        My laptop has a built-in slider now and it’s awesome. I don’t usually turn on video (mostly because my laptop with webcam is off to the side so people have a nice view of the side of my face), but our team asked us to this morning (webcam Wednesdays, I guess). I had not re-covered it after that meeting.

        1. Ariaflame*

          I tried covering mine with a note. Turns out at least late at night it affects the brightness of the screen, making it much darker. So could be a ‘save till not using it’ thing. Though I know some computers have built in shutters these days. From having a class where I didn’t realise that was why the web cam ‘wasn’t working’, though luckily I didn’t need my face for that class.

  39. BadWolf*

    Depending on what view people are using — not many people may have seen — or seen very well — if they have the speaker highlighted (versus a gallery type view). Or enough other team members, your video may not have been on screen.

    Anyway, this will be a fantastic story later that you should tell with much drama and arm waving.

  40. TimeTravlR*

    Not as bad, but I said SHIT! on a call this morning… I thought I was on mute. I was trying to run the presentation for the meeting and accidentally unmuted… Probably no one knew it was me. Probably.

    1. Curmudgeon in California*

      I’ve accidentally sworn at one of my cats during a call. Getting punctured does that.

  41. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    I’ll just say that I’ve #SeenALotOfShit over the years, including one time walking around a stack [outside stack so nobody starts getting extra-extra worried lol] and walked up on a guy taking a leak.

    When things like this happen, imagine the gif of Grandpa Simpson walking in, seeing Bart sitting there, grabbing his hat and exiting again. That sums everything up, leave it rest, leave it be. It’s over.

  42. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

    Last week Mr Gumption forgot that I had a video (rather than voice conference) call with my team. He woke up and came downstairs, butt nekkid, and was wandering around doing the morning routine. After about 15 minutes, he walked up to me to refill my cup and I turned to say, “Thank you” which turned into, “Holy f__k! This is a video call, put some goddamned pants on” while I scrambled to cover the camera. He was mortified, I was mortified, and I later sent a, “Sorry for the NSFW content on the last call” message to all the participants. No one has mentioned it since and Mr. Gumption has decided to wear pants any time he hears me on a call.

    1. Kimmy Schmidt*

      For some reason, this story combined with your username has me in TEARS. Mr. Gumption indeed!

    2. There’s probably a cat meme to describe it*

      Lol, if it weren’t for stay at home orders I’d be concerned that Mr Gumption and Mr Cat Memes may in fact be the same mister.

    3. old curmudgeon*

      I just read this aloud to Mr. Curmudgeon as a cautionary tale – once he stopped laughing (which took a while), he went into the bedroom and put on a pair of pants.

    4. Curmudgeon in California*

      Yeah, I worry about my wife deciding to get “comfortable” then wandering behind me. Fortunately, I wear headphones when on a call, so she can see that I’m “at work” and not give my coworkers a show.

  43. Sharkey*

    Last summer (when our webcams were new), my remote-working team had a team-building meeting. The first embarrassing thing that happened was that I managed to spill my completely full drink all over the floor and onto myself. I cleaned it up, and then decided I needed a dry pair of shorts. I left the home office, walked into my closet, and took off the wet shorts (listening on my wireless headset the entire time). Just then, someone said something and I wanted to see it on the screen, so I quickly walked back into the office with the clean shorts in my hand. And the camera still rolling.

    I think my face still gets red when I talk about it because it was so embarrassing. But! It was also so funny that I couldn’t resist telling some friends about it, and I even posted about it on Facebook that very night. It truly does help to just acknowledge it. Of course I got teased about it, but it died down soon enough. And periodically, my boss or one of my friends will make a passing reference to it. Everyone has their moments.

  44. Green Goose*

    I don’t think you should address it, unless if you want to. These things happen and they are awkward. About a year and a half ago we were in a large meeting, and similarly, the host and two other people decided to stay on to discuss another matter. One guy did not leave the meeting but did not realize he was still on and either brought his laptop into the bathroom or went to the bathroom with the door open and the laptop providing audio and visual. I didn’t see it but the host mentioned it (did not mention who it was). The host decided against bringing it up to the person.

