my boss wants us to stay on Zoom all day

A reader writes:

My boss has announced that now that we’re all working from home, the entire company will now be spending the work day on a Zoom call with video.

He framed it as being for our benefit and useful for “establishing a work life balance” and so we can “see our coworkers and feel like we’re back in the office.” Plus, it’s supposedly so we can “ask questions without having to take meetings.”

While we are a small company, most of the people I work with already worked in another location before we went remote, and none of us do similar work. I can think of no world where this is helpful and anything be highly distracting.

But don’t worry, we are still allowed to have bathroom breaks and get snacks (wow, thanks so much). But the majority of our work day should be spent in this weird online room with video and we are supposed to be “dressed for work.”

It is obviously insulting and a poorly disguised attempt to micromanage. It’s especially frustrating because during this time I have taken on additional responsibilities and my output has increased.

I find this demoralizing to the point that I’ve started job hunting. However, my last job was short and I don’t want to look flighty and am also aware getting a job during a pandemic might be hard. Can this be resolved?

You can read my answer to this letter at New York Magazine today. Head over there to read it.

{ 179 comments… read them below }

  1. CommanderBanana*

    My god. I’d be tempted to film a video loop of myself working and just play that as the background.

    1. Legal Beagle*

      Haha that’s brilliant! Group Zoom all day sounds absolutely counterproductive to getting any work done. Will everyone be on mute or do you have background noises from a bunch of different places coming at you constantly? Are people just supposed to announce their questions randomly to the group while everyone is working quietly? Not to mention that people inevitably will forget their camera/sound is on – you’ll have so many embarrassing or annoying incidents.

      1. Lynn*

        I foresee all these things happening and it all being a disaster. So much so that I am tempted to recommend LW engage and their coworkers in some malicious compliance and see how quickly management realizes that actually this is terrible.

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          Definitely a candidate for malicious compliance. I would add a bit of extra malice, such as a bright light immediately behind me, aimed straight at the camera.

          1. Play A Doctor On TV*

            Just have really long conversations about tv shows and the weather until your boss gets annoyed that you’re talking all day on zoom and not working

          2. Amethystmoon*

            And also dress in annoyingly bright colors. Hey, if they’re going to stare, might as well drive them up the wall.

        2. Koalafied*

          Yes, yes, here are some suggestions:
          – Eat snacks noisily
          – Clip your fingernails at your desk
          – Develop a chronic cough

          1. Loopsie*

            I had several Zoom meetings with a woman who owned a pet bird that let out loud random screeches. That might work.

            1. The New Normal*

              My friend had a bird that was taught naughty phrases… not like bad words, but more like “Who you callin’ a cootie queen, you lint licker?!” In fact, that bird used that exact phrase. It was hysterical. And they made sure to never teach the main bad words and just random phrases like that. I would LOVE to see someone with this kind of bird.

            2. Happily Self Employed*

              Someone across the street from a friend doing WFH just got a parrot who says “Squeeek? Squeek? AhhAAHhaaa!!” for hours. I was working on my car in her driveway and had to quit early.

      2. Charlotte Lucas*

        And what do you do if you have a real meeting? You can’t be in two at the same time. Unless your meetings are in a different platform.

      3. Kyrielle*

        If I were on Zoom all day and forgot to mute, my coworkers today so far would have been treated to my husband’s conference call going over stuff regarding a client and status, my youngest singing to himself as he did a math game (for half. an. hour.), and my oldest *shrieking* in pain because our elderly cat decided to jump on his lap, missed her landing, and dug her claws in.

        The last is not a frequent thing, but the rest of it? Ooof, yes.

    2. many bells down*

      There’s someone who shows up to a weekly public meeting we have and her virtual background is a giant picture of her face. So her head is like… disappearing into her own nose during meetings. It’s honestly hilarious.

      1. MayLou*

        Haha for a social Zoom call, I made my background a photo of a mutual friend who was not in the call. Someone screenshotted it and the friend in the photo was bewildered at her virtual presence in the Zoom.

      2. Uranus Wars*

        I have someone who works for me with a similar background. And the whole time we are talking she is looking over her own shoulder. And its…weird to say the least. But also fabulously hilarious.

    3. Whatever*

      I saw a snapshot of a kid who changed their Zoom name to Reconnecting… and feigned internet issues so that they didn’t have get on video to participate in online class. That’s worth a try!

      1. Rachel in NYC*

        My office has a 60ish person zoom meeting yesterday- we’re doing our annual meeting in short segments over Zoom- it caused basically everyone internet problems.

        It was fine after the initial 10ish minutes when we all turned off our video since once the presentation started, video was necessary. (Also video wasn’t required to begin…nor was anyone’s attendance. They understand people have lives and have to fit work in around pandemic life. And no, I’m not leaving my job anytime soon.)

    4. Mama Bear*

      Ugh, so is the boss watching all of you all day? Presumably they would not be standing over your desk all day if you were in the office. I had an old contract job that used timekeeping SW but did not use the snapshot of your desktop function because even back then they felt that level of micromanagement was bad. You either produced work….or you didn’t have a job. Professionals were trusted.

      I also like pointing out that if the boss wants this, it will cost $$ over the amount you already pay for internet. Is the boss going to upgrade your connection? Doubtful. So this is an unacceptable burden, all other things aside. Introduce Slack, Teams, GroupMe and any other platform that would IM someone in a pinch. If you do leave, make sure this is spelled out as a reason why.

      1. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

        I was going to say exactly this about Slack, MS Teams etc.

        Plus with some of these tools you can turn an IM chat into a quick video call. We’re finding this actually *better* for staying connected than being in our offices. And I wouldn’t say it’s IM for pinch – it’s IM to replace walking over to someones desk, many phone calls, etc.

    5. JSPA*

      Mine would be to figure out a way to set my camera on closeup, and point it up my nostrils, plus out of focus jowls. Start halfways reasonable, and move it in closer, and more angled, just a little each day. See how many other people pick up on it, and start doing the same. Boss complains? “I don’t know, my camera I just like this, I guess. How much time do you want me to spend, troubleshooting?”

