my bosses want our remote team to work out together 3 times a week

A reader writes:

I work for a very large multi-national publicly traded company. The job itself is great — clear expectations, strong management, excellent IT services, market appropriate pay, and a very generous benefits package. I am on a team of about 20, although I really only interact with three people on a regular basis.

A few weeks ago, our leadership team began doing a “let’s get physical Friday,” basically a 20-minute workout once a week. I have chosen not to participate in this as my level of physical activity is none of my employer’s business, not to mention that my current workload means that taking 20 minutes out in the middle of the morning for something unnecessary really interrupts my workflow.

It was suggested this week that we start holding these sessions three times a week as a way of taking a few moments away and bonding as a team. This was presented during a meeting where we were determining our KPIs for the upcoming month.

Here’s the really weird part: my office is 100% remote. We have a virtual office and are never face to camera. I don’t even have any idea what my coworkers look like. So the suggestion that we should all exercise together seems … odd. I don’t have enough room in my office to even lay out a yoga mat. No one has asked whether anyone is interested in this program. Attendance has been very low.

The way I understand what they’re doing from another coworker who has attended is that everyone just has their headset/audio on and they all follow along to the same YouTube workout video.

I gently mentioned today in the meeting that it is important for us to remember that we don’t know the physical abilities or able-bodiedness of our coworkers, and that using forced exercise as a way of bonding a team could be excluding some folks who are unable to participate. The responses were wild. One of the leads suggested that yes, injuries happen and that was understandable, completely glossing over people who may be physically unwell or disabled. Another lead, mine in fact, had the audacity to suggest that those who were unable to participate due to an illness or injury should disclose that so that they could be given an alternate way to participate.

And they’re calling it “optional,” but one of the leaders has been very pushy about it. In fact, it was held this morning and one of my coworkers, whom I know privately to have a physical disability, messaged me, “I was going to go and try, but I couldn’t do the workout they were trying without passing out.” When this coworker messaged the lead in the group chat to say, “I tried but I don’t really have space around my desk haha,” the lead’s response was, “Well, maybe next time you can move your laptop where you have more room.”

We’re feeling pressured to participate and while I know my rights under the ADA, not everyone does and it seems they aren’t as willing to stand up and say something as I might be. I’m concerned that people are going to feel pressured into disclosing their disabilities in order to appease this leader.

Is it just me, or is this a major violation and HR issue? Forcing people to exercise together or otherwise be forced to disclose a disability that may have nothing to do with their ability to do their jobs? Am I overreacting? Are mandatory group exercise classes a normal part of a work environment?

Nooooo, this is not normal.

Some companies do offer on-site work-outs as a perk … but it’s not generally your whole team all exercising together to “bond.”

You were 100% right to point out the issues with organizing a regularly-occurring bonding activity around something that requires a specific level of physical ability. In theory your team lead is right to note that they’d offer accommodations to people who need them … but you’re right that no one should be forced to disclose a disability for something like this (and what kind of “alternate way to participate” do they have in mind, specifically?).

It’s one thing to offer something like this occasionally as a novelty for people who want to participate, particularly if it’s mixed with other sorts of activities people can choose from. But making it a regular thing — first weekly and now three times a week? — really isn’t okay, and pressuring people to take part is even less so.

A weekly (or thrice weekly) activity for “bonding” that excludes people (whether due to physical ability, not having the space at home, or simply not caring to exercise in a group during the workday) isn’t about bonding at all. People who can’t or won’t participate in group exercise shouldn’t have to worry they’re missing out on team-building benefits or that they’ll be seen as less a part of the team.

I am curious about the “mandatory” nature. It does sound like they’re inappropriately pressuring people to show up, but you also mentioned that participation has been very low … so it seems like people are successfully opting out. It’s still not okay, for all the reasons above, but if you’re seeing that people can just not show up without any repercussions, I’d strongly recommend that you spread the word to your coworkers about that so people know they can easily skip it.

Beyond that, you have a couple of choices if you want to push the issue. You can band together with coworkers who share your lack of interest in group work-outs and ask that they not be made a central focus on the team because it’s excluding some of you and perhaps suggest offering them quarterly for people who want them (or some other low frequency). Or you can point out your concerns to HR, who in a large company will probably be pretty interested to hear what’s going on.

Read an update to this letter

{ 386 comments… read them below }

  1. Bagpuss*

    Quite apart from the issues of forced participation and ignoring eveyone’s comfort levels and potential disabilities, it would seem to me that there are other posittential problems.

    Aren’t there potential liability issues for the company if someone injures themself because they didn’t have suitable equipment / warmups, proper assesment before starting?

    Not to mention the problems of disrupting eveyone’s workflow and then the loss of time as people change / wash afterwards.

    I am wondering whether HR know about this !

    1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      This definitely sounds like a rogue manager creating a pet project and assuming it’s genius. “Of course everyone wants to do this. HR just hasn’t thought of it yet.”

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        I was thinking exactly this, “rogue manager.” Rogue Manager is an exercise nut who absolutely doesn’t understand that not only do some people not want to exercise in the way he wants to, but also that some people actually *can’t* exercise the way he wants to. He* is a terrible manager, even if in other ways he is not a terrible manager (but I suspect he is in other ways a terrible manager….). Someone who doesn’t have a level of empathy to understand why this one idea is not a great idea probably isn’t empathetic enough to understand other issues with his employees. I’m certain that HR would want to know about this, or probably even Rogue Manager’s supervisor (“RM is doing *what* now? Taking employees’ time away from actual work to force them to do a middle-school gym class?”). I’m also pretty sure that HR would want to be aware of OP’s team lead telling his employees to disclose their disabilities; that’s a pretty obvious HR issue right there.

        I really look forward to a follow-up on this. I suspect if OP takes Alison’s terrific advice to tell other colleagues to quietly just opt out, the workout time will disappear on its own. But I also hope OP reports this to higher ups because it is so wrong in a lot of ways.

        *I know OP didn’t mention if manager was a he or not, but I’m defaulting to that for no particular reason.

        1. Gnome*

          Slightly different take… My read is that Rogue Manager wants to get fit and is using the staff as a group fitness buddy.

          1. Jolene*

            Exactly. This is 100% about this manager wanting to meet his/her personal exercise goals.

          2. Slow Gin Lizz*

            Could be that, too. I see RM more as Chris Traeger from Parks and Rec, who is super fit and wants to “help” everyone become as fit as he is. Either way, it’s a pretty terrible idea.

          3. Lego Leia*

            I read it as a poorly planned “health iniative and bonding experience”, ignoring that not everyone wants to work out mod morning, even if they are a fitness nut. I wondered if it was a misinterpretation of some like “health insurance premiums go down if company offers X, Y, and Z”.

          4. Xantar*

            You know, that’s the attitude I take when teaching my Taekwondo class: that it’s a way to get me moving and stay fit.