  45. VV007*

    I don’t think you should be too embarrassed given how many stories are out there right now with video conferencing oopsies. I work in higher education and our whole campus does “Town Hall” type meetings where we get updates on various things and can ask questions to senior leadership. On one of the first of these meetings, someone had the bright idea to sing Happy Birthday to anyone that had a birthday that week. This would have been a great idea if they had just allowed those who wished to participate to unmute themselves. But no. The host unmuted everyone on Zoom. This included the very nice gentleman who was obviously not paying attention to what was happening and simultaneously playing a rather crude rap song… loudly. This meant those of us who were using “speaker view” (where it brings whoever is talking to the big square) got to witness this guy’s face get brought front and center every time the n word or b word was said in the song he was listening to. I could see the host desperately trying to mute but they must not have had speaker view turned on and could not figure out who it was, finally they just muted everyone again. We haven’t sung Happy Birthday since.

  46. Miss V*

    My company had a gym on campus and I like to work out in the mornings before work. The locker room is off one of the bathrooms. You need your employee badge to get into the locker rooms/showers. But the outlets for a hairdryer are in the actual bathroom area.

    You can probably see where this is going. I went to dry my hair, wearing just my towel and flip flops, and only once I was done did I realize I had left my badge in the locker room.

    I waited ten minutes and no one had come in to use the bathroom so I had to go slinking out into the hallway to find someone who’s badge I could borrow to get back into the locker room and get dressed. I had been at the company less than a month.

    I was MORTIFIED. If I had my car keys there’s every chance I would’ve just quietly ran to my car and left, never looking back, leaving no notice.

    Instead I found a coworker who was nothing but sympathetic and she never said a word to anyone, until I started telling the story as ‘hey, here’s this super embarrassing but funny thing that happened to me’.

    LW, I promise your coworkers are only thinking of how embarrassed they’d be in your situation. If you can find it in yourself to bring it up and gently rib yourself you may find it’ll make you feel less awkward, but if you can’t stand to bring it up I promise no one will think poorly of you.

    1. Roy G. Biv*

      If that ends up in a movie script, you know it was totally lifted from this site. It has screwball comedy written all over it!

  47. Chili*

    This hasn’t happened to me yet, but my partner and I have had some close calls since working from home full time now. We’ve implemented a “close all laptops before removing clothes” rule.
    I used to feel really paranoid about my slack status showing and “away” status to coworkers if my laptop was closed when I worked from home, but now that we’re all at home I think everyone is on the same page that it’s okay to be away from the computer every now and again.

  48. Specialist*

    OP, I want you to know that this is a really common experience. With time it can become a funny story.

    I once got my skirt stuck in my underwear after using the restroom. And I walked around that way, completely oblivious to the fact that my backside was showing. I actually did a consult with a patient that way. The poor patient would have had the full view, as I wash my hands before the exam. I tell this story to young students so that they know you can rise above these things.

    Anyone who does any more than a gentle joke and then forget would be a jerk.

    1. Third or Nothing!*

      Oh gosh I have done that so many times that I’ve just started checking the hem of the skirt every time I leave the bathroom.

    2. Blueberry*

      Heh, you might have been my doctor. When she turned around I said, “Um, your skirt…” and she reached back, felt it, fixed it, we both took a breath, and then proceeded as if nothing had happened.

      If that was you you were a very good doctor. :)

      1. TiffIf*

        Had to do the same thing with my high school English teacher in the hallway after she came out of the bathroom one time.

  49. Damn it, Hardison!*

    My boss walked in on me in the bathroom a few years ago. It was mortifying (for both of us) at the time, but honestly I had totally forgotten about it until this thread. In time you and anyone on that call will forget about it too.

  50. Kettricken Farseer*

    Just be grateful nobody posted the video anywhere! Someone posted a video of a guy who didn’t realize he was still on camera and he got up and everyone could see his boxers. He stretched and then put his hands down the back of his boxers to give his backside a really good scratch. He wasn’t on audio and couldn’t hear his teammates trying to get his attention. Finally someone called him on his cell to tell him, and he was immediately horrified and literally ran out of the room. And I still thought, “There but for the grace of God go I”

  51. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    I recall – when I was an IS/IT manager – a co-worker was exchanging e-mails with someone in another office – without getting into details – explicit discussion of the delivery of her baby AND follow up procedures.

