I saw a coworker’s husband naked on Zoom – should I say anything?

A reader writes:

So … the other day we had a full day Zoom meeting/training (~12 people from our company, including the boss and the trainer from outside the company). During the lunch break, the Zoom was still going on, but we were encouraged to go eat, stretch, etc.

I turned off my camera and mic, but stayed on my computer to do some unrelated tasks. My coworker attended the training from her en suite bedroom; she left the room but her camera stayed on, pointed directly to the bathroom. Her husband entered, unaware of the issue, got undressed, left the bathroom door opened, and took a shower. Afterwards, he walked around naked, putting deodorant, looking for clothes, etc., so the whole thing took around 20 minutes.

I am not sure if I was the only person who saw that — nobody commented or anything, and I am also unsure if I should say something to my coworker. Obviously, I don’t want to make things embarrassing for her, but she might be grateful for a notice. If it’s important, we’re peers, but she is much older and we have a polite working relationship, we’re not friends.

Ohhh noooo.


If your coworker had still been there herself, you could have immediately said something in the moment so she could have remedied the situation, but she wasn’t.

If a facilitator were still around, the best option would have been to message them and they could have turned off your coworker’s video feed. But if they weren’t … ugh.

As for what to do now, I think it comes down to whether the circumstances have a high risk of being repeated in the future. If you have regular Zoom meetings and she does them from that location, it’s worth letting her know so she can take more precautions in the future. In that case, I might send her a message saying something like, “Just a heads-up, when we broke for lunch your camera was pointing into your bathroom where your husband was getting ready. I figured you might want to turn it off during breaks in the future.” No need to say “AND HE WAS NUDE.”

But if it’s not a set of circumstances that’s likely to be repeated in the future, I’d lean toward pretending it never happened and wiping it from my mind.

What do others think?

{ 270 comments… read them below }

  1. The New Normal*

    Oh, my god… NIGHTMARE-inducing for the rest of anxiety-filled life. This is just… oh, god. Please do not tell her unless it might happen again. Though maybe the facilitator should be asked to disable EVERYONE’s camera and mics while on break. People can manually override if they are going to sit there.

    1. Heidi*

      Yes to forgetting it happened.
      Double yes for zoom moderators who know how to shut this kind of stuff down. Not just for situations like this, but also for zoom-bombing, noise in the background, etc.

      1. many bells down*

        I turned off someone’s camera once because he’d very clearly fallen asleep on the call. It was a public event so it was an attendee and not an employee, but still.

        1. Tidewater 4-1009*

          I’ve been in a couple of volunteer meetings where people were clearly falling asleep. One was a woman who must have had a long day, because she is normally alert and engaged. Nice that she still attended instead of taking a nap!
          The other was a man I hadn’t met before, sitting on a couch, who looked sleepy. A small cat came up the back of the couch and snuggled up next to his head. :) Shortly before the end he said good night.

    2. singularity*

      I definitely like the idea of having the facilitator disable mics and cameras automatically on breaks. Just to CYA. (Literally)

      1. Mama Bear*

        YES! People forget they are still “on” when they are not sitting at the computer. Or sometimes even when they are. I think a standard of “this is a break and we will turn off all inbound settings until we get back” is a good idea.

    3. WantonSeedStitch*

      This! Absolutely. There’s no need to leave it to chance, and this makes sure it won’t happen again without singling out this one coworker.

    4. knitter*

      My son’s elementary school principal has required that all students are placed in the waiting room during breaks. I think that’s a great policy for unintended stuff being picked up on video.

    5. Kes*

      huh, I’m a little surprised everyone seems to be on team don’t tell her. I get that it’s awkward but in this day and age, it is very likely she will have more zoom meetings and if she takes them in her bedroom, the risk is there. I would say something using Alison’s script

      1. Pocket Mouse*

        I’m with you on this. OP may know that it’s likely to happen again, but can’t be sure that it’s unlikely. I would really hope someone mentions it.

      2. Kahunabob*

        Yeah, I’d let my colleague know they’ve left their camera on. 9 times out of 10 it’s a laptop anyway, just close the lid if you’re away from the thing.

        Question on the side; if I lock my PC or laptop (windows key + L and whatever the Apple variant is), shouldn’t that also shut the camera off?

        1. Mr. Shark*

          I have a little piece of mail that is made out of card stock. I have it folded over, so I can manually just slide it over my camera when I’m not using it. That eliminates any chance that when I’m on a break it will still be active.
          Also, I think having a virtual background is highly underrated. I have a background of the ocean, so yeah, it sort of looks strange sometimes because it not my real room, but it prevents items not right in front of the screen from showing up in the Zoom meeting. You can even take a picture of your regular room and use it as a Zoom background.

          1. Need patrol*

            You can buy little sliding lenses covers that stick on. I always have mine closed unless I’m in front of the video feed.

              1. Mama Bear*

                My current computer has a built-in one but I actually like the bigger camera cover better – it’s more obvious.

          2. MayLou*

            I was at a meeting where the host had this, and it looked a little strange at times because there was a sort of halo around her head of space not covered by the background, so we could see the light fitting in the real room sometimes. Does anyone know what caused this? Is it because the background and the real room are similar colours?

            1. Arabella Flynn*

              More because the host and their surroundings are to close in hue or saturation. The virtual background depends on the computer to process the video and make an educated guess as to what’s person and what’s just room. It’s… not as smart as it thinks, sometimes.

              Professionals use green screens, since to modern camera sensors green is the brightest color that is not at all like a human. Back in the days of film and early video, blue was used for such “chromakey” effects.

      3. I'm Not Phyllis*

        I agree. Even if it’s not likely you will be on another zoom call with her, it is likely that she will be on another zoom call with somebody – and you don’t want her repeating this multiple times with nobody saying anything. If it was me, I’d appreciate the gentle reminder to turn my camera off when I’m away from my computer.

      4. Amaranth*

        I don’t think OP should single her out, just mention to the facilitator that family doesn’t always know when the camera is on during breaks so it might be helpful to turn off cameras during that time. I would personally probably mention seeing a couple of people half dressed/dancing to Lionel Richie/whatever and not put the focus on one person, because it could happen to someone else next week.

        1. Cathie from Canada*

          The humor writer Peg Braken in her manners book (I Try To Behave Myself) describes what etiquette would require if a male houseguest ever walks into a bathroom where a female houseguest is having a bath.
          The male guest is supposed to immediately say loudly, “Excuse me, Sir!” as he turns around to walk out.
          I’m trying to think of anything similar that the co-worker could say in the OP’s situation.
          But nothing comes to mind.

      5. JessaB*

        Yeh, I would totally say something, it doesn’t have to be detailled, but even “Look we can see x area when you’re on camera. You might want to move the camera angle.”

        Also, it’s unlikely since this was a one off but it could be that the husband knew. There have been times when others in the household want to mess with a person’s job. It doesn’t seem like that here, and there’s no indication that is what might be happening, but in another case it might, so I am firmly in camp “Have a supervisor privately talk to the person by phone.” Not text, certainly not video, not in a manner that it’d be memorialised in searchable data. Just a quick “we can see x. Thought you should know.” and matter of factly, don’t make something unnecessarily salacious out of it.

    6. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

      But I think there’s a reasonable likelyhood it could happen again since it seems that her standard ‘remote’ setup is in the bedroom.

      I take part in a lot of remote (Teams in my case) meetings in which there isn’t really a particular ‘facilitator’ who can turn off people’s video etc, we all just dial into the meeting as equal participants; but then it gets ‘adjourned’ for 15 mins for coffee etc and people (usually) just turn off their audio and video.

      One of the people I interact with often just leaves the video and audio on, but goes away (but I think he lives on his own) so it is a thing people do!

    7. ...*

      Idk I think they should tell her. Its pretty careless to leave live video feed pointed at the bathroom? Thats insanely careless.

    8. GreenDoor*

      I would actually sugges to the meeting moderator that they have everyone shut down on an extended break/lunch for this very reason. People use their breaks to do things they might not do at the worksite. I’m working from home with kids and a husband. He and I will smooch each other in passing, we vent (with swear words) about political news that comes out, we vent about soemthing annoying a coworker did, I have kids that like to take clothes off and walk around in their undies for fun. My gosh! The platform should be disabled during long breaks!