      Yes, I am a preteen at heart. An immature one.

      1. Artemesia*

        I like the idea of a screen with the beachball of death revolving and the ‘name’ being ‘reconnecting’. Heck there is probably a market for this – consider a side gig.

    6. sofar*

      I’d ask everyone living with me to be extra noisy in the background.

      One of my bosses proposed having “office” hours for several hours a day where we “worked with our cameras on,” and all the parents were like, “Ummmmm do you WANT to hear my kids scream for that entire time and see them crawling all over me?” It was the parents who actually saved us from this fate, because they made the case that being present and kid-free during 30-minute meetings was hard enough, it was unrealistic for them to do that for hours at a time.

      1. Happily Self Employed*

        I have a friend with two conures, Bert & Ernie, and they want to climb all over her or nest in her shirt and vocalize all day. (Yes, one is orange/red and the other is green.)

    7. Schmitty*

      This my friends is why things like Slack were invented.

      I cannot think of any scenario where an all day Zoom meeting would be anything but mind numbingly uncomfortable and counter-productive.

      Your boss needs to go back to the drawing board and start with:
      1. Ask yourself: “What problem are you trying to solve?”
      2. Write that out clearly and succinctly.
      3. Schedule a meeting with your team and solicit ideas about the best way to solve the problem
      4. Roll that feedback into a plan and iterate on that with the team until you get commitment

      Top down draconian invasion of privacy is never the answer, no matter what the question is.

  2. Pamela Adams*

    Sigh. My Zoom tends to be up all day, but that is because I am meeting with multiple students. If I’m having a no-appointment day, it is off.

    My co-workers and I stay in touch by using Microsoft Teams and emails.

    1. L in DC*

      100%. My folks keep Teams open in the background all day but not video except for our daily touch point. I love how it cuts down on emails- sending people DMs or just calling them takes care of quick or private questions, as does posting info for the entire group on our Teams channel. Long live Teams!

  3. Antennapedia*

    Besides being invasive, this can VERY QUICKLY cause you to bump up against your internet provider’s data caps and that can get VERY expensive. We have two people on zoom intermittently (several meetings a day but not all day) and we are starting to get nasty-grams that if we continue to hit the cap we’ll be charged $10 for every mb over. The company better be prepared to pay for that….

    1. PizzaDog*

      that’s actually a great point – maybe OP can bring that up to their boss too. even if you weren’t being charged extra for data overages, surely having zoom running all the time will slow down your computer and internet connection

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        And what do you do if you have a real meeting? You can’t be in two at the same time. Unless your meetings are in a different platform.

    2. Caramel & Cheddar*

      I feel like a company that would force staff to do this is absolutely not going to pay for internet overages.

    3. A Poster Has No Name*

      Yeah, this is a thing. I don’t use video and I had to upgrade to an unlimited plan to deal with the 500GB of data my job apparently requires per month. Plus, most VPNs aren’t really equipped for it, though if they’re a small company that may be less of an issue.

      That said, we had a team who worked a lot with remote people who had most of them around a table in a dedicated conference room that was videoconferenced on an all-day webex with remote folks so everyone could kind of feel like they were together. I don’t think video was required for the remote folks, and everyone was muted until they needed to ask a question or a meeting started or whatever. So, wanting to have that community feeling does have some merit, and I would assume most people would have Zoom muted & on a minimized window unless actually needing to communicate, so I don’t know how helpful it would actually be.

      1. Antennapedia*

        Yeah… Spouse works in tech (so, pair programming in zoom multiple times a day) and I have meetings. Plus we also have our own data usage (Netflix, video games, the feeds from our NEST security cameras)… it adds up FAST. It was never an issue before we both worked FULLY from home.

      2. MayLou*

        I use a Complice coworking room which provides a community feel and some people do have video sharing (no audio), but the key differences are that my boss isn’t constantly watching me and the video is optional. I never share video because I would be too self conscious and distracted by my own face.

      3. TiffIf*

        After going through all the trouble of getting everyone on the new VPN…my work is now asking if anyone can do their job without VPN access because they need to reduce the number of licenses they are paying for. (No one in my department can do their job without the resources behind the VPN so it doesn’t apply to us but I found it hilariously bad planning.)

        1. Chinook*

          My new company complained about the same thing. They are expanding the number of computer teachers but not necessarily the number of licenses for screen sharing software. Dude – if I can’t see my students, then I at least need to see what they are working on. This is a legit business expense and probably cheaper than finding more classroom space and actual computers for them to work on.

    4. Justme, the OG*

      And not to mention that my work computer freezes when I’m on Zoom, but no other video meeting platform.

    5. GothicBee*

      Yeah, I currently have unlimited internet (as far as I know, though I imagine if I was using exceptional amounts of data every month there could be an unofficial cap), but the internet provider at my last place had pretty low data caps and exorbitant prices to upgrade your plan. It was really easy to go over the data cap just with streaming netflix and youtube in the evenings when I and my family were all working outside the home.

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

      Yes – I have “unlimited” broadband normally, but I had an internet outage so had to use my 4G mobile hotspot as a backup, which I was paying for 15GB a month at that time. Over the course of a couple of days’ outage, with intermittent but fairly long Teams meetings, I had already got through 12GB of that, and that was with me consciously trying to reduce the usage (turning off my video feed, not attending the “optional” meetings that are just social etc).

      The way my billing is set up, I could easily have exceeded the 15GB and had to pay a silly amount for each amount over, without necessarily getting much of a warning (I think they send an email but that could easily get lost in the mix of emails…)

    7. NotAnotherManager!*

      It takes a hit on performance, too, even if you don’t have data caps. We have four people online here – my kids are in virtual classes most of the day and my spouse and I both work from home and have video calls, too. When the internet tube gets jammed up, it also interferes with my VoIP for work.

      Staring at my coworker’s heads is less important to me than making sure my kids get clear explanation of their math homework.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Both me and the husband unit work in software, and are gamer geeks in our spare time. Our monthly data use is absolutely horrific.

    8. Lady Blerd*

      This was my first thought. I just doubled my monthly internet plan because WFH, even part time, nearly doubled my data usage.