            The difference is we all explicitly chose to be in Taekwondo together and I have no power over their livelihoods.

          5. Irish Teacher*

            That sounds very likely. Either “I want to get fit but I know I won’t keep up my exercise goals. Hey, I’ll make it a work thing and then I’ll HAVE to do it. I’m a genius!” (OK, I’m joking with the last part) or else somebody who can’t seem to distinguish between themselves and others. “I want to lose weight/get fit; therefore EVERYBODY wants to lose weight/get fit.” I’ve known a few people who fit the latter category, to the point that if they decide to take up say walking every evening, they will start asking people each morning, “so, did you get to go for a walk yesterday evening?” even if the other person has never expressed any interest in going for walks or one case where a girl I knew was looking for a present for her mother’s birthday and when I went to buy something, asked, “oh, are you getting that for your mother?” Um, no, I don’t buy my mother a present for your mother’s birthday! I think some people just get so caught up in what they are planning that they forget other people might not have the same plans.

        2. Jolene*

          I work out daily. But (a) a YouTube exercise video and (b) in the middle of peak productivity time = horrible.
          This is a manager who has decided this is a great way to motivate themselves to do their workout of choice, and everyone else is collateral damage.
          Seriously, a YouTube video? HORRIBLE waste of time and abuse of power.

        3. Jora Malli*

          Yeah, this is a case of a bad manager.

          If they had reacted to OP’s reminder that some people are disabled with “Oh no, I can’t believe we didn’t think of that first, let’s do something else,” then you could chalk it up to somebody who got overexcited but isn’t necessarily a bad manager.

          But a manager who responded to “some people are disabled, actually,” with “well they should just stop being disabled and do some exercise” is not a good manager. At all.

      2. NotAnotherManager!*

        I’m guessing HR has probably fielded this suggestion before and assessed it as a risk to ADA discrimination and also to workers’ comp claims arising from an activity that is not business-related.

        I’d flag this “bonding” activity to HR for their risk assessment.

      3. Trawna*

        It was heaven to move on from a manager like this. They calibrated everything to satisfy their own “competitiveness”, which included thinking up things like this to self-report to management as “so great”.

        Ya, not so great.

      4. StitchIsMySpiritAnimal*

        My guess is that the team lead/manager likes to take a mid morning exercise break but doesn’t like the optics, so now it’s a ‘bonding activity.’ No shade if yoga or a walk instead of staring blankly at the screen helps you think. Roping other people into it? TOTALITY OF SHADE.

    2. One of the Spreadsheet Horde*

      Wouldn’t this set the company up for potential Worker’s Comp claims?

      1. Migraine Month*

        Definitely. Seems like a bad idea, particularly since they can’t even control the safety of the space/equipment like they could if employees were allowed to use an on-site gym.

        1. Emma*

          I want to see someone drop their laptop down a flight of stairs, then go to IT and say “well, I told manager I don’t have space for the semi-optional exercise sessions, but he told me I had to try anyway, and when I did I caught my foot in the laptop cable and it just went flying”

  2. ope!*

    My employer offers an optional wellness program, 3 paid hours a week. You need a doctor’s release and the activity you’re going to be doing has to be from an approved list of activities, but the list is very generous as to what counts – in addition to a number of aerobic activities, walking also counts, so do stress management activities like meditation, etc. And there’s no supervision of it by your teammates or supervisor. It’s opt-in, self-reported, trust-based.

    Maybe you could recommend something like that as an alternative?

    1. Bagpuss*

      that sounds much ore appropriate but if they are pushing this as a bonding exercise it wouldn’t work if eveyone is doing different things, separately. (Not that I see physical exercise as much of a bonding excercise when eveyone has different leels of fitness, interest and enthusiasm and people are remote, unless bnding over what a terrible idea it is counts)

      1. ope!*

        That is true, and I thought of it just as I hit send. Maybe OP could do the thing Alison often suggests where you aggressively assume the best intentions: “Well of COURSE we know everyone has different abilities and interests, and since [employer] wants as much utilization of the program as possible, we could make these changes, and add a once a month Zoom social hour (or fill in alternative suggestion here)”

        It’s not perfect, but seems like almost anything would be an improvement. For the record OP I’m very aerobically conditioned and pro-fitness during work hours (I love our wellness program) and still wouldn’t want to do a program like this! Yuck!

      2. Slow Gin Lizz*

        unless bonding over what a terrible idea it is counts

        I surely think it does! Bosses were right that it’s a great bonding experience, it just isn’t bonding the way they were expecting it to happen!

        1. quill*

          Team unity sometimes comes because the manager is the team’s common enemy, something I think companies and managers generally forget.

      3. just another bureaucrat*

        Bonding over a terrible idea or terrible boss is a really strong way to bind a team together. But a tightly bonded team isn’t always a great thing if they are bonded about how horrible things are.

      4. starfox*

        Working out makes me angry sometimes… It is NOT a bonding experience for me! I’m much more likely to say something I’ll regret later, lol.

      5. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        I don’t see how it is bonding when I’m at home watching a video and following along without interacting with my coworkers. I wouldn’t even be looking at them

    2. Lizzo*

      This sounds awesome.

      Supporting employee participation in some sort of activity that suits them and benefits their physical and/or mental health is a sign of a good employer. Assuming “one size fits all” when it comes to the choice of activity is the opposite of that.

      1. Somewhere in Texas*

        I was thinking the same thing! This would be a welcome perk to me, but definitely not the mandatory group fitness class.

      1. Bibliothecarial*

        My company does that! (Sort of.) our wellness initiative has ~20 activities; you pick about 5 and you get $100 per activity! One of my choices was 100 days of whatever exercise I chose – so I got $100 for going on walks.

        1. Bibliothecarial*

          Also, one of the activities was to create a team of colleagues and walk a certain distance together. The program showed how far the team had gone, but not individuals. There was a message board so we could connect and chat. Again, this was completely opt-in and came with a monetary reward. Op may want to suggest something like this to the rogue manager.

    3. StrikingFalcon*

      My workplace does something very similar, although meditation does not count – you have to choose activities that will improve strength, flexibility, and/or cardio. Physical therapy does count though, which is fantastic for me, as someone who needs pretty much constant PT for a chronic health condition and who can’t participate in most group exercise classes. Any one who wants to can sign up, no one has to participate, and none of my coworkers get to see me struggle to do extremely basic exercises because my body doesn’t work right.

      1. StrikingFalcon*

        Also, on the topic of whether injuries would then count as workplace injuries, for my job the answer is yes. We have to report any injury sustained during the exercise leave as a workplace injury.

  3. Rolly*

    “I don’t even have any idea what my coworkers look like.”

    I get it that not everyone has a space at home that looks nice enough to be on camera. I get that some people don’t like being on camera.

    But a work team never using a camera to connect? That’s wild and I frankly don’t think that’s a good thing. In remote work, a little (*little*) face-to-face through a screen can be so helpful in building connections.