  2. LizABit*

    Yikes! This scenario makes me glad I work in the office.

    I think Alison’s script is the way to go if the probability of recurrence is high.

      1. Not A Girl Boss*

        I find bedroom-facing cameras so disturbing in general. I mean, I get that sometimes its the only room available.
        But my coworker has her wedding garter hanging from her bedpost, and my other coworker has an artsy nude pregnancy photo hanging above the bed. And it just feel like I’m violating their privacy even though I have no choice in the matter.

        1. AnotherAlison*

          That’s what the backgrounds are for. Let’s use them! Teams has a fake office one, and some of my creative coworkers took pictures of their real at-the-office offices and used that.

              1. PeanutButter*

                I take Zoom meetings from the bridge of the USS Enterprise 1701D. Actually I’m thinking it might be time to change it up, see if I can’t start taking them from Bag End or something.

                1. lilsheba*

                  Oh tell me how I can accomplish this that would be so cool! I’m using Teams though if that makes a difference.

                2. Chinook*

                  Teams has this option. When you are in a meeting, go to “More Actions” (the three dots) and then select “Apply Background Effects.”

                  Every day I meet my adult computer students from a different location that I have photographed.

            1. BethRA*

              I have the front desk of the Rosebud motel from Schitt’s Creek. If I sit the right way, the antlers in the painting look like they’re coming out of my head (I don’t use it for serious meetings).

          1. Kahunabob*

            We use Teams, but they’ve got a background option too. Probably not so professional, but I’m using a Star Wars Cloud City as background. Only video calls we have are with our own team, so no worries there.

              1. Quinalla*

                Backgrounds are a standard thing on teams, but you will likely need to download fun ones and figure out what folder to put them in – it depends on your Teams version, etc. but google got me there eventually!

              2. Clever username goes here*

                It is! If you click on the […] on the meeting taskbar, you can select “change background effect”. On a Windows PC, backgrounds are downloaded by the Teams client and stored within %APPDATA%\Microsoft\Teams\Backgrounds\Uploads. On a macOS, backgrounds are stored within the Microsoft Teams client folder ~/Library/Application Support/Microsoft/Teams/Backgrounds/Uploads. Hope this helps. :)

            1. lilsheba*

              I was just going to test this out on Teams when the whole microsoft system went out and right now teams isn’t functioning. Ah well.

          2. Birdie*

            One of my coworkers has a picture of his office that he sometimes uses as a background, and it threw me SO much the first time I saw it. To be fair, it wasn’t impossible for him to have gone in for the day – he can commute by car, unlike me, and he’s high enough up in the organization that he has access even if most people don’t – but still.

          3. Midwest Manager*

            I have never been able to get the background feature to work, not from my work computer, my laptop, or my iPad. I can find it in hte options, but the button is greyed out and not operational. I don’t know if it’s something to do with the institutional account my employer set up or what, but it’s frustrating

            1. MCMonkeybean*

              I would ask a coworker whether it’s greyed out for them too, and if it is then I would assume the company has made that option unavailable.

              1. BatManDan*

                Camera or video card isn’t sufficient to the task. I had to buy a new laptop to get the feature to work

          4. Cassie is still fine*

            Yes! I live in a small apartment and my bedroom is my workspace. But my Zoom background is usually some fabulous library or a historic building. I teach history so it’s actually been a great way to frame online teaching AND the students don’t have to see into my bathroom.

        2. Admin Always*

          I worry about this too! I have no choice but to use my bedroom and there’s nothing “suggestive” in my room but I feel very weird having my bed or closet in the background. I use the background blur feature but it still feels like I’m inviting coworkers into my bedroom. I keep black duct tape over my camera whenever I’m not using it for a video conference. It’s effective and I don’t have to worry that my camera is being accessed without my knowledge…I’ve already seen the “your mic is active” icon pop up when I’m not actually using it so I stay extra vigilant.

          1. Not A Girl Boss*

            I bought a littler sticker slider for over my camera for this same reason. I check it like 4 times to make sure its closed every time I leave my computer. Its also helpful for those (horrible, rotten) people who have Zoom set to automatically start cameras even when you have your computer set to not start cameras. I’ve had one too many close calls to trust the software to keep my camera off.

            I do prefer the backgrounds (not just blur) for this. I know Zoom and Teams has it. Sometimes they do weird things like make half your face go missing but… worth it.

            1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

              I use blue painter’s tape, it’s more sticky than a post-it but less sticky than almost every other kind of tape.

              1. On a pale mouse*

                I use an expired credit card folded into the appropriate angle. It’s heavy enough to stay put but easy to slide of the way. (You can’t read it, it’s just black at that distance, but it’s also not a currently valid number.)

            2. A Poster Has No Name*

              The nicest feature of the new laptops my company got for us is a built in cover for the camera.

              For my personal computer I have an Alexa branded sticky slider I got as swag at some point. My kids’ computer has a sticker.

              I use a Teams backround that looks like a much nicer home office than mine, as my office is also the kid’s playroom and there’s just a lot of crap behind me. Teams has some fun backgrounds, but I figure going more standard is less distracting, as much as I might want to put myself in Minecraft or on the beach or whatever.

            3. Aerialist*

              Work was giving away vinyl cling stickers to decorate our laptops a while back. I took an extra just to cannibalize it to cover the camera. I cut a small circle out of it and the sticker lives on top of the lens unless there is a specific reason someone needs to see me.

            4. Mr. Shark*

              Yes, I have a little card stock piece of mail that I have folded and then just manually slide it over my camera. It works perfectly. It’s not a sticker so it isn’t a problem removing it or adding it back on.
              I also am all for Zoom backgrounds. My desk is in my bedroom, and even if it was all nice and made all the time, and my cat wasn’t back there cleaning itself on a regular basis, it still feels rather personal, and doesn’t need to be broadcast to business associates.

              1. Marika*

                You can, as a ‘host’ set it to ‘start all cameras and microphones’, just as you can set it to ‘disable all microphones’ – my kiddo’s teacher loves the latter, and uses the ‘start all cameras’ to make sure the kids are, you know, actually THERE…

                1. Chinook*

                  Not all Teams, though. I don’t think our company has sprung for that option. I can turn off everyone’s mics, but not turn them back on (which can be frustrating when a student is still learning how to use said computer and is muted when he asks the question).

          2. many bells down*

            I have *a* bed behind me but it’s not my bedroom, it’s a guest room. So I have it made up like a couch and you can only see the very top of the back pillows from my camera angle anyway.

            1. TL -*

              A director of a very prominent medical school I work with occasionally did a Zoom broadcast from his bed (he was just giving intro) and we were like… dude… and he goes, “Oh, I didn’t think you’d be able to tell.” We got organizational Zoom backgrounds after that.

              We live in interesting times.

          3. alienor*

            I also have to use my bedroom, but I have the camera angled so you really can’t see anything except part of my bed and the wall on the other side of the room (and usually a couple of napping pets). I do make sure to close the ensuite bathroom door so the toilet isn’t on full view, though–that does seem like a little too much.

      2. Anonymooose*

        Ding, ding, ding, ding!

        Right here! Face the camera to a wall people!

        We have threatened our two sons with termination of all video games for LIFE if they so much as move their laptops 1 millimeter from where they currently are which is with the camera facing directly on a BLANK wall. I work with my back to a blank wall and so does my husband (when we work at home).

        One dingbat parent at my son’s school actually suggested they have all the kids walk through their house for show and tell.

        omg…I wanted to reach into the Zoom screen to throttle her.

        1. Deliliah*

          I can’t face my camera to a wall. I managed to cram a desk into my NYC bedroom in an intense game of furniture Tetris and there is nowhere else for it to be.

          For the first couple months of the pandemic, I worked from my BED so my camera definitely showed that, but it was literally the only option I had, given my roommate situation. I was finally able to save up the cash to buy a desk/chair.

          1. HarvestKaleSlaw*

            NYC. Yeah – thank goodness for Zoom backgrounds, because one of us is going to be calling from the bedroom and the other from the room that is not the bedroom – but is also a bedroom….