    9. Zooming in a wind tunnel*

      My previous company used MacBook Airs and they were already at capacity with word, powerpoint, excel, and our CRM actively running all day doing video calls or screenshares made them work so hard that we all had to talk over everyone’s computer fans.

  4. EPLawyer*

    This is not a work life balance. This is WORK with no life. Your boss does not need to see you all day. Does he not have anything to do other than monitor his employees?

    That’s before you even get into the bandwidth this will consume.

    1. Rose*

      Happy someone is highlighting this very odd framing.

      “To encourage work life balance, I’d like to spy on you in your home all day!”

      Gee… thanks??

  5. Snarkus Aurelius*

    But even when you’re at the office, you’re not literally staring at your coworkers for eight hours straight! Furthermore, at the office, you can step out for lunch or a dental appointment or to run an errand. Can you do that under these circumstances? I doubt it.

    Also if I have a question about something, why am I not trusted on how to get it answered if I’m working from home?!

    1. NotAnotherManager!*

      Seriously. No one in my office is staring at their cowokers working all day (or, in my case, the right side of my face because my larger monitor is to the left of my laptop camera). It’s distracting, and, quite frankly, the joy of working from home has been far fewer in-person pop-ins when I’m trying to get shit done. (And the pop-ins now are my children, not Janet from Accounting asking me to show her the same thing I’ve already shown her eight times in the hope that I’ll be so annoyed by her asking that I’ll just do it myself or Bill coming by to show me his puppy pictures for the fourth time today.)

  6. Elenia35*

    This sounds like literal hell. I am so sorry. What do you do for conference calls? right now I am physically in the office but I have my door shut because I am listening to a webinar. For all my boss knows I could be sleeping.

    1. Mel_05*

      Right! At an old job I didn’t have an office, but my set-up was such that people could not tell if I was at my desk or not. There were a few amusing times where people thought I’d been at my desk all day, when I was actually out on location.

      No one could tell just by looking if I was working or not, but things would have come to a crashing halt if I hadn’t been.

    2. Koalafied*

      This gives me another idea – set up a webcam to point at a closed door with a sign that says, “Knock if you need me!” Just like you would in the office if you needed to shut your door for auditory privacy.

  7. lisette*

    No advice, just commiseration. My boss has spent the pandemic putting mostly everyone on various conference calls and then putting the conference calls on hold for the entire day. He will dip into the conference calls at random times to interrupt and ask questions, so basically no one can get anything done all day long because they never know when they will be interrupted. (I do not get put on conference calls for various reasons, but since everyone else is tied up on conference calls all day long I can’t get anything I need from my coworkers.) I’ve been here long enough to know that nothing will change; all I can do is continue to submit applications elsewhere.

    1. EPLawyer*

      Good heavens, that sounds horrific. So nothing gets done — but at least the boss can randomly ask questions. Sounds like a winning scenario to me.

      Here’s hoping you find a new job soon.

  8. Jam Today*

    I can’t even imagine the horror show (actually I can.) There is something about the constant sound of voices coming out of my computer that is really doing a number on my cognitive abilities, I find I am really unable to think straight if I’m on video calls for more than a few hours a day (even that is pushing it), and I was maxing out between 8-10 hours a day until a few weeks ago. I would end the day dizzy and slightly nauseous, and without any ability to function in a work-related manner, because I couldn’t string coherent thoughts together.

    1. KateM*

      I’m pretty sure I’d turn speakers on my computer off and minimize Zoom somewhere where I wouldn’t see it myself at all. And tell my coworkers they can put their questions in chat which I will now and then check.

      1. KateM*

        Oh and if possible, would angle the camera so that it shows the wrong corner of my desk or something like that. I mean I’m working, right?? I don’t have time to check every few minutes that I haven’t accidentally bumped my camera!

  9. A Teacher*

    High school teacher and our IT person implored us to NOT leave video on all day because it kills the bandwidth and was messing with our ability to have good connections. I share my screen with kids so that I don’t have to be “on screen” most of the time. The kids hate having cameras on full stop.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      Not a teacher, but our IT has also asked us, even before the pandemic, to stream video and music judiciously, for the same reason.

    2. cmcinnyc*

      My daughter’s school is cameras on, all day. So when we get the obnoxious cheerleading for having our video on I point out that THREE PEOPLE ARE TRYING TO WORK/GO TO SCHOOL HERE. It helps for a day or two and then the admonishing and the “its so great to see everyone’s faces!” crap begins again.

  10. TechWorker*

    Maybe too much benefit of doubt here… but if you come from a very collaborative open plan office (my team does!) then I can see a boss suggesting this and genuinely thinking it will help collaboration and productivity vs it being about monitoring. IM is okay – but it doesn’t tell you who’s at their desk (unless people religiously set away from desk, which most don’t) or who’s obviously right in the middle of something vs interruptible.

    We tried this… but it was for a couple of hours, not a whole day, and it was optional. It basically just didn’t work with peoples internet connection – their connection can handle ‘being in a meeting’ or ‘coding on a remote server’ but not both at once. So agree with Alison’s advice that claiming technical issues is very plausible :p

    1. Workerbee*

      My office is that environment, though for us it means interrupting people all the time to discuss ever-spiraling ideas. Apparently just being visible at your computer and, you know, working, and/or actively already discussing something means nothing to these people. Being remote on Teams was a beautiful thing for me because I could get work done in staggered, occasionally consecutive uninterrupted hours. And they got used to pinging on the chat feature while realizing that you might not be answered instantly, and that this was okay. Perhaps it just takes some training and “what’s in it for them” framing to help people adjust. They would have loved the open Zoom call so I’m grateful my boss didn’t think of it!

    2. NotAnotherManager!*

      Our availability notification thingy is integrated with our calendaring system, video conferencing system, and the phones. If I’m in a scheduled meeting classified as “busy” in Outlook, on my phone, hosting a video conference, or my computer is locked, the mark automatically sets to “in a meeting”, “on a call”, “hosting a meeting”, or “away”. The only time I have to manually set it are if I want some quiet time (also accomplished by blocking the time in Outlook) or I’m taking a day, when I’ll set “OOO returning x/xx”. It’s fabulous and really helps when reaching out to people.