    OP – don’t go to the workouts. Say you don’t want to meet in person – it’s not in your job and would be disruptive to your work.

    1. Grant*

      I don’t think the suggestion is for anyone to meet in person. I think is all still proposed to be a remote workout session, with audio only!

      (If that really is the case, my non-confrontational self would probably just join the call but work through those 20 minutes – how the heck are they going to verify whether you moved your body or not without video?)

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I definitely pictured putting the workout video on the work computer and then reading a book while saying “Ah” and “Whew.”

        But I really don’t want to do that if I’m in the flow of work. It’s almost as annoying to have to stop and participate in a fake workout as a real one.

        1. Always a Corncob*

          LW should absolutely push back for all the reasons they mentioned, but I was confused as to why anyone feels forced to actually follow the exercise. It sounds like people could just show up for the virtual meeting, keep their audio and video off, and continue working while still checking the box for “participation.”

        2. Just Your Everyday Crone*

          Yeah, this is where I went, too, turning on the video and then continuing to work on my work. If anyone says anything to me, answering like I’m out of breath.

          1. pancakes*

            People can pick up their cat or dog and carry it around like a big baby for a bit if they want to sound out of breath. Just an idea, haha.

            I would actually really like to be encouraged to get up and move around while on the clock at work, but it would have to be totally mandatory, and broadly speaking, the reasons some people would find it beneficial probably don’t belong in an employer’s purview. I agree this arrangement is not good at all. Fortunately it seems doable for the letter writer and others to not participate.

            1. pancakes*

              I am scrolling past on my way back up and cannot believe I typed “mandatory.” I meant “optional”! Time for iced coffee, apparently.

      2. Colette*

        Yeah, that’s my thought, too. Call in if you have to, and just do what you were going to do anyway.

      3. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Yeah, I was thinking that too. Just mute the video and go about your work. Although maybe work has timestamps on it so they’d know you were working and not working out. Just chalk that up to being an excellent multitasker, lol!

        But seriously, I’d only do this is there wasn’t a good HR in place and you didn’t want to report it, but since you seem to be willing to do that, OP, I’d go the direct route. And quietly sow the seeds for others to ignore the workouts as they see fit.

        1. Ozzac*

          I was thinking that too while reading. If you don’t want to go to HR is a good solution, but the better solution is to talk to HR with a detailed list of all the reasons why this is bad.

      4. BubbleTea*

        Absolutely this. I attended a mandatory training during lockdown while I was fairly heavily pregnant. I’m naturally fidgety anyway so a two-hour training with a 5 minute break was always going to be tricky, but when it ran over time and then the facilitator announced we would be doing a guided meditation to “relax and unwind” I reached my limit. Fortunately he told us to turn our cameras off so that we could focus on ourselves, so I did that, muted him, and went and did the washing up. When I saw cameras coming back on, I nipped back to my desk and pretended to have been visualising lapping waves or whatever it was. Nope nope nope to this kind of nonsense.

      5. Joielle*

        Yeah – obviously this is a ridiculous situation and a bad idea for a multitude of reasons, but honestly I’d just join the call and then turn off my video and read a book for 20 minutes (or just keep working). For me this would not be a hill to die on when it’s so easy to avoid.

    2. WetPigeon*

      It’s not strange to not turn on the camera.
      Prior to covid-19 that was the norm at a lot remote jobs.
      There has been decades (literally–remote work has been around since at least the 90s) of remote office work with and without camera.
      Whether it helps in building connections, we don’t know (though I will point out this argument is often used by corporations and consultants who want to force in-person work as much as possible), but it’s not really fair to call it wild.

      1. I'm Just Here For The Cats!*

        Yeah wasn’t that the problem in the movie The Net with Sandra Bullock. She worked remote so no one knew what she looked like? I can’t remember everything since its been years and I only saw part of the movie.

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          I just checked. The Net was released in 1995. The scenario would be less plausible today. I’m sure they could come up with some rationale, but it would be strained.

          1. mlem*

            Honestly, rural internet access is pathetic for vast swaths of the country. Video could overwhelm the available bandwidth. She inherited a house / bought an adorable fixer-upper for a steal, but then she discovered how terrible the internet is there, etc. And all her coworkers roll their eyes because they’re *done* listening to her complain about it ….

            1. Worldwalker*

              One of my co-workers (I’m remote) lives in an area with incredibly bad cell connections despite being on the outskirts of a major city. For meetings, she’ll sometimes drive to a nearby town that has a good signal and connect from there (her “home” background is a parking lot!); most of the time, she’s just on audio and lucky not to drop out. Not everyone has a high-bandwidth connection.

          2. Important Moi*

            Internet access in rural areas and economically disadvantaged areas is a major concern in the United States. Depending on where you live, it may seem not plausible that that would be true.

      2. Rolly*

        “There has been decades (literally–remote work has been around since at least the 90s) of remote office work with and without camera.”

        Yeah, and I mean I mailed tons of letters and faxed stuff for years. We used a telex too.

        1. WetPigeon*

          It’s weird that you skipped the ’00s and ’10s and went straight to 80s technology to try and prove your point–like somehow people weren’t remotely working in the ’00s and ’10s.

          1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

            My dad would occasionally work remotely as far back as the 1980s when there was an evening/weekend mainframe issue that he could dial in and troubleshoot from home, and went to full-time remote work sometime in the 2000s with occasional trips into the office for meetings that needed him onsite until he retired sometime in the 2010s. His WFH meetings were all conference calls, and he would call in to them from his landline on speakerphone.

            Of course, back in the 1980s when he’d need to literally dial in to the mainframe rather than VPN in, he’d have to hang up the landline phone from whoever called him with the issue in order to dial in and troubleshoot it since second phone lines were pretty expensive back then, but later he’d be able to keep them on speakerphone either through the other phone line (when having a second phone line for dial-up internet became common and second lines became cheaper), through his work cell phone, or eventually by having internet and a VPN that didn’t tie up the phone line. He never took a work meeting from home with his camera on that I am aware of, and his company did not transition from a conference call based system to a video conferencing system until after he retired (no idea if they have by now, but I assume so since that’s become so common). It wouldn’t surprise me if the departments/fields that successfully used conference calls for years are the ones who have the least amount of “on camera” expectations now, just because they’d see it as an optional extra feature not needed for their core meeting workflow.

      3. Mockingjay*

        For decades my industry successfully did business with staff and agencies across time zones with phone bridges only. When online meeting tools became available, we still stuck to teleconferences with just a screen share, as most of us didn’t have cameras on our laptops. Video was deemed a want, not a need, on programs with tight budgets.

        I have a camera now, but half the time it’s not used due to bandwidth issues anyway.

      4. The OTHER Other*

        Remote work has been around for decades, but easy video of decent quality without expensive cameras that works with even mediocre bandwidth hasn’t. Personally I’d find it odd to not even have any idea what my teammates looked like.