    Instead of just sending it to one person – she accidentally sent it to 400 (all) of the company’s employees. We were in a remote office – but – the mail server in the office had just dialed up and tossed the mail (that’s how it was done in 1991) … and … well… she was embarrassed and mortified.

    Because my laptop looks out on the hallway – where the bathroom is – I keep my cam cover on at all times.

    Finally – from my radio days – past and future – we had an expression in the broadcast booth or on remotes = CONSIDER EVERY MIKE HOT!… watch what you say even when you think you’re in commercial or stand-by.

    1. Anonnington*

      Yes! When I had a work laptop and regularly conferenced with people, I kept a small piece of paper taped over the camera. I only removed it during meetings.

      Stuff does happen. Best to be safe.

  52. Aphrodite*

    One of the reasons I absolutely refuse to use video on Zoom. Nope, no way, no how. (Primary reason: the video distortion that makes everyone look hideous. I want to run screaming from the screen but take the more discreet step of covering the monitor with some paper to cover up the video unless someone is sharing their screen. And my camera is always covered with that correction tape anyway.)

  53. ThisTooShallPass*

    I once sent a very naughty text meant for my husband to my boss. It was mortifying, and hard to look him in the eyes for a few days. Lucky for you, you’ve already got this distance built in. In a short amount of time, the memory started to fade, and really has become a very funny story in my life. I agree with Alison that it helped me to talk about it with a few friends. And, one little trick I’ve done to keep my mind from replaying the same scenario for months on end is to actually say the things you would like to them, out loud, to yourself, if you feel too embarrassed to say something directly to them.

  54. Anonnington*

    If it were me, I would probably say something really briefly. I’d find come up with a good reason to email everyone and then add an apology about the app freezing.

    It sorks, but people do gossip, or just jump to incorrect conclusions. Plus there is the possibility that someone found it upsetting (for example, if they were intentionally flashed in the past or something like that). I would do a quick CYA addressed to everyone just to make sure everyone’s getting the same message – that it was a mistake.

    After that, yeah, move on and forget about it.

  55. Sarah*

    One of my older coworkers, who is new to Zoom, fully went to the bathroom on a video call last week. I admit that my coworkers and I got a good laugh about it that day and the day after, but honestly, I’ve pretty much completely forgotten about it at this point. The same will happen to you.

  56. Jean*

    OP I am so sorry this happened. I know you are mortified, but your coworkers all know and understand that it was not intentional. One day you will look back on this and laugh about the COVID Flashing Incident of 2020.

  57. Third or Nothing!*

    OH NO! Hon, if it’s any consolation, if that happened to me my teammates would think it’s the most hilarious thing that’s happened this month and joke about it for a while. There would probably be memes and references to that one poor soul who went viral for going to the bathroom on a Zoom call. And then they’d all forget about it until the next Christmas party when there would be a quick joke exchange and that would be that. Also sometimes it helps to own the hilarity of the situation from the start and make a joke about it to break the awkward ice and move on (but that of course is context dependent – it would go over really well in my office but wouldn’t in others).

    If it helps, perhaps think of this situation as a hilarious anecdote you will one day tell when then sting of mortification wears off. We’ve all done silly things in the past and will continue to do so in the future. No one is exempt from embarrassment.

  58. LPUK*

    I joined a previous company just after their big annnual sales conference in London. It was an overnight stay because of the lashings of free alcohol involved, and with most of the sales team in their twenties and early thirties there was bound to be gossip about what went on. I heard that one of the managers went to bed having stripped off their clothes, went sleepwalking and was discovered naked in a lift. Now that’s embarrassment for you… but no name was ever given and the tone of gossip was more in the theme of ‘ I’m glad that didn’t happen to me’ than ‘ such unprofessionalism’. Anyway it wasn’t until three years later that I found out, by accident, that the person it happened to was one of my female colleagues, highly rated, on the fast track and receiving promotions, highly regarded by every team she managed etc. So even her epically more embarrassing moment didn’t do her any harm . Which is to say, don’t worry about this at all. BTW I myself once flashed my team without even the excuse of video. I was at the front of the conference room, running a quiz from the beemer ( light projector) when I became aware that the answers were being projected onto my chest. Somewhat flustered I thought I’d cover them up… by lifting my top…! I survived that embarrassment too.