        2. Quinalla*

          Yeah, face a wall if you can, consider a background or at least blur your background if you can’t. And ALWAYS turn your camera off when you get up from your desk. No one wants to see you stand up, walk away, come back and sit down and they definitely don’t want to see your spouse naked or your kids antics and so on while you are away!

          And yeah, I’m with you on wanting to throttle people that suggest kids walk around the house, NO THANK YOU, I teach my kids to NOT show off stuff in our house whether it is mess, items someone might want to steal, or just stuff that is private, etc. I didn’t invite the entire classrooms and everyone I and my husband work with over to our house :) and if I did I would have cleaned it up much better than it is right now.

          Side note: I am exhausted being in my house near 24/7 with my family, I am ready for this to be DONE.

          1. Tarso Infirma*

            I have it easy, and know it, (a desk, a chair, space, no kids at home, a husband who brings me coffee) but feel for those who do not. If I had to work where my family was living I would be much much crankier than Quinalla. People have options and don’t use them and then complain…pet peeve.

          2. Be Understanding*

            Not at all – people are private. Some people are gossipy – especially in small towns. I absolutely would not want the rest of a classroom to know how big (or small) my TV is, what the furniture is like in my home or what my kitchen looks like. I haven’t invited randoms into my home for a reason.

            I had 1, one!, unmade morning teenager walk into a corner of the background of ONE meeting and my boss won’t let it drop – like we regularly permit the family to run around in states of uncleanliness or as street urchins. Plus he didn’t get their gender correct and its a bit much each time he brings it up. So yah – no one gets a window into my house unless I have invited them.

        3. Zombeyonce*

          Not everyone has that option. My desk is crammed into my bedroom and I’m practically sitting in my bed because I’m in a house with a bunch of other people so space is limited and otherwise the kids would be all over me all day long. I even have a special childproof lock at the top of the door just to keep them out as it is. I use a fake background so people can’t see my room but regularly get the “consider turning off your background because your computer is about to explode from the extra work it’s doing to support it” message, so that’s not always going to work. My coworkers are probably going to see my bed at some point even if I don’t want them to. We’re all doing the best we can, Anonymooose.

    1. Daffy Duck*

      I use a sticky note over my camera. It stays on all the time and I only take it off for meetings where we need to have video on.
      For the times the sticky note is off I use a background from the Zoom website. You don’t need a greenscreen or anything to use a background although it works a bit better if my shirt isn’t the same color as the background I pick.

      1. Carlie*

        It depends on your computer’s graphics card. I have a one year-old fairly high end laptop, but it can’t use virtual backgrounds without a green screen because all the bells and whistles are optimized for business use and in the Before Times, the camera/graphics quality wasn’t considered to be a business need.

        1. Metadata minion*

          Yeah, I can use backgrounds on my work computer but not my personal computer (which isn’t new but isn’t *that* old and still works fine otherwise).

  3. juliebulie*

    Say it exactly the way Alison said it. If you say more, there is a good chance that your coworker will think that you were looking at her naked husband for 20 minutes (which is what it sounds like, even if that’s not really the way it was).

    1. AnotherAlison*

      It’s definitely a little suspect that the OP knows what transpired after the husband entered the room. Minimize the call, log out of the session, something!

      1. Horse Girl*

        Right!? She knew he got undressed, showered, put on deodorant, and looked for clothes? One glimpse of someone’s naked husband and I would not have looked at that screen again until I heard the host come back.

      2. NoviceManagerGuy*

        That struck me too, once you know there’s an unsuspecting naked person, close it out right away.

      3. Pennyworth*

        If there several other people on the Zoom call OP probably wasn’t the only observer of nude husband. If she uses Alison’s script she will demonstrate to her coworker that she can handle an awkward situation tactfully.

    2. Annony*

      Yep. If you do feel the need to say anything (which I highly recommend you do not), just say that he entered the room and started to get undressed. Because that is when you should have minimized the video.

  4. Elenia*

    I would definitely not say a thing. Goodness. I might just ask the training people politely to remind people to shut off their cameras, etc.

    1. Sara without an H*

      This is probably what I’d do, but then, I always disengage the video unless I’m actually participating in the meeting. (And come to think of it…why didn’t OP do that???)

  5. Rainy*

    I would absolutely never reveal that such a thing had transpired. Oh my god.

    But on a break, maybe…remind everyone to turn off their video?

  6. Specks*

    Ugh what a nightmare for the husband, whose privacy was so egregiously violated! Maybe suggest that the company automatically turn off all cameras and mute everyone during breaks, or remind people to do it themselves?

  7. MmmmmmMMMmm*

    If I were the co-worker with the naked husband, I would want to know. Its embarrassing, but assuming she’s reasonable, she can make sure it doesn’t happen again.

    (Also, cool, this submission is my own nightmare come to life).

    1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

      Ohh!! That’s a good question! If it was recorded then the coworker should know and of course the session manager. YIKES!

      1. Ginger*

        That’s a great point.

        I will say though, my boss will often stop sharing and instead show a screen with all of our video feeds so we see everyone twice (our own screen plus his – not sure if I’m clearly explaining this) and it does record everyone that way. But it’s super specific thing that most people don’t do.

        which is all great news for everyone involved.

        1. Ginger*

          BUT… sorry, I just thought of this. If the coworker left her mic on and hers was the only one with sound going, wouldn’t it show her video feed as she was the one “talking”?

          I’m overthinking this.

          1. Admin Always*

            That’s how I’ve seen it work if a desktop isn’t being shared. This is the stuff of my nightmares. I hope the break wasn’t being recorded.

      2. Mel*

        Gallery view is also usually being recorded, even if people mostly share speaker view or host view.

        Source: I do virtual memorial services on Zoom and we record both speaker and gallery view and send to the families. We announce that the event is being recorded at the beginning.

    2. Engineer Woman*

      This is what I wanted to comment on. The time has passed to say anything. I would have called the coworker and perhaps even texted as in “your webcam is still on, please turn it off ASAP!” right when you started noticing her husband.

      In the future, perhaps remind everyone to turn off their cameras and microphones when away on breaks. But I can’t see how it’ll be helpful now to let your coworker know what happened.

    3. A Poster Has No Name*

      I don’t have the cell phone numbers for pretty much any of my coworkers to be able to call them, and calling an office line would just go to the computer anyway (at least at my company, unless someone has their cell in as their phone number in Teams instead of their Teams phone number).

      1. AnotherAlison*

        If you could call on Teams, though, maybe the husband would have heard it and at least closed a door.

      2. Ginger*

        I hear ya. I think I would have called the manager then and said something like shut down cameras or call the coworker since presumably they would have their contact info.

    4. Joielle*

      Or at least send a chat or an email! Anything that might make an alert noise that would hopefully cause the coworker to go back to the computer. A while ago I was in a meeting that went on break and my boss had forgotten to mute. I messaged her immediately (which she was grateful for) and I hope she would do the same for me!

      1. Paulina*

        Idea in hindsight: turn your mic back on, have a brief loud conversation supposedly with someone on your side (eg. about being on break from the session, let me just turn it off), hope this gets the attention of the unwitting husband. (Or just say directly that the camera is still on.) Wouldn’t work if the coworker was using headphones, though.

    5. Hiya*

      I have as wondering how OP knew exactly what he was doing for the whole TWENTY minutes without turning her monitor or contacting the leader etc. instead they watched the whole time. Even though it was the co-workers fault for leaving on the camera on and not telling her husband OP crossed so many bounds by continuing to watch. If this had been a female and a make co-worker kept watching there would be repercussions

      1. Bob*

        If this was a man watching a woman get dressed for 20 minutes it would be taken a lot worse. Just look away people!

      2. Insert Clever Name Here*

        There are several comments from different people here on how OP could have seen everything listed without sitting there for the whole 20 minutes staring. Let’s also give Alison some credit — if she got a read that this was oogly territory and not “ah crap!” 2 second glances, she’d have responded in the oogly vein and not the “ah crap” one.

    6. MCMonkeybean*

      Yes, this is what I want to know cause that would make it a definite “you HAVE to tell someone.” Probably the host I would think.