        I don’t like this manager’s push for regular remote exercise, it’s very weird to me, on many levels–for one thing, this is a lot of time exercising. 3x week? This might make sense for people with physical jobs–personal trainers, firefighters. Otherwise, it seems to me like a huge recurring distraction from actual work.

        1. pancakes*

          The amount of time exercising isn’t inconsistent with US guidelines, and certainly not something only people with physical jobs should attempt. Employers shouldn’t be trying to enforce those guidelines, though. The reasons to push back on what’s happening in the letter aren’t time-related, they’re that it’s not clearly meant to be entirely optional, people are being pressured, and also that it’s being presented as a bonding exercise, not an optional chance for people to move around on their own. As such it excludes people who can’t participate.

          From the Dep’t of Health and Human Services: “. . . adults should do at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) to 300 minutes (5 hours) a week of moderate-intensity, or 75 minutes (1 hour and 15 minutes) to 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity. Preferably, aerobic activity should be spread throughout the week.”

      5. Leilah*

        My mother worked remotely starting in 1992 – before we had internet or cell phones at our home. It was all snail mail or if it was a rush she could drive 25 minutes away to fax things. It worked fine!

      6. Rain's Small Hands*

        I spent the first 15 years of the 20th century working a job where most of my coworkers were in different locations- we never used video – and yes, I didn’t know what most of my co-workers looked like and when we would get together in person, it always threw me – I’d assumed Tom was taller, or Mike was older, or Sara was a brunette…..

        We did do team building off sites where we would travel – and I do think it was helpful to meet coworkers face to face every few years. But many of them I never met because I seldom met the international teams.

        They’d been working this way for years when I got there, and worked that way for years after. Video calls in 1999 were a BIG deal – they involved a video conference room and the bandwidth requirements were a lot – it wasn’t something you could do at your desk. As everyone got laptops with cameras and video conferencing became a thing other places, we didn’t make the move as we were used to doing it the way we’d always done it – and honestly, we were using our desktop to do other things that look at coworkers – like collaborate on a document, or look at the presentation, or take meeting notes.

        1. Baby Faced Educator*

          I’m so impressed you remember the work you did 100 years ago. You must have incredible genes! (Unless you meant the first 15 years of the 21st century ☺)

    3. I'm Just Here For The Cats!*

      I don’t think that’s a problem at all. There are many jobs where you work mostly solo and wouldn’t need to see your coworkers. For example, my mom works from home and is a tech support for a small company that is a whole sale for a specific product. She actually is the only worker for her department as the niche is so small there’s not enough calls for more than one person. She does have a backup and of course she has her supervisor, but there’s never any reason for the department to meet. The company itself does have the occasional meeting, especially if a new product is being released or when they started a new CRM system. But all of those working from home do not have their cameras/mikes on, as requested by the person holding the meeting. Except for those people she used to work with in person she has no idea what anyone looks like

    4. Blaise*

      Totally agree- I know this is all off-topic lol, but that blew my mind. I would never want a job like that- didn’t even know that existed. Exercise is a terrible way to go about it, but I totally see why management is trying to create some kind of bonding experience.

      My suggestion to management would just be to turn cameras on for meetings once in awhile though- no need for weird extracurricular activities while at work lol

      1. Leilah*

        I kind of hate it too, but a *lot* of people really, really hate turning their cameras on and I don’t think it’s worth alienating them. My old boss I bonded with just fine without many camera-on meetings because we just really clicked and were both gregarious, my new boss always turns her camera on in our one-on-ones so I do too and I appreciate it. But if we asked everyone to turn their cameras on in one of our team meetings we’d be lucky if we got 20% compliance. Probably over half the team would fake sick before they would turn their camera on in a team meeting they hate it that much.

    5. Falling Diphthong*

      I’ve freelanced remotely for more than 20 years. Everyone being on camera for a meeting really only became a thing during covid–before that the meetings were remote, audio only, and the host screenshared if needed.

      1. gyratory_circus*

        Seconded. I’ve been fully remote for several years. and prior to that worked a hybrid schedule in/out of the office but in completely different states than the rest of my department. Meeting are conference calls via Skype/WebEx/Teams and are voice only, with screen sharing when needed. Not only do I not know what most of my co-workers look like, I haven’t met any of my supervisors/managers in person since 2008.

      2. LadyByTheLake*

        Agree — before Covid I’d never been to a meeting where people were on camera. I also worked remote for 20+ years and conference calls (no cameras) were how things are done. Post-Covid, that is now still the most common (audio only), although I notice that my teeny-tiny start ups clients like meetings to be on camera, but they are the odd ones out.

      3. Rae*

        Me too and I like it that way. I have great personal and professsional relationships with people I’ve never met or even seen. A camera isn’t necessary for communication in a work setting.

        1. After 33 years ...*

          I could not disagree more. Not seeing a face is no way to build a relationship. I can’t do my job under that condition.

          1. Indigo Five Alpha*

            Every time anyone joins our team when I have my intro call with them I switch my camera on so they know what I look like (although I do also have a profile pic). Then for preference I never switch it on again unless I have to. I absolutely hate being on camera in most circumstances. I don’t mind as much in 121 meetings, or other small meetings, but I hate being in a big meeting with lots of cameras being on. Although if I’m in a big meeting and I speak I’ll usually switch my camera on for that, for accessibility reasons. But it’ll go straight off again after that.

            I’ve met most of my team in person, even though we’re all home workers, but the one who I only met recently after they joined the team 2+years ago I still felt like I already knew well by the time I met them and if anything it was weird that we’d known each other so long but never been in the same room before.

            Might not work for you, but it works fine for some others.

          2. Canadian Librarian #72*

            It’s interesting that some people feel so strongly about this! I’ve had working relationships on volunteer and hobby projects mediated entirely online and without video (we used chat and email), and I retain relationships with some of these people years after the fact. It’s certainly possible, and it’s not particularly unusual.

            Some people do not want to be on video in the same way that many people don’t enjoy being photographed. You may not like or understand it, but it’s not going to change, so you should probably get used to the idea that while you can’t do your job under those circumstances, other people can, and will sometimes expect you to deal with it.

            1. After 33 years ...*

              It’s leading to my earlier retirement. I need to see the other person, either virtually or in realty, to do what I need to do for them.

              1. allathian*

                Sure, but plenty of people have been able to work together without using cameras, for a long time.

                In the early 00s I freelanced for 2 years, and my main customer hired me on the phone. After that phone call I communicated with them exclusively by email, and we had a great relationship. I got my current job thanks to the reference they provided. They were happy with my work product, and all they needed to know was that I never over-promised and always delivered on time.

                Granted, that job didn’t require any synchronous collaboration, they sent me work and I did it. This sort of thing wouldn’t work as well, if at all, in a job that requires more relationship building.