      I also don’t find that being in person really helps – many people have don’t seem to have a good idea of who’s uninterruptible or not. I routinely have coworkers swing by my office when I am clearly in a meeting with another person or am head-down working on a project. Via open video feed, I would not be able to discern if Bob was working hard on his TPS report, posting on AAM, or playing a raging game of Minesweeper.

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        The one thing I liked about working in the office is that if I needed a conversation with a colleague in the same office, I would wait until they came back from getting a coffee, and jump in quick with my question before they’d sat down again. That way I’d be sure of not interrupting them. But that’s me, I hate interrupting. I hardly ever call anyone on the phone, unless I really need to speak to them straight away.

    3. Lilyp*

      Yeah I feel like I’m gonna get roasted for saying this but I can totally imagine this being a good-faith suggestion in response to people feeling (or your boss himself feeling!) disconnected, unstructured and unfocused without the normal routine and ambiance of an office. Just from the facts given in the letter I don’t think it’s a foregone conclusion that he’s a lunatic micromanager (although that is possible). Especially OP, I would not assume this is a reflection on you or your work.

      Anyway, I think you will get better results if you assume it’s well-intentioned when you push back and be ready to suggest alternative ways to handle disconnect instead of getting defensive about your work output or accusing him of monitoring you. Possible less-invasive options for people to “be together” right now:
      * Brief team (not whole company) check-ins with video every morning to see everyone’s face on the regular and provide “start of day” routine
      * A open video call that people can *optionally* join if they want to opt-in to office ambiance or chit-chat
      * Weekly social hours or online activities people can opt in to if they’re feeling isolated
      * A designated slack/IM channel or group for water-cooler chat or for certain kinds of quick questions
      * Occasional all-company video calls, like a monthly all-hands to share updates
      * Encouraging people to jump on a quick call or do a quick small video conference when they have questions or need to discuss

      I know many of those are things lots of people here hate with a passion so I want to be clear that I’m not saying everyone should always be doing all of them, but I think all of them are less weird & annoying than the all-day video call and having alternatives to suggest may help OP push back on that.

      1. Chinook*

        I like the brief check-ins we do here. It allows us to see humans at the beginning of the day but doesn’t require full video all the time. And the all user chitchat thread is nice for chatting when we have time

      2. NotAnotherManager!*

        Every single one of your suggestions are a substantial improvement over leaving Zoom open all day! I would hope that, if OP’s boss was a reasonable person who just honed in on a very misguided solution, they’d be open to implementing something like these instead.

        I think people are just not in a headspace to trust that nutty suggestions like leaving Zoom open all day for “work-life balance” reasons are misguided attempts at a good thing versus a low-tech version of spyware and over-intrusive check-ins or daily reporting requirements.

  11. Dust Bunny*

    I don’t see anywhere near that much of my coworkers when we’re in the office.

    Your boss isn’t even a good liar–everyone knows he just wants to make sure you’re working.

  12. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

    This is even more invasive than being on-site. After all, if you are in a cube at least you can occasionally make funny faces and sotto voce comments without the entire office hearing. A computer camera is less than 3 feet from your face all the time! I hope that your boss sees reason but I’m skeptical that anyone who came up with this idea is capable of reason.

    1. Mel_05*

      Seriously. I’ve worked in an open plan office for most of my career – that was less intrusive than this would be.

      1. Mama Bear*

        I worked in an open office where we still sent IMs for short questions b/c otherwise we’d disturb the team with our chatter.

    2. Rikki Tikki Tarantula*

      Ugh, if this happened back at my old job, thanks to my “glass face,” I’d be fired after about a day when my boss saw how often I rolled my eyes.

      I’m so relieved to be a freelancer during this crazy time.

  13. NotJennifer*

    In addition to all the other reasons why this is a terrible idea, how does this work from a practical standpoint? Like, do they all have company provided devices in addition to their computers? Will zoom just sit as a window in the background while you have your main work in the foreground, on the same machine/monitor? (And if so, what is being on zoom doing other than allowing them to be micromanaged/monitored like children? And, um, I don’t even constantly monitor my own child like this when he’s doing his own schoolwork unless he specifically requests help.)

    If I were asked to do this, it would mean getting a tripod for my phone and then having my phone screen on 8 hours a day.

  14. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    There are so many ways in which a Zoom call is not like being in an office – even an open-plan office.

    You can blow your nose or retie your shoes in the office without being obtrusive – but a video camera 18″ from your face doesn’t allow for that – especially considering the software switches focus to the person that’s making the most noise. Even the clack of the keyboard is magnified. So everyone goes on mute, and then what’s the point of it all?

    1. Reluctant Manager*

      Most of the time I try not to pick my nose or hock up phlegm around my colleagues, but I might reverse that strategy this case…

  15. Kamala'sGurl*

    Toxic workplaces reveal themselves in many ways. This, for sure, is one of them.
    Polish that resumé and move on.

  16. Justme, the OG*

    I did a 7 hour Zoom class this weekend and it was so tiring. We even had breaks every hour and a scheduled lunch. I cannot imagine doing that every day for work. My boss does not need to know when I get up to go to the bathroom or what I’m snacking on during the day. Yikes.

  17. Elbe*

    I feel like this may resolve itself on its own, once the LW’s boss tries to be on zoom all day monitoring his employees. I suspect that he’ll experience his own cons from this approach sooner rather than later.

    If that doesn’t work, Alison’s advice is excellent as always. This is absolutely the type of thing that will make turnover spike drastically. If there’s anyone above this boss, it may be worth taking issues (distraction, no bandwidth, etc.) to them if this situation drags on.

    1. Artemesia*

      the beauty of this for a micromanager is that he can dip in randomly — so he devotes limited time to it but everyone else is on stage all day. I’d be having endless bandwidth and connection problems. And when asking to be excused from this would lead with that issue and then put up my fake ‘reconnecting’ stuff.