      At my office we definitely would have recorded a meeting like this, but hopefully if they had a long break in the middle they would have stopped the recording and then started back up after everyone returned?

  8. Not A Girl Boss*

    Ugh, no no no.

    I wouldn’t tell the coworker. The chances are so low of this specific instance happening again that its not worth the mortifying conversation for all involved.

    Also, this is why I bought a camera cover and am anal about remembering to flip it closed every time I walk away from my computer. I’m a millenial, but I’ve learned the hard way not to trust that a camera is off just because I thought I turned it off.

    1. Pocket Mouse*

      Wait, you’re saying it’s okay to let the coworker continue on as she has been… aren’t you glad you were able to learn the lesson after the actual number of incidents it took for you to learn the lesson, and not more? It sure seems like you appreciate knowing the possibility, however slim, is there so that you can prevent it with certainty.

  9. A Poster Has No Name*

    Man, I am suddenly way less concerned about the occasional cat butt making an appearance on my video.

      1. an infinite number of monkeys*

        I’ve been taking lots of minutes from online meetings lately, and always make sure to capture ALL participants’ commentary!

        Mind you, these have all been front-end vocalizations, so far.

        1. Reed*

          The minutes read something like ‘Reed gave an update on the work her team were doing from home. At this point Reed’s cat attacked her laptop and interrupted the presentation.’

          What the wretched fluffbutt did was take a flying leap onto the keyboard and attack the mouse. Everyone got to see me shriek, followed by a brief interval while their screens were filled with Various Angles of Cat while I unhooked her from the cables and she resisted.

  10. The Happy Graduate*

    I agree with Alison – if she ALWAYS zooms from that location it may be kind to privately email her and let her know without making it obvious what you saw. Otherwise it’s better to pretend it never happened because then you’re just stressing and embarrassing someone unnecessarily.

    1. Mama Bear*

      I think a very careful head’s up that her camera is pointed at the bathroom where people are in view when they get ready for the day is not out of line. It is not the same (we don’t use video) but I have often sent my coworkers an email or IM reminding them that we can all hear them if they forget to use mute.

  11. Cassidy*

    If it’s likely to be repeated, I’d just lightly say to everyone, “Hey, don’t forget to turn off your cameras when we break.”

    If it’s likely a one-time thing, I’d let it go, as it doesn’t rate the same as “You’ve got ‘x’ on your ‘y’,” which I know I’d want to be told, privately, no matter what.

    1. allathian*

      I think remembering to turn cameras off for a break would be prudent in any case, whether or not this specific thing is likely to happen again.

  12. PollyQ*

    I’m disturbed that OP seems to have kept watching, rather than trying to call out through the mike, or even just close or minimize the windows.

    1. JustKnope*

      We don’t know that for sure! We need to give the OP the benefit of the doubt here, that they were not creeping on the husband.

      1. NoviceManagerGuy*

        I think we can fairly say that OP was not acting with appropriate respect to the man’s privacy. OP knew when they were needed back in the meeting and should have stopped looking as soon as they saw a problem.

      2. PollyQ*

        She described his actions in some detail and also how long it took, so I think we do know that she continued watching. She also didn’t say that she tried to alert him in any way. Whether she was deliberately “creeping” I can’t say, but it seems pretty clear that she didn’t try to “avert her gaze.”

        1. Insert Clever Name Here*

          Or she, like, immediately minimized the meeting and checked back later to see if Susan had rejoined because she wanted to ask about the TPS reports and OH DEAR GOD now Jane’s husband is looking for clothes MINIMIZE AGAIN…

          It would be really strange to spend 20 minutes watching someone like this and then *write into an advice columnist about what to do next*.

          1. Esmeralda*

            Why keep checking back? It’s lunch break. Get off the meeting and rejoin 5 minutes before it starts back up.

          2. PollyQ*

            Well, perhaps. It certainly might have happened that way. But there have been plenty of people who’ve written in to AAM without realizing that their behavior was problematic.

            1. Ramona Q*

              Knowingly watching something that you then write into an advice columnist about how to handle is not doing something “without realizing their behavior was problematic,” Polly.

      3. Yvette*

        “Her husband entered, unaware of the issue, got undressed, left the bathroom door opened, and took a shower. Afterwards, he walked around naked, putting deodorant, looking for clothes, etc., so the whole thing took around 20 minutes.” 20 minutes is an awful long time. I would have shut down or minimized at the first sign of undress.

      4. Hiya*

        They knew play by play what happened. Putting on deodorant, wandering around. OP definitely watched and it was super inappropriate

        1. The Hon. Catherine Bingley*

          When you hear a shower running, do you need to have watched the person undress to know that’s what happened? Or do do you know they undressed because that’s what people do before they shower unless they’re Tobias Funke?

    2. Alison*

      I have been wondering this whole time why OP didn’t try to warn the husband though the computer mic that he was on camera? Assuming the coworkers video was still running the speakers should also have been on and the husband could have been spared. That’s how I would have reacted the moment clothes started coming off.

      If I were the husband I would 1000% want to know that this incident was not caught on video and therefore I would want to know it happened.

      1. juliebulie*

        Wouldn’t that be tantamount to drawing attention to it for everyone within earshot of the call? You’re in the next room, eating a sandwich, you hear voices coming out of your laptop, you run over to check, and there’s your coworker’s naked husband. No, please don’t. It would only make things worse. Husband might not even be able to hear. The speakers could be muted. Headsets could be plugged in.

      2. alienor*

        I don’t know about anyone else, but I would be scared to the point of passing out if I were getting undressed, seemingly alone in my own home, and a disembodied voice said ‘I CAN SEE YOU.’

      3. lawerj*

        Yeah, I probably would have tried to say something as I minimized the window = “Hey there, you in the bedroom. The camera is still on!”

  13. Mer*

    I wouldn’t say anything to your coworker, but maybe for the next meeting you could say something to the facilitator like, “If we’re going to take a break, could you encourage people to stop sharing their video and mute if they’re going to leave their computer? Just so we don’t see/hear anything private.”

    1. merp*

      This is kinda what I was thinking, yeah. Set it as a general practice from the outset via those leading the meeting.

  14. AnonED*

    If you had immediately logged off, you might be okay saying something. But, why on earth, did you continue to watch to this extent? You had the choice to walk away from the computer for the rest of the break. If I were your co worker, I would be really uncomfortable that you essentially (inadvertently) spied on my unknowing naked husband for 20 minutes without texting me or something.

      1. valentine*

        If you had immediately logged off, you might be okay saying something.
        OP can still say something. They don’t have to repeat the play-by-play or clock. (I do appreciate that it’s in the letter, though.)

    1. JerryTerryLarryGary*

      Yeah. Minimize that window already. I would not include the level of detail you did here if you say something.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I said this below, but that’s a really uncharitable reading. There’s nothing to indicate she was just ogling the husband the whole time. Maybe she needed to stay at her desk for other reasons and occasionally saw it was still ongoing.

      1. Arctic*

        I think LW should realize that this is going to be most people’s reaction in the real world, though.

        I understand not chastising her here. But it would be uncharitable to let her raise it without warning her that most people are going to ask her why she continued to watch.

        1. Myrin*

          “In the real world”, I doubt OP would mention anything even close to a timeframe. If my coworker told me that hey, she could see my naked husband while I took a break from our virtual meeting, it would never occur to me to think that she sat there and ogled him for an extended amount of time (for the record, I don’t believe OP did that, I’m just using the most uncharitable reading of her letter); I’d think she saw a glimpse of his naked self and promptly closed the window.

        2. Batgirl*

          I think people have a ‘flee’ or ‘close door’ response in the real world. In the virtual world, maybe it should be a ‘shut it down’ reflex but I don’t think we’ve all developed that reflex yet. We’ve developed an ‘expect to see domesticity’ feeling which probably makes us too relaxed, but I don’t think we remember the flee response that comes easier when its physically real. Until someone’s naked.

      2. Hiya*

        I disagree. Even if you had to stay at your desk you should minimize the zoom call. Knowing the play by play means it was being watched.

      3. aunt bop*

        The fact that she has a play by play on what the man did for TWENTY MINUTES sure sounds like ogling to me.