          3. Mongrel*

            Or it could just be that this is a highly personal preference and other people can genuinely disagree while still building appropriate work relationships.

            Personally I would find enforced “camera on” as odious as forced team-building exercise or getting back to the office because “collaboration”.

        2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          Same. My whole career, even if I was physically in an office, everyone I worked with was somewhere else, and we rarely, if ever, met face to face. Tribes and rural non-profits, barely had bandwidth for e-mail, much less video. Some of them even had to get documents sent to them 3 days in advance of a meeting because it would take that long to open a PDF, and lets not even get into working with international partners in rural settings. Sometimes we felt lucky to even have voice. I have worked for 20 years with some folks and never seen them, but that hasn’t impacted the quality of our work or our professional and personal closeness. It is absolutely doable, but I can see that is could be extremely hard for people wired differently than me.

          1. After 33 years ...*

            It impacts the quality of my work – university teaching – every time I try. The effort is there on my part, but the results are not. I encouraged remote teaching, but I always knew it wasn’t ideal, just an expedient. I liken it to explaining a Van Gogh using only words.

            1. paxfelis*

              Is it your colleagues you need to be able to see, or your students? I can understand the rationale for students: you need the visual feedback to verify that they’re absorbing the information and understanding it.

              I don’t understand your reasoning for needing to see your colleagues, but I would appreciate an attempt at explanation if you have the spoons to do so.

              1. After 33 years ...*

                There is a difference- in one case it’s bad, and in the other, it’s disastrous. I think mostly about teaching. Apologies for taking too much space…
                Teaching – Some musicians do better in concert, and others in the studio. Some mixes can’t be done live, and other performances don’t make sense if they’re only audio. It’s not about effort, or willingness. People always have the choice to leave their cameras off – or not engage in the chat – or not ask questions – but if I can’t see people, I cannot engage them effectively. My subject matter can’t be taught remotely, any more than someone could teach figure skating without visuals or ice. During 2+ years of “teaching” to blank screens, to cameras in empty classrooms, and by pre-recording, my response was not sufficient to ensure that instruction remained at an adequate level. I have university and national teaching awards from previous years, but I consider recent efforts on my part as failure.
                Colleagues – covers a wide range. Trying to conduct a committee meeting where I can’t see everybody, and people aren’t identified by name on their devices … trying to infer body language or disentangle sarcasm from actual opinion (which I struggle with in person) … dealing with people who would rather not deal with me or other colleagues … wondering if people are paying attention to each other, based on their responses … wondering if I’m engaging them effectively…
                This isn’t a job that I personally have the ability to do effectively without eye contact. That may reflect my inadequacies, but that’s my experience.

            2. pancakes*

              Teaching is very different from a lot of non-teaching jobs, though. Many people’s work doesn’t involve communicating with a class, or anything analogous to teaching besides giving the occasional presentation.

      4. Lady_Lessa*

        I’m looking forward to Thursday, because our conglomerate is doing a series of book clubs for women from all its companies. (20 per group and they sent out the link to the short story last week.) It will be interesting to see how many of us have cameras on. Initially I will have mine on, but turn it off to eat lunch. Depending upon how many of us are eating, we may be mainly camera off.

        FYI “The Color Master” by Aimee Bender is worth the read.

    6. anonymous73*

      At my last company, I shared my office with 3 others and the rest of my team was located in other parts of the country. All of our meetings were conference calls and there were several people I never met face to face or over video conference. And this was pre-COVID. It’s not all that unusual and doesn’t mean you can’t work well together or build a connection. In fact I became very good friends with a colleague I worked with daily who was in another state and outside of our initial meeting before he moved, all of our contact was over the phone. We went to each other’s weddings.

    7. HungryLawyer*

      I strongly disagree about the video thing. No one on my team needs to know what I look like to meet our team’s work goals. We are able to connect through Teams chat, phone calls, and our daily work. Also, forcing remote workers to go on video means potentially, and unnecessarily, exposing them to coworkers’ biases. I remember a LW wrote in recently-ish saying she faced a lot of fatphobia from a colleague after appearing on video once. As an aside, I also think the “need to bond” with coworkers is overly emphasized in most workplaces. Like, I don’t need an emotional bond to my colleagues in order to treat them with respect and professionalism.

      1. quill*

        Honestly, if you think about the AAM commentariat: many of us ‘bond’ just fine as aliases and text discussions, if by bond you mean “recognize each other and care about each other’s input,” which is what you need at work…

        1. Irish Teacher*

          That’s a really good point. I’m fairly new here so don’t know most of you too well, but I’ve certainly been on websites where I looked out for certain people’s input because I knew they always made particularly good points. Some were websites like here where everybody was under an alias; I didn’t know their names or what they looked like or in some cases, even what part of the world they lived in, but I knew whose input I valued and who was likely to cause strife.

      2. mlem*

        Seriously — fatphobia, ageism, racism, classism, ableism … plenty of people have plenty of reasons to not want to have a camera on while they’re doing their jobs and collaborating just fine. It’s not always just people being introverted and/or antisocial and/or reactionary.

        1. pancakes*

          Great point.

          I would add, not having had time to tidy up whatever room is in the background (or not wanting to keep it work-presentable on short notice) are perfectly legit reasons to prefer keeping it off as well, or probably should be, unless there is some work-related reason for people to switch it on.

          In my work people don’t need to have their camera on unless they’re presenting something to a group, and even for that screen sharing seems to be fine, so I can’t really speak to other work dynamics, but I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything by not being able to see people in every meeting.

        2. Worldwalker*

          That’s one of the reasons I use a nick — and a non-gender-specific one at that. I learned in the 80s that if people knew more about “Worldwalker” than a series of posts and ideas, they’d immediately develop a set of preconceptions. I had people decide what my opinions on a subject “should” be, based on my demographic, and when I expressed a different opinion, they *actually argued with me about it*, and said my opinions weren’t my opinions, they were whatever they’d assigned to me. When they discovered the map was not the territory, they decided the territory was what was wrong. You know Worldwalker. You might like me, hate me, or wonder what that person is on about anyway. But you know *me* in a way you wouldn’t know if you were basing your opinions, even subconsciously, on the person at the keyboard.

          An image of the light reflected off the upper part of a person’s body is overrated.

    8. NotAnotherManager!*

      My spouse works for a large, federal agency and has tons of coworkers that they’ve no idea what they look like because their team is distributed across the country to support various locations. Until they got MS Teams right before the pandemic, they all survived just fine on emails and *gasp* telephone calls with no video capabilities.

      I am sure that video makes some people feel more connected, and I’m fine with turning my camera on for those people. It does nothing for me, and, particularly for those of us who’ve been in the workforce for a while and have frequently had coworkers who we only knew via phone and email, the lack of video takes nothing away from that. (Heck, now we have IM, and that is the best innovation I’ve found to make my job better in years.) We know what our goal/mission is, and that’s enough for us to work together to make things happen without knowing each other as talking heads on a screen.