  18. QuestJen*

    I have some incredibly distracting Zoom backgrounds that I would love to share with you. One is the animated bouncing DVD logo. It’s subtle, but coworkers will get distracted waiting for the logo to hit the corner.
    The second is an animated scrolling background that makes it look like you’re in the first gen Super Mario Bros game.
    “I’m sorry, omg, this is so embarrassing, I think my kids must have set it like this. I can’t seem to figure out how to turn it off. Should I just turn it off so I’m not distracting everyone while I troubleshoot?”

    Also, there are plugins that allow you to appear with Instagram-like filters. Not sure how your team culture is, but 15 minutes of just sitting there as a literal potato might underline the absurdity of the situation.

    1. MJ*

      Love Pexels for gorgeous photo and video Zoom backgrounds.

      Two quarantined people behind plastic sheet trying to get out – distracting and funny.
      Dog wearing a shower cap getting its teeth brushed – funny.
      Cute little puppy looking around – adorable.
      Guy playing ping pong against a wall – distracting.
      Making a cheeseburger – distracting if meeting is before lunch.
      Infinite wine fill – delightfully distracting if meeting going on too long into happy hour.

      Those are some of the videos; there are more than a thousand. The photos… well you could have a different stunning kitchen every day of the week.

      (None are really NSFW, but some would likely be inappropriate for work. A large number of someone’s significant one/kid doing stuff. And many are just ‘weird’, like the hotdog squeezing one. Also I am not connected in any way with the website. Just sharing.)

      1. MJ*

        Also have a background photo of the Iron Throne (HBO has these to download). I like to think of it as my “don’t mess with me today buddy” signal.

  19. TotesMaGoats*

    My internet already dies when the entire county gets online for school at 9am and 1pm, so being on zoom all day would not happen. That’s some kind of utter nonsense right there.

    1. Stishovite*

      This. Along with all the personal tech issues above (kid school, data caps, etc) this is awful for the Internet itself. It’s already creaking under Pandemic strain. Things like this just exacerbate it.

  20. AngryOwl*

    Ugh, Zoom fatigue is a real, awful thing. It’s bad enough when you need to be on video calls all day for legit reasons…but just for the hell of it? Nope.

  21. MissDisplaced*

    I can maybe excuse this during the first initial week or three of the pandemic and WFH if that was all so new to people and managers and offices. But come on! We’re 6 months into WFH and no sign of going back soon. Time to start measuring outputs, not butts in seats (or Zoom screens).

    If there IS a problem with particular people, maybe they need more video check-ins daily with their manager. But otherwise I’d say this is just wasteful, unnecessary, and hogging bandwidth just for the sake of spying on workers.

    If I had Zoom open with video all day, my computer would crash because I can’t have all that stuff open and still work in Photoshop or InDesign and the like. That said, most of us do have Teams open for calls, chats and IMs only, so you do use that instead of meetings if you can. Even so, I find I still need to exit Teams because it’s a real RAM hog even without the video.

    1. Elenia35*

      Teams is just waaaay too slow on my home laptop. It is one of the things I have been resenting about this bullshit expectation of working from home – no one is offering me any technology, JUST DO IT. No one has complained about my work slow down on the two days I am home so I haven’t thrown a fit but it’s not fair to expect people to be able to do everything asked without the proper tech.

      1. MissDisplaced*

        My company does provide the proper tech, fortunately.
        But that doesn’t mean our laptops are the newest or the fastest by any means. And no, the company did not offer any stipend towards faster Internet–it was just assumed you had it. I have an OK connection because we were streaming anyway, but with my hubs home watching TV while I work = slow bandwidth. I should upgrade from $50/month which had been fine, but the next level is something like $90/month and that is just too much damn money. So I only use my video when I need to. NO WAY I would leave it on all day just to be spied on. I hope these employees all push back on the bandwidth issue.

      2. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

        Have you tried Teams in the browser? I’m not sure about the video calling, but many other aspects are tremendous and almost identical to the application.

  22. Bookworm*

    Uuuugh. You have my sympathy, OP. I don’t have anything of that sort (yet) but my org is talking about Zoom retreats (what) and we keep adding meeting after meeting.

    Zoom fatigue is a thing and I’m so sorry you’re being subjected to that. I hope you can find some sort of resolution that doesn’t involve this creepy privacy violation.

  23. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

    Sorry OP, this sounds awful.

    For the first 6 months of lockdown (which started in March in my country), I was in meetings with 8-10 other people for 6 or 7 hours a day. It was absolutely exhausting. I ended up calling in sick once because of headaches and fatigue, and my doctor said it was directly related to the amount of time I was sitting in front of my laptop. And I don’t even turn my video on unless it’s a meeting where it’s been specifically requested ahead of time and I’ve brushed my hair and powdered my nose.

    Even then, I leave it on for 5 or 10 minutes max because it chews up my bandwidth and causes issues with connectivity. Sometimes I have to turn off incoming video as well… I really don’t need to see my colleagues that close up / at weird angles, for any length of time.

    I can’t see how this is anything but micromanaging and your boss is a twerp. I suggest you develop an irritating cough or have someone run the vacuum cleaner up and down past your workspace until he asks you to mute yourself.

  24. Cup and saucer woman*

    It’s disappointing not to be able to read the articles you post on Inc when we hit the limit for free articles. I only ever go there to read your posted articles now I can’t read them bc they cut us off.

    1. CB212*

      This column isn’t on Inc, but FYI the 1pm post most days is a link to external sites, which pay writers for their work, and they pay with money. If you want to see the columns badly enough, you can subscribe, and if you don’t you can read all the free content here the rest of the week, which is a lot. It isn’t fair to complain that the host of this blog is being remunerated for her work.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      This is at New York Mag, not Inc. But paywalls are how some publications pay their writers, including me. You might choose not to pay for that access, which is fine, but I’m going to continue to link to my work. There’s lots of other free content here to read — far more than on most other one-person sites, frankly.

    3. Tidewater 4-1009*

      I appreciate that they pay Alison – of course she deserves it!
      But I only go to either Inc. or NY Magazine to read her stuff, once or twice a month. I don’t want to subscribe to any magazine or newspaper when I read so little, especially when I’m unemployed. I run into the same problem with one of our local papers.