      4. EventPlannerGal*

        I mean, if she knew how long the lunch break was supposed to be (which I can’t imagine she didn’t) she could have just minimised or closed the window and not opened it again until the break was over. It’s not like how in an office you can just occaionally see stuff happening out of the corner of your eye, you do need to have the Zoom window open in order to see what’s happening. I’m not trying to tell OP off or be uncharitable but if she does bring this up in any way to anyone I think she she really should not mention the timeframe or details because I think it does sound quite odd on her part.

  15. Veryanon*

    “AND HE WAS NUDE” legitimately received a LOL from me.
    In all seriousness, I think I’d have to give her the heads up.

  16. HR Bee*

    Ahh! This is so anxiety-inducing. I agree that unless this is likely to continue to please not say anything. But oh my goodness.

    This immediately made me think about the background of my computer. I have a home office, but now that I think of it, behind me is my bookshelf and I primarily read paranormal romances or other sci-fi, mystery type books. I now feel like I should move my old textbooks from the bottom shelf to the middle ones.

  17. garibaldi*

    It is disturbing to me that the OP stayed on the call for 20 MINUTES watching this, when they could have immediately closed the session or left the room until the call was due to start again?

    OP, it seems like you didn’t have to watch this and I’m really not sure why you did.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      It’s odd to me that so many people are assuming the OP sat there intently watching the entire time. I don’t know why she didn’t close the session, but reading it, I assumed that she kept checking back to see if it had been fixed. I don’t have the phone numbers to call or text any of my coworkers (except one) so I probably wouldn’t have been able to do much other than be horrified.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yes, thank you. Or she needed to stay at her desk for other reasons and occasionally saw it was still ongoing. There’s nothing to indicate she was creepily watching the husband the whole time.

      2. Insert Clever Name Here*

        It would also be odd to intently watch this and then go “alright, now I email a work advice columnist to see my next steps.”

      3. Slugbug*

        Agreed, the only thing I could have done in the situation was minimize the window and check back occasionally to see if it was safe. I could have messaged the coworker on the side through my work IM but that wouldn’t have helped if the coworker wouldn’t have seen it until they got back anyway.

        1. MCMonkeybean*

          But for real, why check back occasionally at all? Everyone is on a break and was encouraged to leave the computer so there should be nothing to see until the lunch break is over. Even if you want to be on the computer there’s no reason to have that window open at all. Once clothes started coming off that window should be totally shut or minimized and not opened again until it’s time for the meeting and I can’t think of a single reasonable reason to “check if the problem is fixed.” What would that accomplish? And you know there’s a chance that it *hasn’t* been fixed and that you would be one again looking at some naked dude who doesn’t know he’s on camera.

          1. Zillah*

            I mean, I feel like flustered people don’t always have the most logical reactions, and that’s understandable – or OP hid the window but had it pop back up with an accidental click or when they minimized something else. I mean, it definitely sounds a bit off to me, too, but I think there are more charitable explanations.

          2. nonegiven*

            If its coming on my screen, I’m allowed to watch. Turn off your camera if you don’t want me to see it. I would have probably watched, not intently or constantly but as I was doing whatever else I was doing.

      4. garibaldi*

        I understand not reaching out to the coworker in the moment (I don’t have contact info for many of my coworkers, either). However, even if the OP was watching for 20 minutes straight, it seems they did have the flexibility to minimize the window, or come back to the room once the break was over.

        1. always a nurse*

          As a long, long, long term nurse, I’m not sure I would have even really registered that he was naked. Naked is normal for showering and dressing, so it wouldn’t have seemed out of context to me. I would have minimized the window and thought “Oh, boy, he’ll be embarrassed if he ever found out, so I’m not going to say anything and then he won’t be embarrassed.”

      5. KR*

        Yeah, I agree here. I think if I didn’t have my coworkers phone number I may have called the meeting organizer or maybe unmuted myself to say “Hey Mr Johnson – cameras on!!” but with the latter I would be worried it would call attention to the issue. I think we as commenters need to allow for the fact that sometimes shocking things happen and people just don’t know what to do – that’s why they write into Alison and ask for help!

        1. A Poster Has No Name*

          Yeah, I was thinking about this and I can see the OP being frozen in a kind of ‘OMG what I do am I really seeing this?’ kind of situation. Or trying to find a way to resolve it without causing more attention and embarrassment to the situation (a coworker and I were in a similar spot once where a coworker across the table had a button undone and we were both trying to figure out how to let her know without drawing everyone’s attention to it (depending on the angle, not everyone likely noticed it) and adding to the embarrassment). I’m sure the OP is kicking themselves about it now, but we also don’t know that they didn’t try to call or message the coworker or facilitator but everyone was on break and not paying attention.

          As for trying to send a message to make the computer make noise, I have headphones plugged into my computer so no audio would come from there, and the coworker quite reasonably could have had a headset plugged into her machine, too.

          1. KR*

            Yes! And I know for the meetings I’m in at least if I left my desk and heard someone call out I would hurry back to see if I’m missing something. I’d worry if OP called out, people would check the Zoom to see what’s going on and then everyone would see what’s going on

          2. EvilQueenRegina*

            And if he was in the shower, while the water was running that would have most likely drowned out any attempt by OP to get his attention too.

        2. garibaldi*

          True, I appreciate that point of being totally shocked in the moment and not knowing what to do. My interpretation of the situation was based on this sentence:

          “Her husband entered, unaware of the issue, got undressed, left the bathroom door opened, and took a shower. Afterwards, he walked around naked, putting deodorant, looking for clothes, etc., so the whole thing took around 20 minutes.”

          It seems that OP had a pretty detailed run down of what the man was up to, which is why I think she could have closed the window until the host came back, or stepped away for the duration of the break.

          1. Elenna*

            Not necessarily? I could see OP staring in horrified unable-to-look-away shock briefly as the husband started showering, and then maybe not knowing what to do and then checking back a couple times like “he must have noticed by now, surely??” and seeing glimpses of deodorant, clothes, etc.

            1. Myrin*

              Yeah, I don’t think that’s a lot of details at all to fill a twenty-minute-occurrence.

              OP has the video open on the side of her screen and sees husband walking in and undressing, clearly unaware of his wife’s still active camera. She is shocked and minimises the window. She checks to see a few minutes later to see if the camera was turned off and sees the open bathroom door with the lights on, maybe even the shower itself. She minimises the window again. Ten minutes later, she checks again, and sees husband walking around, seemingly looking for clothes while putting on deodorant. She minimises the window yet again.

              Bam, that’s all it takes.

              It would also be awfully strange of her to describe her peeping pleasures to an advice columnist and ask for guidance. I mean, I guess stranger things have happened and all but the way the letter is written doesn’t come across like a voyeur’s fantasy at all.

                1. MCMonkeybean*

                  I honestly just don’t understand this view though. I’m not trying to suggest OP is some kind of deviant monster; I think a lot of very reasonable people could easily get caught up in rubbernecking a train wreck that for many of is our literal nightmare. But I truly don’t think there is any valid reason to “check back” periodically other than morbid curiosity. If the issue hasn’t been fixed then you are one again looking at your coworker’s naked husband, and if it *has* been fixed then you are just looking at nothing. What is the value there? The risk of scenario one is much too high in my opinion to think it’s a good idea.

                  Again, I am not trying to come down hard on OP and I honestly have no idea what I would have done in that situation. But I think it is clear cut that what *should* be done if you can’t turn off their video for them is to shut the window and not look again until you have to get back on for the meeting.

                2. Zillah*

                  @ MCMonkeybean – I think, though, that saying “this isn’t the logical way to act” isn’t super helpful, because people don’t always act in logical ways, especially when they’re surprised or flustered.

        3. Cassidy*

          “…maybe unmuted myself to say ‘Hey Mr Johnson – cameras on!!’”



      6. Third or Nothing!*

        Mmhm. She could also have been checking in to see if the moderator was available to message and get the camera feed shut off remotely. We just don’t know because she didn’t say.

  18. That Girl from Quinn's House*

    This reminds me of that school district in Florida that reminded parents that they needed to be fully dressed (not naked or in their underwear) and not drinking alcohol or smoking marijuana in the background of their child’s Zoom classroom, due to the number of naked, blunt-smoking, beer-chugging parents turning up in kindergarten “classrooms.”