    9. Person from the Resume*

      That is not wild at all.

      Organizations who have had WFH for many years prior to COVID started out without a video option and very likely used a landline telephone to communicate verbally. It was a technology and network bandwidth issue. They made do for years without it so it’s clearly not a necessity.

      People who do not use video regularly do not have an office setup supporting video and don’t “dress” from the office. Asking to to go on video is a hardship. Dressing up when you normally don’t is annoying, but relatively easy. Positioning the camera and getting the lighting and background cleaned up may be more bothersome.

      Bandwidth could still be an issue for some.

      Just because your company does something doesn’t mean everybody does it the same.

      1. Me ... Just Me*

        Exactly. Plus, There’s weird camera angles. I would definitely be happier with a work from home situation where on-camera was never an expectation. I don’t really care what my co-workers look like. I’m not dating them… I just care that they do a good job.

    10. Charlotte Lucas*

      I used to work somewhere that had offices in 4 states, including my own. We all worked in company-owned offices, but unless someone came to our office, I literally had no idea what many of my coworkers looked like. (This was when video technology was available but my company was pretty old-fashioned & only embraced it for leadership.)

    11. JSPA*

      If people can feel a bond with a fictional character in a book, or with a long dead author or poet, or a radio personality–and many people clearly do feel such bonds–then why is on-camera time essential for bonding with coworkers?

      Unless there’s a need to avoid bonding with someone who “doesn’t look like someone you’d want to bond with”… in which case, I’d question that need, not the absence of cameras.

      1. Lenora Rose*

        You don’t even need to go that far; for decades before the current stretch of social media, frequent visitors to web sites got to know each other, and the other regulars, sometimes to the point of eventually meeting in person, sometimes not. I have shared hotel space with people I didn’t meet in person prior to the experience.

        The effect has been a bit diluted now thanks to social media taking on more of that role, and the rising prevalence of photos and video, but it was a very real thing.

        1. Canadian Librarian #72*

          Yep. I once stayed at the home of a LiveJournal friend who I’d known for a couple years online but had never met or seen a picture of, in another country that I happened to be visiting. We got on just as well in person as we had online. She was lovely and so was her cat, and I spent three days at her place, without incident. I don’t understand why people are so keen to pry into others’ lives so as to need to see exactly what they look like during today’s meeting or whatever.

          1. Worldwalker*

            I once arranged to get a guy away from a situation with an abusive housemate, picked up by another person, and eventually taken to the airport by yet another person, and that last person was the only one whose face I’d ever seen — they were an old friend from my former hometown.

            Before the days of the Internet, there were pen pals. And there are examples of people who corresponded for decades without ever meeting each other, whether just for friendship, for scientific collaboration, for writing and art, or more.

            This whole “I have to see someone’s face” is actually a very, very new thing.

            1. After 33 years ...*

              In-person meetings are not a new thing, for me – it’s how I’ve always done things, and what works best for me. Video meetings are a very poor second, for me.
              This isn’t about bonding or relationships,, or prying into lives, for me. I’m mildly prosopagnosic, so I don’t necessarily remember faces. It’s about effective communication in meetings.
              It appears that we’re at cross-purposes.

              1. Higher Ed Cube Farmer*

                Yeah, and I think the cross-purpose is that After 33 Years is saying that they personally need face-to-face communication, and several other commenters are saying that many other people don’t need face to face communication. Each side seems to read the counterexample as an argument against the validity of their own experience.

                But it’s not. Different people can have different –even completely opposite!–needs, and both be real and legitimate, and not need any special justification. Pragmatically needing or preferring to interact face to face, or needing or preferring not to, and the whole range of middle values around no strong preference/doesn’t make a significant practical difference either way, are all fine! People whose work or personalities occupy extreme ends of the range just might not be able to work well together. At least, not without a willingness to recognize that My Way Is Not the Only Right Way.

    12. Antilla the Hon*

      I am 100% remote and don’t enjoy being on camera. BUT I need that face to face interaction. 100% remote is beginning to feel like solitary confinement and not seeing the face of my coworkers is very isolating.

    13. LW*

      Not being face to camera really has no impact on our productivity or ability to do our jobs. If anything I believe it helps because people do not feel the need to be “on” all the time, they can come as they are and get their work done without the cattiness of physical comparisons coming into play.

      1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        Yup. It’s not great for my concentration if I’m wondering if people are judging my appearance, apartment, etc.

    14. Observer*

      But a work team never using a camera to connect? That’s wild and I frankly don’t think that’s a good thing. In remote work, a little (*little*) face-to-face through a screen can be so helpful in building connections.

      So? That doesn’t change the fundamentals of the problem. Especially since they aren’t even actually interacting with each other during this activity!

      Also, with a manager this pushy and boundary crossing, I would not want to ever be on camera. It wouldn’t foster connection. But it could foster even more boundary crossing.

    15. River Otter*

      I am an old (well, middle-aged), and I remember the days of remote teams with only conference calls and no video at all. It was fine. We collaborated and got things done with no need to ever see each other or meet.

    16. Lyudie*

      Using my web cam murders my bandwidth. Half my team is in India and does not have reliable/good Internet with enough bandwidth to use the camera either. It’s not wild.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        I remember working with a team in India ten years ago. Conference calls, yes, but no video. It was all telephone or IRC. I didn’t meet many of them until I went and spent a month in India doing knowledge transfer.

    17. Lacey*

      I connect with my immediate team members and adjacent team members on video chat. But there’s a whole host of people that I work “with” in different locations who there’s no reason to get on a video chat with.

      I don’t need to be connected to them. I need to take their information and put it through the next steps of the process.

    18. Seeking second childhood*

      Not seeing people you’re working on a project with was never a drawback to my blind friend in high school.
      At my company we have user images, and of. Video calls we spend the bandwidth on screen sharing to do work together. I don’t care what my co-workers look like when they’re working. Maybe it wouldn’t be a good fit for you, but it’s not “wild” at this Fortune 100 company. Video is reserved for Town Halls so we can see the leadership team.

    19. Essess*

      Our company requested people to avoid cameras due to the excess bandwidth that takes both for company resources as well as strain on personal internet traffic levels.

    20. RussianInTexas*

      My coworkers and I worked in the office pre-2020, but now we are all remote (hopefully permanent). We do conference calls once a week, but we’ve never once used a camera.
      Through the whole pandemic I used zoom exactly twice, both non work related. I don’t think it damages our work connections at all.
      I hate being on camera.