      Several years ago I saw a mention of micropayments – a small payment of less than $1.00 to read one article. When is that going to happen? I bet their revenue would double or more!

      1. Tidewater 4-1009*

        Just think – the readers of this site alone at, say, $0.25 each would bring in substantial revenue!

      2. HarvestKaleSlaw*

        I would love that! But I imagine that the reason it will not work is the credit card companies. They charge a pretty penny for every transaction, so on <$1 transactions, the site would most likely be losing money.

        1. Tidewater 4-1009*

          IME they charge 2% – 3% of the transaction. If they think the payments are too small, they are being shortsighted. It costs almost nothing these days to process an electronic payment.
          There must be a company out there that specializes in doing this with small payments… or maybe someone could start one? I know you’re thinking I should since I suggested it, but I’m not sure I have the expertise or resources… I’ll think about it…

          1. BeenThere*

            It’s too expensive, unless the customer does multiple purchases. The big spenders make up for the losses on the small ones so it averages out for the business case. For gaming micro transactions is a goldmine.

            Moving money always costs money. There are engineers and massive systems backing all the electronic systems, neither of these is cheap.

      3. CB212*

        This doesn’t seem like a productive discussion for this website. If you want to discuss micropayments with nymag.com, you could write to them, but they aren’t going to see this thread. Alison doesn’t control their subscription model.

      4. Old Mountain Lady*

        There’s a service called Blendle that does just this – pay per article. I don’t know if they include the publications Alison’s columns appear in, but it would be worth checking out.

    4. Fiona*

      Not to pile on, but how do you think Alison makes an income?? She has produced YEARS of free content for you. If you care about journalism, you can subscribe to those publications. If you don’t have the funds, then enjoy the continued free posts that are updated daily. I can’t believe this conversation happens every time she links to a site with a paywall.

      1. Tidewater 4-1009*

        Ok… NY Mag has an introductory rate of $5.00/month. That means the price will go up at some point. (turns out I misread that, below.)
        WSJ is $19.50/month… Forbes is $30/year, Chicago Tribune is $3.99/week, and Inc. is $7.99/year.
        To mention some of the paywalls I’ve encountered in the last few months. Except for Inc., they add up! Especially the Trib and WSJ, who think very highly of themselves.

        Turns out Inc. and NY Mag. are not so expensive… NY Mag is $2.00/month. Their paywall says “less than $5/month”, and I read it as “Introductory $5/month”.
        I’ll probably subscribe after I get a job, just to read Alison’s articles.
        Until then, keeping as much as possible off my cards.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I certainly don’t expect anyone to pay to subscribe. I do take issue with complaints that I, a writer who depends on being paid for my work, promote my work at sites with a subscription model. In all cases, but especially in a context where I’m providing an enormous amount of content for free.

          1. Tidewater 4-1009*

            Alison, it would be more than worth it to pay the relatively low subscriptions to Inc. and NY Mag for your content! I had assumed the cost was much higher like other magazines.
            I was expressing frustration with the expectation that every magazine or newspaper where I might want to read one article once in a while, expects me to pay $20/month or more to subscribe. That really adds up fast, and most of us can’t afford it.

        2. The last journalist in the newsroom, please turn off the lights*

          WSJ is $19.50 a month, … Forbes is $30/year, Chicago Tribune is $3.99/week, and Inc. is $7.99/year.

          To mention some of the paywalls I’ve encountered in the last few months. Except for Inc., they add up!
          Especially the Trib and the WSJ, who think very highly of themselves.

          The difference in subscription cost between the Trib/Wall Street Journal and Inc magazine is that the Trib and the WSJ publish a new edition every day, in print and online, while Inc publishes 8 print editions a year and posts articles online every day.

          I work for a small daily paper and have been holding my breath every day during the pandemic, expecting to hear either a) that I’ve been laid off or b) that I still have a job but 3 of my co-workers don’t anymore so now I’ll be doing their work, too.

          I totally sympathize with being out of work and needing to save money. Rent and food come first. I get it.

          But I’d like to make clear that the subscription rates at the Trib and WSJ are in line what it costs them to produce those newspapers — and good editing, reporting, design, photography, web development and content management are not cheap.

    5. Observer*

      It’s pretty amazing that anyone is complaining that a small percentage of Alison’s articles are behind a paywall. Yeah, I’d love to see those other articles, but I know perfectly well that that paywall is what gets her paid.

      Yes, I know that there are ads on this site. Do you realize how many people have the ads blocked? And advertising is not necessarily the great revenue generator it was once seen as.

      No one is entitled to someone’s work. Complaining that there is a cost to SOME of it is just not a reasonable thing to do.

      1. Tidewater 4-1009*

        Again, I was making a general complaint (and suggestion for improvement) that so many magazines and newspapers expect us to pay $15/month or more to read an article once in a while. If I wanted to read an occasional article from Forbes, Crain’s, Chicago Tribune, WSJ, and many others, I would be paying more than $100/month for all those subscriptions. It’s not realistic or reasonable. It needs to change.
        In the course of looking at this more closely, it turns out the magazines that publish Alison’s work are much more affordable, and I will subscribe after I get a job! :) Anyone care to join me?
        Alison, I’m sorry if I offended or hurt your feelings. I was complaining about the system, not you!

        1. The last journalist in the newsroom, please turn off the lights*

          Still giving you the benefit of the doubt because you’re out of work.

          That said, I hear the “how could I pay for so many subscriptions?” question from people who have pretty good jobs. Turns out they’d rather pay for streaming music and movies than for news.

    6. Ellie*

      You can easily get around it by going incognito…. on Chrome, under settings, choose New incognito window. Then read the article for free. No need to be disappointed.

      Of course, if you want to read more than the occasional article you should really subscribe… this is how they get paid.

  25. Gethenian*

    If for some reason the boss doesn’t budge, LW could maybe plead internet problems to avoid keeping the video on all day. I know that my roommate would kill me if I was eating up our bandwidth all day; our wifi isn’t awesome and me being on Zoom all day would seriously mess with the quality of her own meetings/internet in general. That doesn’t solve the problem, but could make it more bearable while you job search.