    It also reminds me of the hundreds upon hundreds of indignant comments attached to the bottom of said news article saying that it’s their house and they’ll do whatever they want in it…

    1. singularity*

      I’m a teacher and I use Zoom for class with high schoolers (15-16 year olds, specifically) and I’ve already had multiple coworkers this year get purposefully flashed on Zooms by parents, students older siblings/cousins and by students themselves. We are required to record all of our meetings, as a security precaution. It’s considered assault in our state to flash someone, even if it is over Zoom. So that’s a new and fun aspect of my job I never had to deal with before now. :(

      1. A Poster Has No Name*

        OMG, that’s awful. So, do they have to report the students when they get flashed (even if it’s by a family member)? I would assume it would be similar to having a student flash them in person. At least I would treat it that way. Teachers have it hard enough without having to deal with that crap.

        1. singularity*

          Students get reported to the police, and a clip of the video is provided as evidence, and it’s submitted to our on campus police officer who works for the local department. If the flasher is a person in the student’s household, teachers fill out a police report and include the video clip so that the department can investigate the identity of the flasher (if it wasn’t the student). Most of the time it’s a family member (parent/grandparent/cousin/uncle/sibling, etc.) and once or twice it was a family friend or roommate living at their house. Even with all the extra precautions (waiting rooms, muting mics, disabled chat features, etc) they manage to do it. :(

        1. singularity*

          I don’t think so, because it’s legally treated as the student sexually assaulting the teacher, even if the student is a minor. Most of the cases have been pretty clear cut, from the details shared with me. (As in, the student turned their camera on long enough to flash the teacher and other students in the room, scream obscenities and laugh, and log off.) There have been accidents, of course, with people in the background not realizing the camera was on, but the cases involving police reports were obvious assault.

  19. Slugbug*

    You 100% need to check and see if that meeting was recorded. If it was, I think you’re obligated to let your coworker know so that it can be cut from the recording so no future coworkers watching the recording get confused as to why there isn’t a rating on their training videos.

  20. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

    I’m surprised at the number of comments saying not to tell the co-worker. If I were the co-worker I’d want to know it happened so I could avoid it in the future, especially since they’re working from their bedroom.

    1. Granger*

      Yes, please! Briefly is fine, but goodness, please, please tell when there is a zipper down, buttons aligned, something in the teeth or on the face – PLEASE. It’s embarrassing for both of us, but so much better than discovering it later.

  21. Atlantian*

    It’s definitely possible that she can’t tell the extent to which her camera shows the bathroom when her body is not taking up most of the frame. It would be kind to e-mail her and tell her that more of her home is visible when she is not in front of the camera than she probably intends and leave it at that. No need to mention seeing anything other than “Hey, just FYI, when you’re not sitting in front of the camera, it shows into the bathroom.” And leave it at that.

    1. selena*

      I was thinking the same thing: when she sees herself on screen it probably doesn’t show much of the bathroom, and it’s likely she didn’t realize the full viewing angle when she’s not in frame.

      If it’s a laptop she might also have shoved it backwards during the break, which could have added to the Unintended Consequences.

    2. Insert Clever Name Here*

      Yeah, absolutely. I spent a not-insignificant amount of time arranging a bookcase that’s over my shoulder to look nice on video calls (not on work time, for anyone getting huffy). The next day I logged into a video call and it was completely behind me because of my camera’s angle.

  22. Lora*

    I agree with Alison, I feel like you MUST say something to be sure she knows, hey, gotta close the laptop when you’re not there. And also so hubby knows, hey, if there is a computer in the room, for the love of god check that it is in fact turned off before getting too personal.

    I would say something directly, phrased like, “hey colleague…the other day during the Zoom lunch break, your computer video was still on. And you definitely did not want it to be on. DEFINITELY did not want it to be on. Your family was definitely not aware there was a live video feed in that room. Just giving you a heads up, you want to make sure your video is off.”

    It would be awkward, but considerably less awkward than seeing her spouse naked ever again…and at the next company holiday party, whenever we get to have those again, I would have a VERY hard time keeping a straight face and making small talk with that guy. I mean, think about this long term: accidents happen and in time with lots of normal behavior it will become a joke or semi-forgotten if you only saw the guy naked the one time and everyone was embarrassed for a bit and then got over it when they finally stopped giggling a year later. How awkward would it be if you saw this guy naked every single week for six months?? I would have a terror of management yelling at everyone that we need to come into the office for meetings again because People Can’t Be Professional working from home or whatever.

  23. Phony Genius*

    Is there any chance somebody else in the meeting could make a claim for sexual harrassment, since they were subjected to this? It’s not intentional, but it is not acceptable for an employee to be made uncomfortable like this.

    That said, a quick fix for a video meeting where one person is visually distracting is a post-it note over their box.

    1. Jennifer*

      What? They are going to be horrified enough when they find out what happened. All these people had to do was send a message or get up and leave. It’s strange that they watched this for 20 minutes and said nothing. If anything, if I were this coworker’s husband I’d feel violated. We have to use our words.

    2. AW*

      I’ve no idea about the legality of a sexual harassment claim But it seems unlikely one accidentally naked person behaving in a non sexual way would give rise to a successful claim and the simplest thing to do would be to hang up the call and rejoin later no one had to stay watching the screen for 20 min

    3. Arctic*

      Sexual harassment does require some intent or reckless disregard (and this isn’t reckless it was just an accident.) To raise a claim concerning co-workers (as opposed to management) it also typically needs to be a series of actions, which the company knew or should have known about. Not a one off.

  24. Director of Alpaca Exams*

    My house has three adults who are all periodically on video calls and we’ve developed many cautious habits around checking whether the room we’re walking into has an active camera or microphone. I would warn the coworker in a discreet fashion (“Your husband came into the bedroom and didn’t seem to realize the camera was on” without details) so she and her husband can create similar protocols. Yes, organizers can do a lot to prevent this—put everyone in the waiting room, disable all cameras and mics, make sure someone with admin powers is still around during a break to catch any issues—but ultimately it’s up to individuals to protect their own privacy and keep from inadvertently flashing others, and a general announcement is also good but runs the risk of the coworker thinking “Well, surely they don’t mean me!” or “I already do that” and not realizing her camera was the one transmitting her husband’s post-shower activities.

  25. Esmeralda*

    If it’s zoom, OP could have sent a private chat within the meeting to the coworker with the message as Alison words it, and then hopped right off the meeting…

    Or texted or in some other way alerted the coworker as quickly as possible.

    And gotten off the meeting until a few minutes before lunch was up.

    1. Zoomadoom*

      Just a heads up to all: private, in-meeting chats in Zoom are still included in the public chat log after the meeting. (Or they were a few months ago when I last used Zoom.)

  26. Jennifer*

    No one said “hey your camera is still on”? I know hindsight is 20/20 but it’s a little strange that no one tried to get word to these poor people. 20 minutes is a long time. Just something to think of if this happens again.

    If you live with someone else, you have to let them know that you are on a zoom meeting and the camera is still on.

  27. Colorado*

    I’d definitely want to know so I can prevent it next time and after cringing for a few minutes, I’d have to laugh. I probably would spare my husband the embarrassment though. It could have been much worse, yikes!

  28. LaDidDa*

    Everyone needs to get the webcam covers. They stick to your monitor or laptop and slide to cover or uncover your webcam. I keep mine covered when I am not actively using my webcam or if I need to get up and walk away during a meeting.
    LW watched for a long time! ;)

  29. Here I am*

    I’d say ideally, you would have turned off your camera and called her to let her know what was happening, but after the fact, maybe just let it go and be prepared to call if it happens again?

  30. Dahlia*

    Unless it’s likely to happen again, I vote “pretend it never happened”. Pretend like she was staying in a hotel and you were in a hotel room across from her, and neither of you realized you should close your curtains. Nothing happened, nobody saw nothing, nobody says nothing.

  31. Girasol*

    Isn’t that like saying “Psst! Your zipper is down!” – something you’re socially obligated to do even though it is awkward? Unless it’s unlikely that the person will ever do another Zoom meeting, I would think you’d say something like “don’t forget to double check that your camera is off when you walk away from Zoom, since it points at the bathroom door,” and, as Alison says, don’t mention what may have been seen.