    21. Worldwalker*

      I’ve had friends for years that I don’t know what they look like; we’ve always just talked over various instant messaging programs (some of those friendships go so far back that we’ve been through two or three such programs!). And since I work remotely, there are a few people in the company who I have no clue what they look like, and vise versa. Some of us have met on camera or in person, but a few still haven’t. (the head of Accounting, for instance, who I’ve probably driven to drink) I’m just used to it from years of knowing people through everything from forums to online games without ever actually seeing their faces. Maybe it’s a generational thing — I predate video apps; heck, I predate IRC. (and I’m feeling singularly old right now) But for me, at least, working successfully with someone and recognizing them if I meet them in the street have never necessarily gone together. (think of how many authors have never physically met their co-authors, editors, illustrators, etc.)

    22. JM60*

      I worked with some co-workers in the UK whose faces I didn’t see for years. Eventually, I looked up their photos on one of our company’s systems merely out of curiosity. Not having seen what they looked like before didn’t prevent me from working with them (through the phone, email, Jira, and other systems), and eventually seeing their photos didn’t at all enhance my ability to work with them.

  4. AD*

    Controversial suggestion but… If no one is ever “face to camera”, can people just…fake it?

    1. cottagechick*

      That was my thought too. Are some people just opening the video and “participating” by just sitting there saying they are engaged in the activity?
      And yes, this whole thing is bs, and everyone has a right to hate this management overstep

    2. anonymous73*

      Honestly I wouldn’t want to waste my time. Plus it sends a message to whatever “genius” came up with this idea that everyone is on board.

      1. Not Australian*

        Right. Being put in the position of having to fake exercise to get some busybody manager off one’s back is additional stress that doesn’t belong in the workplace. This needs to be nipped in the bud before the said manager gets ever *more* carried away with his/her magnificent idea.

      2. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Yeah, that’s how I feel about it too. I’d only do this as a last resort, but if I were forced into that option, I’d be looking for new work, no matter how great the company is. (I’m willing to bet that the company is actually great enough to put a stop to this, though. Company seems pretty reasonable, these team leaders notwithstanding.)

    3. High Score!*

      Yep, this is exactly what my team would do if we were forced to do this. Video off, headset on, watch the video, give a few fake huffs & puffs.

    4. Hats Are Great*

      This is absolutely what I’d do, put the youtube screen off in a corner somewhere turned way down and just continue on with my work. I have a handful of meetings I’m required to attend that absolutely don’t need me there and have nothing to do with my work or my team, and I just put the meeting in a background window in a corner on nearly-silent, and then skim the minutes afterwards.

    5. JustMyImagination*

      That was my suggestion, too. If you don’t have the capital to push back and there’s no cameras then just play the video in the background while you work on something else.

      1. LW*

        The ADA gives protections to people with disabilities. We don’t need capital to push back, the issue is that not everyone will know that

        1. Observer*

          Honestly, if you would be willing to do this and it would not cause you problems, it would totally be a big favor to everyone to bring this to HR. Because it’s not just an ADA issue.

    6. Fluffy Fish*

      Yes but this deserves pushback and it sounds like OP is willing to do it.

      That would be a fine suggestion for someone with no capital like a new employee. And if HR fails to act (I’d be surprised given the description of the company) then it would be a fine suggestion for OP.

    7. Observer*

      Controversial suggestion but… If no one is ever “face to camera”, can people just…fake it?

      Not controversial at all. I would prefer that HR step in and shut it down. But I totally would understand if the OP just . . . didn’t show up or faked it.

  5. SNS*

    If everyone has video off and audio on, what’s to stop anyone from logging on and just continuing to work normally while they do the workout? Not that anyone should have to join at all, but it seems like an easy way to appeal to leadership while not actually getting involved.

    1. EPLawyer*

      Nope. Leadership should not be appeased on things like this for all the reasons Alison mentioned. Just because someone in leadership likes to work out does not mean they can make that the one and only bonding activity. Participation might be low, but I can bet leadership knows who is there. When evaluation time comes are they going to give the benefit of the doubt to those who like to work out?

      Nobody should have to disclose disability to take part in a bonding activity. It’s very simple to find bonding activities that vary so everyone has a chance to participate. And vary does not mean – 1 activity is running and the next activity is aerobics.

      OP, given the responses, I would try ONE more time to point out why this is a bad idea. If it still doesn’t work, then you go to HR. HR most likely does not know this happening. If they are halfway decent, they will point out that a fully remote team does not need to do stuff like this.

      1. Colette*

        But logging in and not actually participating is free.

        Yes, management is wrong about this, and if the OP has the energy and a receptive HR department, she could let them know what’s going on. But it’s OK if she’s just not up to it, too.

        1. LW*

          Except I don’t feel that’s ok, because there are vulnerable people being pressured to disclose information that the company is not legally allowed to ask about.

          1. Always a Corncob*

            I’m confused as to why they have to disclose if no one can verify whether they’re actively participating or not. Couldn’t they just show up to the virtual meeting and not do the workout? That doesn’t make it okay, of course, but it might be a good interim solution until HR hopefully shuts this down.

            1. Lenora Rose*

              Showing up, even virtually, and faking it seems like less of an energy suck than pushing back? Really?

              It sounds like a lot of extra stress to me to have to stop my work three times a week for who knows how long, to pretend (and seethe) than it is to just spend the stress in a one-time complaint to the manager, then maaybe another to HR. Especially if you assemble several others to join you (and spread the stress and capital around).

              1. Always a Corncob*

                I never said it was easier or better, I said it *might be a good interim solution* pending the whole thing getting shut down by someone with more authority. And my point is that there’s nothing *to* fake, since everyone has their video off. All you have to do is join the meeting, and then you can mute it and continue working, or read a book, or wash the dishes, whatever you want.

            2. Sacred Ground*

              But then what do they do when they actually do need to request an accommodation and disclose their disability to the same manager they’ve been fooling?
              “What do you mean you require accommodation for a disability? You were working out with us all summer!”
              “Yeah, I actually wasn’t.”

          2. My Useless 2 Cents*

            LW, thank you for being an advocate for those who don’t always feel able to speak up. I have worked with so many people who feel unable to say no to requests made by supervisors & managers for fear of losing their jobs. Even when they know they are completely unreasonable requests, even if they are told it is “optional”, heck, even if they know it is an illegal request (like clocking out and continuing to work), there are people out there that just do not believe they can push back at requests from management.

            And in my experience, those people would never think nor could they bring themselves to “fake” the activity by logging in but not actually doing the exercises. In their mind, the risk of getting caught would be too great.

          3. Colette*

            Sure, and it’s absolutely appropriate to go to HR if you want to do so. But you’re not obligated to do it if it’s not a fight you want to fight.

      2. Cmdrshpard*

        “Nobody should have to disclose disability to take part in a bonding activity.”
        I agree that such a physical activity like this one is not a good bonding activity, but disabilities can vary wildly that certain activities that might work for most people might not work for a few. I don’t think it is unreasonable for certain activities to be selected that work for most people if no one in a group has issues with it.

        I had a coworker who had problems being out in mild heat/sun. We were happy to accommodate them for this after they disclosed. But I think it would be unreasonable to expect activities to never take place outside after they left because they someone might have a similar issue.