    1. Malty*

      For real – before my housemates moved in with me they were living in an area where the internet connection just couldn’t hack this. If they were watching Netflix through the TV and one of them so much as thought about opening their laptop as well, Netflix would instantly start buffering

  26. Important Moi*

    Your boss is a bad liar and micromanager. Boss want to supervise you and your team. The only way to do that is to have eyes on and see you and your tell at all times.

  27. Lore*

    Another technology issue: I can’t do big portions of my job on a laptop-size screen, and my company set us up with remote logins to our office machines, not company-issued computers. So I’m working on an external monitor plugged into my laptop. It doesn’t have a camera or a microphone; I switch to the laptop for meetings. So being visible on Zoom would make it impossible to do much of my job.

  28. Free Meerkats*

    Some thoughts from my Machiavellian mind (assuming logical pushback doesn’t work):

    Get together with some coworkers who agree with you and be as annoying as possible. Eat raw carrots all day, slurp your coffee, continually fiddle with your hair/glasses/headset, look very closely at something on your screen so all anyone sees is your giant forehead or nose, play Tuvan throat singing or digeridoo music, distracting backgrounds.

    Randomly turn off your camera, wait a few minutes and turn it back on. PRN.

    Put a piece of transparent tape over your camera. Wait a few days and put another on. Repeat until you’re just a silhouette. Plead ignorance as to what’s going on.

    Save up questions for your boss. Wait until you see him step away, then start asking them, repeatedly and loudly.

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

      “Save up questions for your boss. Wait until you see him step away, then start asking them, repeatedly and loudly.”

      “Oh, Fergus, sorry I was just about to ask you before you go – ….. (question)”

    2. Stishovite*

      Oh hey, free Tuvan throat singer music! (Seriously, I like both of the music forms you mentioned).

      But yeah, I like these ideas, esp. the tape over the camera one.

    3. JobHunter*

      Buy a cheap Bluetooth headset. Pretend to be as puzzled as everyone else about where that weird buzzing noise is coming from. (9/10, will try again)

      Teach your neighbor’s or your own dog to bark on cue.

      Place tape over your microphone to muffle your voice. Alternatively, try a voice modulator to sound like Alvin and the Chipmunks.

    4. irene adler*

      Not sure how to rig this up, but:
      Have the sound of water dripping in the background so that boss will hear it, whenever you unmute. So that it sounds like you’ve got a plumbing problem.
      If asked, don’t let on that you hear anything.
      Then, after a few days of this, move the water dripping sound to a coworker.
      Again, deny hearing any water dripping sounds.
      Let a few days pass, and…you get the idea.

  29. MissDisplaced*

    Put a piece of transparent tape over your camera. Wait a few days and put another on. Repeat until you’re just a silhouette. Plead ignorance as to what’s going on.

    LOVE this!

  30. I'm just here for the cats*

    So many things wrong with this. How does he think this is going to work? Putting aside that this is so micromanagy this is not going to be like an office. From my experience with zoom and other online teams meetings only one person can speak at a time, without there being all sorts of interference and stuff. So if there are multiple people needing to ask questions or chat at the same time what are they supposed to do, take turns? And you also risk that the know it all in sales will butt-in to everyone’s questions and conversations.
    This isn’t going to be like an office because when Sally pops over to Jim’s desk to ask a question the entire office isn’t hearing/ seeing it. Instead of Zoom he needs Slack or Microsoft teams where you can chat but then hop on to a video if you need to.

  31. Ashley*

    I would accidentally turn on two different speakers and forget to mute my sound so that they would get crazy feedback. Also leave for lunch and have my alarm go off 10 min later.

  32. Ellie May*

    I am blessed with an employer that made cameras on Zoom optional as soon as the lock-down kicked in – we were told that worrying about what we actually look like in the meeting did not matter and there were bigger things to worry about in the world. I couldn’t imagine a mandatory camera All.Day.Long. There would be a lot of my cat’s butt …

  33. Survivor of Skynet boss*

    Hey Op,

    I had this issue before the pandemic (even wrote in to Alison who gave some great advice). My boss wanted to do google hangout all day while using google docs to actively watch and edit my work as I went (it was soul crushing).

    Long story short, I pushed it to My company’s leadership and then HR. Lots of warnings to my boss, and then legal pointed out the legal aspects of using a system with a record feature could violate bylaws on recording and surveillance. Boss still persisted. So I kept declining to have the camera on and such.

    Boss had conversation with grandboss and legal, and two months later retired.

    So, depending on your state, it may be worthwhile to look into laws around recording.

    1. Minocho*

      Oh my goodness. I had a boss stand behind me and tell me what key to press. I’d trained him in the job a few months before. I just…I hated my life.

  34. Minocho*

    Fine, I’ll be on Zoom all day. With my headphones…playing video games, just because management’s doing this. UGH.

  35. TootsNYC*

    how will you have screen space to get any work done? I work on a laptop, so the screen is a bit smaller than my desktop screen was (I could switch; they’d ship me my desktop, but I don’t have a place to put it).

    I’ve been in meetings and wanted to work while I listened, but I sure couldn’t SEE anybody, because the window I was working in needed to obscure the Zoom screen. Also, when my screen is adjusted for working the camera shows you the top of my head.

    I’d personally just set up the Zoom thing and ignore it. Leave my mike on until someone tells me to mute it, turn my sound way down so I don’t have to hear anyone else, and work. Pretty soon it’ll be clear how useless this is.

    1. TootsNYC*

      Oh, and if I needed to ask someone something, I’d debate whether I should Slack them to turn on their Zoom, so we annoy everyone with our side conversation, or if I should just do it in Slack so that it’s clear Zoom isn’t needed.

    2. Chinook*

      For the small screen issue, I repurposed an old tv that we hadn’t gotten rid of. Now my second screen is about 48″ and perfect for a pile of faces or desktops. The only downside is that my camera is on my computer so I can’t look at them and the camera at the same time.