  32. Bug Huntress*

    I’m confused why so many people think the OP was acting inappropriately. I think this is very off-base. She wasn’t reveling in delight at it, and she didn’t cause any harm or grievance by being horrified and frozen in front of her screen. It’s not like she accidentally came upon private letters and decided to read them – there was no decision to see or not see a naked man! Once the husband stepped into the bathroom, the cat was out of the bag – there is no unseeing!

    Re: morality, imo, averting your eyes is the polite thing to do when it’s just you who sees something. (Like if someone’s headed to the bathroom and you spot a wardrobe malfunction that they will catch.) But in this case, *everyone* could have seen it (if they were eating lunch at their desks). If everyone at the company saw it, and nobody steps up and says anything because it feels awkward, and it happens again — how much worse will the wife and husband feel, knowing that a mysterious number of people saw this happen, but that nobody spoke up until it happened *again*?

    It doesn’t sound like this was a pleasant experience for the OP at all – more like “car accident, can’t look away, please make it not get worse IT GOT WORSE OH NO OH NO”. This sounds like a 100% human response.

    Anyway, OP, for what it’s worth, I would have done the exact same thing. My last company was so toxic that if something like this happened, the wife might have been reported by someone who wanted to throw her under the bus – unless someone could counter with the facts. I would have been watching through a half-closed eye with the wife’s well-being in mind.

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

      Yeah, I don’t think I’d be “horrified and frozen” as such — but in the current situation I would recognise it as a thing that shouldn’t, but can, happen! [And probably chuckle to myself at the nature of the situation.., sorry, I’m still human] – feel acutely sorry for the person inadvertently caught on camera, and then minimise the screen until people were saying they were back from lunch.

    2. Lizy*

      I agree. Or all the people thinking it’s weird she left Zoom open… I’d leave it open just in case someone started some chitchat and I wanted to pop in. Or if I’m checking email on one screen and just … didn’t minimize the zoom call on the 2nd screen. Or any number of scenarios.

      And yeah – if I saw I’d probably be frozen in fear/shock. It’s very likely I wouldn’t even think to message them or ANYTHING until after the fact.

      1. Hydrangea McDuff*

        Honestly if the wife minimized Zoom the husband wouldn’t have even known he was on camera! It could have been covered up by another window and he thought she was just in excel or something.

        I think the OP should let her coworker know musing Alison’s script.

      2. Jackalope*

        As someone who has a) day waiting for several minutes to be let into a Zoom call and b) missed a mtg because the admin didn’t know I needed help getting in, I would never sign out of a work Zoom in the middle of the day for fear I wouldn’t be able to get back in (since the mtg admin might not check to see if anyone signed out and then needs to be let back in). So if I were in this situation I would just try to ignore it/minimize the screen/etc.

      3. Granger*

        I wondered about this too, Lizy! In many Zoom break settings I’ve been in people have left it active in order to network and/or catch up with colleagues informally and I wondered if that is the case for OP’s company. If so, it would certainly increase the likelihood of others having seen too much; I wonder if anyone else will report it / tell OP? Also, zoom admins often leave last and arrive first for breaks – maybe it was noticed??

        OP – did you see anyone else active and/or on camera in the gallery during the break?

    3. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Agreed. I didn’t get a whiff of a creepy vibe off the letter nor did I assume that OP went and like… made popcorn and watched this salaciously. Honestly, OP could have figured out what was going on from the ambient noise.

  33. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

    I’m typically direct with people in the moment but in this case I don’t think I would be, since the embarrassing moment had passed before you had the chance to say anything (if it was still ongoing and I had a channel of communication other than video to the co-worker I would have said something like “fyi, might want to turn off your video feed as I think people can see your partner in the background!”).

    Probably (hopefully!) most of the ‘attendees’ (how I hate that word!) went away from their computer to get a coffee or whatever, or at least switched to a news website or something for their break so that the number of people who saw it is hopefully fairly small… but I think everyone can appreciate at this point that that’s the kind of thing that can happen with this quarantine saga!

    If you work fairly closely with your co-worker (so that you interact at times other than just this training), next time you get the opportunity to chit-chat you could mention a (made-up) situation in which you, or your partner if you have one, got caught out on another call by accidentally not muting your video and then it was ‘sooooo embarrassing as I was just bending over showing my butt the whole time while I sorted the laundry!!’ (or whatever) ‘Today I learned you should mute your video when you step away from your computer!’

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

      For the co-worker it’s about saving face at this point. That’s why I suggest a more indirect approach, rather than just “I saw him” etc. I’d trust that the co-worker would put 2 and 2 together.

  34. Jessica Fletcher*

    Did you all sit there watching this happen and no one tried to disconnect her video, or just log off yourselves?? You really did not have to sit there looking at him! That’s a bizarre violation of his privacy. Don’t do that!!

    In the future, whoever is running the meeting should proactively ask everyone to mute and turn off video at the break. No need to mention a specific incident.

    1. I Need That Pen*

      I have to agree – put a message out there that’s “please turn off cameras during the break” for all, or something to that effect so it’s across the board for everyone. Even when I know I’ve turned my camera off, I still put a post it note over it, for my own sanity’s sake. Ugh this whole Zoom thing is all over the place anymore.

    2. Zillah*

      I think you missed a sentence – the meeting had broken for lunch, so OP has no idea whether anyone else was there and since they weren’t the host, they didn’t have the ability to cut off their coworker’s camera. (There’s also no indication that OP just sat there looking at the husband for 20 minutes.)

  35. em*

    I know it’s too late now and understand being mortified in the moment, but if it happens again I feel like the best way to handle this would’ve been to just say something. Unmute, “hey uh you’re on camera,” mute. Then if he doesn’t react send co-worker a message on the hopes maybe the alert will make a sound even if the call was muted, and in the very least she’ll see the message when she comes back.

  36. Rebecca in Dallas*

    As a cat owner, I can relate. :) One of my cats used to jump up on my lap and purr, it was like I’d taken an Ambien! I miss that kitty.

    1. Rebecca in Dallas*

      Ugh, was trying to reply to the above comment about seeing someone fall asleep on their couch with their cat haha.

  37. learnedthehardway*

    And this is one of the many reasons why I have avoided getting a camera for my desktop computer (which is thankfully old enough that it didn’t come with one built in).

    I kind of think that the OP needs to tell the coworker that they need to cover the camera / point the computer at a wall.

    As for why they know what happened in detail, I wouldn’t disclose that bit. And in future, I would make a point of closing my own computer / turning off the video feed during breaks.

  38. Slinky*

    Oof, this is my fear. My spouse and I live in a two bedroom apartment. The second bedroom is our office, which I’ve started using much more heavily in COVID times. There is an en suite bathroom, which my husband uses for showering (a habit from when he had to go to work at 5:30 am when I was still asleep). We are SO CAREFUL to make sure this doesn’t happen, but all it takes is forgetting to log out once.

    I agree with Alison. This was an accident. If the situation unlikely to repeat itself, pretend you didn’t see anything. If it might happen again, maybe ask the moderator to remind everyone to stop their video feed before stepping away?

  39. I Need That Pen*

    I have to agree – put a message out there that’s “please turn off cameras during the break” for all, or something to that effect so it’s across the board for everyone. Even when I know I’ve turned my camera off, I still put a post it note over it, for my own sanity’s sake. Ugh this whole Zoom thing is all over the place anymore.

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

      Yes! Any time I’ve facilitated meetings over video I’ve said essentially this: Hey guys, let’s take a break until 2pm (or whatever). Can you turn off your audio and video until then and then turn it back on when you’re ready at 2.00 so we can see when everyone is ready!

      This is advice for the future for OP, of course..

  40. Tisiphone*

    This makes me grateful that my workplace has a No Cameras Allowed rule unless there’s a good reason to have it on. Usually the screen is the thing we’re being trained on or the Powerpoint for the quarterly meetings.

    That poor husband! Pretend it didn’t happen and say no more. Your co-workers are likely doing the same.