    1. BrightLights*

      A year after she moved on, I heard a story about our former CFO (large multinational company) from early in her career. After a similar event with lashings of free alcohol, she passed out, drunk and not very clothed at all, in the room of a male coworker, at a fairly stuffy five star hotel, because she somehow had gotten hold of his room key. The male coworker was NOT about to investigate whether or not the room key was still somewhere on her person. The only reason this was a story was that the male coworker had to go down to the front desk of, again, a five star hotel, while he was addled by similar amounts of alcohol, and convince the desk agent to give HIM a key to HER room so that he had somewhere to sleep that night that would not impinge on the CFO’s privacy under these circumstances.

      This was well before the CFO became the CFO so this also doesn’t appear to have significantly impeded her career.

  59. MM55*

    In the days before email, I typed a memo that stated “enclosed you will find one floppy di@k” instead of floppy disk. I am so glad I double checked my memo before mailing it to a multitude of people, as spell check did not see it.

  60. Thankful for AAM*

    I’m pretty sure that I did the same thing when I was multitasking by opening up a web meeting as I was getting dressed. I am pretty sure that my webcam was open!

    I also know that if I saw someone else do this, I would just ignore it. No need to quit!

  61. Engineer*

    A tip for OP, try and think of someone else’s super embarrassing moment from last month, last year, 5 years ago? You probably can’t, so no, you’re coworkers will not remember this after a few days.

  62. Adam*

    I had a coworker do something similar last week. She was mortified, sent out an apology email, and until I read this, I had forgotten it happened. I think this is the kind of thing that when it happens to you that you obsess and over think about, but for most of your coworkers they have enough going on in their own lives that they won’t even remember by next month.

  63. I Need That Pen*

    I’m currently digging for my emergency blazer and turtleneck to have on hand from now on. That said, if I saw someone partially dressed in their underoos, on a work from home call, I promise you I would forget it in a few days because trying to coordinate this when you haven’t before is still quite wonky. My sports bra strap made an appearance the other day, but my sweat pants remain anonymous.

  64. Sammi*

    You know, I saw online one of those clip things that you can put on your computer – it holds your phone. You put a cool picture on the phone, and the camera sees the phone. You are behind the phone and thus safe.

    I think I’ll go find that. My computer has a switch to cover the camera, but my work laptop does not…

  65. Quinapalus*

    Every team’s collective sense of humor is different, but if this were me — and most people I’ve ever been on a team with would do the same — I wouldn’t need to say anything, I’d just show up to the next meeting UNABOM-style, with sunglasses and a hoodie with the drawstring pulled tight to expose as little face as possible. I’d get a good laugh, the meeting would proceed as usual, and the Incident would only ever again be mentioned rarely over drinks, if at all.

  66. Gumby*

    At least yours was clearly an accident.

    Lowering the Bar currently has a story up entitled “Judge Asks Attorneys to Wear Shirts, Get Out of Bed for Videoconferences” and these are not casual team meetings – apparently some lawyer decided to go shirtless to a hearing. A hearing!

  67. BrightLights*

    I work in a company where we are all primarily virtual and we are all constantly on our webcams. I have seen naked children, naked spouses, a shirtless male coworker covered in sweat from the gym class he had just sprinted home from, and my coworkers’ bras when they were having hot flashes and didn’t hit the webcam off button before stripping off their shirts in frustration. Please note plurals.

    I work with professionals! I’m just sharing the range of experiences here to say that when you spend enough time on calls with humans at their homes, shit happens.

    The only time any of these things have ever come up again is to console an embarrassed coworker “don’t worry about it, this is not the first time and it won’t be the last, you’re not alone.”

  68. Beetle*

    I snuck out of the frame of an early morning whole-staff video call to put jeans on over the leggings I had slept in. But the jeans I put on were still damp from the wash so I had to take them off and find a second pair. Only afterwards, I realized that because of a mirror in my room, my pants-changing was visible in miniature on the screen! Nobody has said anything, and I don’t plan to bring it up, but you are not the only one!

  69. mgguy*

    I too wouldn’t sweat it in the current environment.