  36. Summersun*

    Your boss is expecting you to stay online all day presumably in the hopes of discussing critical business issues as they arise. Does your company care at all about the security of its intellectual property or finances? Zoom’s privacy policies are a straight-up nightmare.

  37. Mainely Professional*

    I see post after post like this and like…again, what do people think remote workers do all day? Because it’s not sit on Zoom calls.

  38. Introvert girl*

    Can your bandwidth support this? I mean, it would make my internet go much much slower and have a huge impact on my work.

  39. Elliott*

    This sounds like a nightmare!

    I can’t be the only one who feels like I look like an idiot on camera sometimes. If I knew that a camera was pointed at my face while I was looking at other things, I’d be self-conscious all day that I was making weird faces.

    If I work from home, I’m going to wear what I want to wear. I can dress up if I have a meeting that calls for it, but I’m not going to pass up the chance to wear my favorite t-shirts and pajama bottoms all day.

    Tech-wise, this sounds horrible. My laptop battery goes down really fast when I use Zoom, and trying to multitask really slows down my connection. Using Zoom while my laptop is plugged in causes audio issues. Actually, that’d be a good method of malicious compliance–plug my laptop in and subject everyone to my garbled speech from my bad connection. Also, I’ve heard that having a lot of people with their videos on can really slow down meetings.

    1. TimeTravlR*

      I always used to pride myself on getting up, showered, and dressed (even if in a tee and jeans) even when working from home. But this has been a heckuva week and two days in a row now I have worked in pajamas until noon. We don’t ever use video because we are on VPN and with to many people working remotely is bogs down the system. Thank goodness!

  40. Chinook*

    Speaking as someone who is on Zoom (actually Teams) all day for a good reason (I teach remotely), this is a horrible idea. Most of the time, our cameras and mics are off. Even though I see my students’ desktops all day, that is because they are working on learning Microsoft Offices and I need to see if they need help. We also mandated 10 minute breaks every hour so people can get away from their screens.

    My colleagues and I send text messages to each other when we have questions or want to chat, which has replaced popping into someone’s classroom. The lead instructors and bosses can also pop into watch for quality control purposes, but no one does it for hours on end because watching someone look at a screen is boring and a poor use of time.

    Bandwidth is also a main concern. I am currently doing the equivalent of live streaming 5 movies and we had to upgrade to an unlimited package that slows down after 1 TB. There at least is a practical reason to do this but anyone who would choose to do it because they are nosey needs their priorities reexamined. It is much easier to check on that one student who keeps “accidentally” turning of his desktop sharing by checking to see whether he not he logged in to typing this morning than it is to watch what he is doing.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      Occasionally I’ve had all day Zoom type conferences or meetings and it is exhausting to be on camera like that all day. I can’t imagine it every day.

  41. TimeTravlR*

    Can you blame crappy internet that bogs down when the video is on? I hate this kind of management, for all the reasons Alison mentioned.

  42. anonnonaanon*

    Why would “having Zoom on all day” be a way of creating work/life balance? Having work colleagues in front of me all day in my home seems like the opposite of “work/life balance”? although I guess I would become extremely grateful for the moment when I’d finally get to TURN IT OFF…?

    (I know, the real logic is “micromanagement” + “use of buzzword term” — we have that too, just not like this…. yet.)

  43. lp*

    Ha! This sounds awful! However, it’s exactly what the “good” schools are doing for kids around here. I have a 4th grader expected to be on camera 6.5 hours a day, wearing a uniform shirt (pajama pants ok). (Sometimes they’re told to just stay within earshot while reading/working … so it’s not all squirming and slouching on camera.) As a parent, it’s preferable to the spring because the teacher keeps the kids on task, answers questions, and monitors time management (and can see if there are issues when things can’t get done in the time allotted.) The teacher has asked parents not to help with schoolwork, as this muddies understanding the educational needs of the kid.

    But in the workplace this is straight up nuts!
    An adult doesn’t deserve to be treated like a squirrelly 9 year old.

  44. Erik*

    There is also enormous technical debt put upon your computer when you zoom like this all day. I have had multiple instances where large group video calls have taken my high-end (video-editing high-end) laptop and brought it to its knees in performance. I have successfully used this as a rallying cry for my own co workers who all say it slows them down to the point where they can’t do anything else at the same time, too. Add this to the very real bandwidth problem and what your manager has mandated becomes a guarantee for zero work getting done. Frame it that way and I bet it disappears

  45. It's always been that way...*

    Years ago I worked a large retailer in the receiving area. Our store manager had no idea what he was doing and would spend a lot of time sitting in the Loss Prevention office watching employees on the security cameras. He would call the floor managers to go deal with anyone he thought was goofing off or not working hard enough.

    I worked in the back end in an office called “the cage.” I needed to store a large number of shipping records and, by god, the only place for them was directly between the security camera and my cage. One day the store manager came by and asked if those boxes had always been there. It was obvious he wanted them moved so he could spy on me. I told him they been there since I got here and corporate said we couldn’t move them. He sighed for a minute or two and then left my office without saying anything.

  46. I'm just here for the cats*

    I could see maybe having a zoom room open and available so if people wanted to chat face to face they could. Simmilar to how many universities have switched to having online open office hours. But not have everyone on at the same time.

  47. Keymaster of Gozer*

    I’d be setting up a script job that randomly rebooted my home network during the day if that was a requirement. “Sorry boss, connection in our area is a bit spotty”

    Although I’d more likely just outright refuse. People maintaining eye contact with me for long periods makes me really…REALLY panicked. I do not take well to being watched.

  48. lilsheba*

    I like the way it’s handled at my job. We have teams open all day for chat, and calls as needed. No video. And no we don’t have to “dress for work” which is the most ridiculous thing ever at home.

  49. Hank Stevens*

    Good Lord, where do these crappy managers come from???? I would put tape over my camera for hours at a time and feign confusion. What the hell is e-mail, texting and a phone for? I know I sound like the “get off my lawn” old man, but sometimes technology is so misused.

  50. Beth Anne*

    The issue I have with this is zoom makes my computer lag so much. So I would find it hard to be productive with my other tasks.

Comments are closed.