  41. Picard*

    Semi ironically, I was just reading a reddit post about someone who got fired for inadvertent nudity during a ZOOM call….

  42. Frustrated fitness professional*

    early in the pandemic, my husband got a work call before his usual login time, and thanks to this site, I quipped “don’t answer a work call with your d*ck out!”

    And he said “oops that does say join video call” JUST IN TIME. Because he had just gotten out of the shower.

    The level of constant vigilance required to remember that home isn’t private is high.

  43. Asperger Hare*

    Oh noooooo! Yep, I’d be leaning towards “pretend this never happened” and wipe it from my mind.

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

    This makes me so glad my employer-issued laptops have a webcam cover and indicator led. Too bad the headphones buttons are not compatible with Teams.

  45. Llama Party*

    Maybe this was addressed earlier but TLDR. The other reason I would want my coworker to tell me is in case my manager wanted “to have a talk with me” about zoom etiquette. At least I would be a little more prepared and not surprised. Also, their poor husband – the stuff of anxious quarantine panic dreams.

  46. TPS reporter*

    zooming out to the big picture- does anyone’s organization have any type of video etiquette policy or training? I’m curious now that I’ve read about a lot of these incidents and we are in this new world of the expectation to have a camera inside our personal space. The policy or training (from an HR perspective) could include who to talk to if you see something or have accidentally shown something uncomfortable. The more practical training could just go over how to turn off your mic and camera, when to do that. Also for facilitators of meetings, how to turn off the participants’ mic/camera when needed.

    A lot of us were thrown into this remote world unexpectedly and some have more knowledge than others about how to navigate. My company is very large and we haven’t had much formal training or policy around this which I find odd although we have had a lot of other competing priorities. Our work from home documentation is evolving.

  47. AKchic*

    And I thought my cats trying to show off their pooploops to the cameras was embarrassing. Rubbing their furry faces onto the cameras and purring into the mic is at least endearing.

  48. Malarkey01*

    I would worry about a “shoot the messenger” situation. Normally I like a direct “there’s something in your nose”, but there are also a few things so incredibly mortifying that I’m not sure I could professionally move past them. This is up there with spring break ‘01 and I no longer speak to any of those witnesses anymore. I’d go with least said, soonest mended with this one.

  49. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    I have a little slidey thing that keeps my camera shielded unless I slide it over…

    webcam slider blocker – they go for around three for six or seven bucks on E-Bay.

    I recommend them.

  50. MissDisplaced*

    Why am I torn between wailing Oh Nooooooo! And totally giggling. Oh my! How embarrassing! Precisely why it’s such a BAD idea to leave a Zoom on all day long.

    I thing you should say something, but minus the “naked husband” part. ‘Cause no one needs to see into another’s bathroom.

  51. Katrinka*

    A house was built next to my parents’ house and my Mom realized that she could see into their bathroom through the skylight when she happened to see the husband naked getting ready. She debated saying anything for a long time, but she did end up telling them that when she recently looked out that window, she realized she could see through their skylight, just a heads-up. I think they ended up putting some wort of cover/screen on the skylight (and boo on the architect/builder for not making sure there was no line of sight from any other homes), but I don’t think my mother looked out of that window again!

  52. Jaid*

    I’m twelve, so I would have jumped back on and see if he could hear me hissing “Zoom camera, dude!”. I don’t know if that would have worked, but golly, I would have tried.

  53. HailRobonia*

    Ugh. I am still mortified the time I got a call at work that was a number similar to my husband’s and I thought it was him and answered “hey hot stuff, what’s up?”

    It turned out to be a very (thankfully) understanding professor in another department…

  54. Who Plays Backgammon?*

    I just got a computer w/ a camera, and my biggest problem has been lining it up so my coworkers don’t see my slobby little apartment. At least that lady has a husband who bathes and uses deodorant. Bonus points for fresh clothes instead of the jeans that were on the floor.

    But seriously, a discreet “I think you should know…” is in order.

    Tee hee hee, imagine if somebody’s adolesent had come in and looked at Mom’s or Dad’s computer screen and hollered “HE’S NAKED!!!” That would get the message across.

  55. Maybe not*

    The person who was violated here was the husband. I could not care a whit about the OP or her coworker feeling awkward. The husband’s naked image could have been photographed, videotaped, or just gawked at while he was innocently in his own home. He should have the right to determine how to handle this. It is his naked body. The OP needs to tell the coworker.

    1. Lobsterp0t*

      Um, this seems… empathetic to the husband, but not really conscious of the context.

      Like I get it, it sucks, but actually the problem is that people need to turn their cameras off on breaks, be aware of background and be aware of work taking place in non-work places.

      1. Persephone Underground*

        No, I think you’re under reacting here- the person who was most impacted deserves to be told. The context doesn’t change the fact that he has a right to control his own image and protect himself from this in the future. And honestly, just a blanket reminder to people to turn off webcams is pretty weak considering the situation- this isn’t a brief glimpse, this was full on nudity in front of a group of strangers for 20 minutes.

  56. Hazelthyme*

    Hmm. If I were the coworker, I’d want to know so I could take precautions next time — but I also don’t think I’d be the one to tell her unless we had a halfway close relationship. There are people in my company I’ve never met in person and would be hard-pressed to ID in a lineup, so telling Alice from Strategy (who I barely know) that I caught an eyeful of her spouse while she was away would just seem … odd.

    We actually had a variation of this at my job about 8 months ago. It was pre-COVID, so it was a novelty when José suddenly had a C-suite backdrop on his video, and a few people commented on it. Next thing, everyone was scrambling to put their own backdrops up, and scrolling through the participants’ gallery to see Dan on the beach, Julie in Paris, Nicole on the moon, and so on. Consequently, everyone was glued to the videos when a senior exec’s husband came out of the bathroom naked. There were about 30 people on the call, including the exec’s own boss, and the exec absolutely knew, so it’s now company lore, and people still joke about it on occasion (including the exec).

  57. a sound engineer*

    I would ask whoever’s leading the meeting to make a no audio/video policy for breaks, they’re not needed anyway at break time and will avoids situations like this! I do this when my 2 and 3 hour remote classes have breaks, and usually cover the webcam physically just for some extra peace of mind.

  58. Jo*

    I think I’d not say anything and hope it was a one off. If it happened a second time though I might have to say something…but maintain a polite fiction that it just happened that one time to let them save face. Or if there’s a way to pre-empt it, like others have suggested, by reminding people to turn cameras off. Or maybe when you’re on a call with them, relate a story you’ve heard (not this one obvs) about someone leaving their camera on after a work call and being caught unawares…there are a few stories like this on the web with more people working from home at the moment. Then finish by saying ‘let’s make sure none of us get caught out like that – remember to put your cameras off!’

  59. Jess*

    Oh my god! Tell her please! Her spouse’s privacy was seriously invaded and that should not happen to him again.

  60. employment lawyah*

    This should seem obvious but may be helpful:

    Treat this exactly the same way as you would if the co-worker was male and his WIFE was nude.

    I think everyone would agree in that case:

    a) no comments internally about what people saw, it’s inappropriate to discuss.
    b) let the employee know, off radar but clearly, so it doesn’t happen again. “Your camera was on and your spouse was on camera nude. Sorry, I wanted to let you know.”
    c) if someone KNEW and didn’t stop it *at the time*, whether by calling the employee or ending the zoom meeting for all, that is bad judgment and you should talk to them to avoid a repeat, but not punish them.

    Same here, I think.

  61. Happy Pineapple*

    Another vote for leaving all mics and camera off whenever not talking:

    Just yesterday I was attending a free lecture via Zoom, and suddenly the moderator switched ON everyone’s microphones without warning “in case we wanted to contribute.” Clearly people were not expecting this, and at least one poor participant was taking care of bodily functions.

  62. Hank Stevens*

    I just think in awkward situations like this if you can ignore it, you do. It doesn’t seem to have caused any group controversy, so pretend like it never happened and move on. Nude body, big deal. We all have one!

  63. Delphine*

    Send a general message around asking people to turn off their cameras when they’re AFK, in the interest of privacy. Don’t mention this incident.

    If you do decide to mention it, avoid sounding like you sat there and watched for 20 minutes.

Comments are closed.