    This brings to mind two personal experiences, though, one that I did and one where I was on the wrong end of it.

    The first was back when I was in college. I spent a year in a small dorm room with someone who just was not at all talkative-we’d sometimes go a week without saying anything to each other(and not for my lack of trying, as I often won’t shut up). Twice in one week, I returned to the room, walked through the unlocked door, and got a full straight on view of him having some VERY personal time. I think it was made even more awkward that nothing was ever said/acknowledged of it, even though my first response on both occasions was to turn around, shut and lock the door behind me, and find somewhere to kill some time. I remember on one of the occasions hopping in my car, driving to Wal-Mart, and walking around the store for an hour :)

    The one that happened to me was not too terribly long ago. I live in a townhouse, and my bedroom has a couple of tall windows that overlook the back common area/courtyard or whatever you want to call it. My fiancé was in for the weekend, and we were enjoying shall we say a lazy morning complete a typical wardrobe-or rather lack thereof. After some other activities had ended, she asked me if it was snowing outside. Without really thinking, I hopped out of bed, pulled back the curtains to look, and gave my neighbor who was out with her dog more of a view than I’m sure she wanted to see(and with me “standing at attention” so to speak). I jumped back quickly. I saw the neighbor the next day, and she just jokingly said “Looks like you and (fiancé name) were having a good time.” I acknowledged that yes indeed we were, and apologized for doing that with the explanation that I was just checking the weather. This neighbor is a nurse, and she just laughed and said “I see worse in a day at work.” That was the end of that, and fortunately it’s been completely non-awkward since.

    When all of this craziness started, I use to dress for video meetings pretty much the way I would for an in-person one. As things have gone on, I slipped to usually wearing jeans(and usually one pair lasts me a week since I’m only wearing them around the house) then just to an appropriate shirt and sweat pants or even pajama pants. Now, unless it’s with someone I’ve not met before(I’m starting a new job in August, so have had a few meetings with people there) it’s usually a T-shirt or sweatshirt and pajama pants :) .

  70. Alb*

    The host of the video call also could have helped in this situation (with the software I use, at least), by cutting off the video or dropping the person from the call.

  71. mgguy*

    One other thing on blocking webcams-

    I’m a Mac user, and AFAIK every laptop made in the last ~10 years puts the ambient light sensor right next to the camera. Covering up the camera will usually wreak havoc on your screen brightness unless you go in and change it to full manual control.

    IMO, one of the best webcam designs ever on the market was Apple’s original firewire iSight camera, which looks like a little microphone. I have one on my work desktop(as I don’t have a screen with a built in camera) and it still work great even with the most current operating system even though the resolution is lower than current models. It has a physical shutter(that looks just like a camera iris) activated by a collar around the front of the camera that doubles as the on/off switch for the camera. When you twist it open, the lens physically uncovers(and it launches Facetime on newer operating systems). Closing it both blocks the lens completely and shuts off the camera. I wish they would make an updated version.

  72. OP*

    Just wanted to send a quick thanks to Alison for publishing this and to all of you for commenting. I was in a bad way the first couple days after this happened but all your reassurances really turned things around and now I’m joking about it with friends. Thank you all! The internet is a beautiful place sometimes.

  73. MCMonkeyBean*

    I don’t know if you’ll totally forget it but you’ll definitely stop thinking about it eventually!

    One time I apparently failed to lock a toilet stall door properly and my boss’s boss opened it and I was very mortified for a while… and I haven’t thought about it in ages until it just popped into my head while reading your story.

    I also fully agree that right now is the time people are most likely to be understanding of this particular type of embarrassment, and I don’t think there’s any need to talk to anyone else about it as I would bet they are probably also trying to forget it for your sake since they know that’s what they would want if they were in your shoes.

    My only recommendation that may help with peace of mind in the future is to get a camera cover for your laptop! One of those things that you put over the camera lens then when you are on a video call you slide it to reveal the camera. My company gave me one ages ago and I always keep it shut so I don’t have to feel paranoid that I accidentally left my camera on after a meeting.

  74. Saluki*

    I remember an awards ceremony in college in Illinois.- 41 years ago. A well-endowed woman received an award and gave a celebratory jump. What came out of her top was more than she planned. Some things are never forgotten. I still have a visual.

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