        In small office if there are only 2/3 “bonding activities” a year there might not be enough variation to meet the needs of all the various disabilities without people disclosing.

        1. Observer*

          I don’t think it is unreasonable for certain activities to be selected that work for most people if no one in a group has issues with it.

          Mandatory and non-work related? Absolutely a problem. Because you really never know who will or won’t have a problem. Which means that the minute someone DOES have a problem they are going to be forced to share information that they may not want to share – and the they SHOULD NOT HAVE TO share.

          1. Colette*

            But there’s no way to anticipate every possible disability. Someone can’t be in the sun, someone can’t take the cold, someone has dyslexia, someone has a hearing issue, someone has to eat at exactly the same time every day, etc. It’s absolutely necessary to accommodate disabilities that people in the group has; it’s not reasonable to anticipate issues that no one in the group has.

          2. Cmdrshpard*

            I agree people should not have to disclose detailed information such as “I have x disability and can’t do underwater basket-weaving.” All people need to say is “I can’t do x activity” no explanation/details required. But I don’t think x activity should be avoided just in case someone might not be able to do it and to keep them from having to let us know they can’t do it.

            In my example my coworker just let us know that an outdoor picnic during the day would not work for her and we moved on, we didn’t ask for details. But after they left the job/company I don’t think we needed to avoid outdoor picnics just because someone else in the future might not be able to do it.

        2. Lenora Rose*

          This isn’t 2-3 times a year. It’s 3 times a week. And it isn’t a variety, it sounds like it’s the same every time.

          Few people have much issue with a “Sports and wackiness” day once every few months, even if the fitness levels aren’t all accessible, and some people have to ask for alternatives or bow out.

        3. Irish Teacher*

          I think the point is more the way they are saying “they should disclose.” Even in a situation like yours, which I agree is not someting most people would anticipate, “I’m sorry. I can’t do outdoor activities” should be enough. For what the LW wrote, it sounds like their company is looking for more than “sorry, I can’t participate for medical reasons.” I might be misreading, but it sounds like “give us details and we’ll accept it if it seems reasonable to us” rather than just “let us know if you can’t participate.”

          1. Cmdrshpard*

            “Another lead, mine in fact, had the audacity to suggest that those who were unable to participate due to an illness or injury should disclose that so that they could be given an alternate way to participate.”

            It is a little unclear to me what/how much info they want people to disclose. I agree with you that they should not ask/need details, and a simple “I can’t participate in this activity.” should be enough. I think OP objects to the whole workout entirely and may be against someone even having to say “I can’t participate.” I do agree 3 times a week is a lot.

            1. Irish Teacher*

              Yeah, I interpreted that as “well, tell us what disability you have,” but it could just mean “tell us you can’t participate,” which would be a lot more reasonable a request. It was the use of the word “disclose” that made me assume the former.

      3. Clobberin' Time*

        This isn’t even the benefit of the doubt for those who like to work out! It’s the benefit of the doubt for those who will obediently join in the manager’s preferred workout program with them.

      4. Hannah Lee*

        That sounds like a great approach!

        The thing rolling around in my brain when I read this letter was “What, exactly, is the issue, problem, gap in work output these bonding sessions are intended to address?”
        Because if I’m a manager instituting a new policy, program, or 3 x! a week activity, there should be an actual reason why I’m doing that, right? Like processes or output isn’t where management wants it to be and the reason appears to be lack of cohesion, collaboration within the workgroup … something like that. Not just an out of the blue “hey, people might like this/i would like this” boss’s musings over grass-fed organic soy sprouts one morning.

    2. RussianInTexas*

      Yep, that’s what I would do.
      Minimize the video in the corner of my screen and go on my merry way.

  6. ThisIsNotADuplicateComment*

    Am I understanding “are never face to camera” correctly? You don’t turn your cameras on when you meet? So if someone wanted to could they not join the workout session, not participate at all and continue working but pretend they were exercising? That could be an option if the teams leads keep pushing it and you or another co-worker decides this isn’t something worth spending capital on.

  7. Willow*

    If you’re not on video, can you “attend” and just mute yourself and do whatever you want?

  8. calvin blick*

    This doesn’t help OP, but at a previous employer our new head of HR suggested a voluntary mini workout on Fridays. The first session I showed up with about 15 others, where I learned that HR Lady was a very competitive, very fit former Air Force officer. She organized a plank contest where 90% of the participants were out after about two minutes, while she held her plank for at least 15 minutes before giving up after the other very competitive, very fit military officer looked up and said calmly “I’ve held a plank for 40 minutes before.” HR Lady was pretty nice so no one held a grudge or anything but no one ever wanted to do a fitness Friday again either.

    1. Mary*

      Now I’m inspired to prepare for surprise plank contests. I doubt I have the dedication to work up to 40 minutes, but surely 5 minutes would be long enough to stand out in my fairly squishy profession

      1. calvin blick*

        Sadly, if you get up to 5 minutes would you have lasted about 4 minutes longer than I did. It was not my proudest fitness moment.

    2. Sara without an H*

      I…despise exercise groups (still have nasty memories from junior high gym class), but I think I would have gladly shown up to see that happen.

      1. My Useless 2 Cents*

        I hated gym class, nor do I care for playing team sports, but I really enjoyed my group gym classes (before COVID, sorry I cannot exercise in a mask). I found it helpful and motivating to actually get me to the class and pushed me to work a little harder than I would on my own. But that was purely outside of work and not unofficially “mandated”. This is a horrible idea. Even if hypothetically taking away any argument regarding physical abilities, I don’t think huffing into a mic would be in any way bonding or motivating.

        BTW, I abhor planks and even at my physical peak would tap out after 90 sec to 2 min out of sheer boredom.

    3. Industrial Tea Machine*

      Holding a plank for 40 minutes? Jeez, I hope they had an audiobook or something.

      1. quill*

        Honestly I would have gotten bored at minute 2. Which is an overly generous estimate of how long my plank would have lasted.

        1. yala*

          2 minutes would top out my boredom meter if not my physical meter (I mean, now, it absolutely would top that out too. Maybe back when I did martial arts and had to do lord knows how many pushups it would’ve been longer), but I am suddenly reminded of why I was so good in grappling–I pretty much always want to lay down, so once I have someone pinned, however much they wiggle, I am going to stay exactly where I am because I’m comfy dangit.

          I am so glad planking wasn’t a thing our sensei was into. He would’ve absolutely made that the default punishment, lol.

      2. EmmaPoet*

        I do plank with a Youtube playlist running- either music I really like that keeps me motivated or a video series that will hold my attention like the Crow’s Eye Productions English dress from the 600s up through the late 1960s. Right now my best is about two minutes, but wall squat can go up to five if I’m distracted enough from the burning.

  9. michaela*

    The camera is off, right? Then you also have the option of saying Yes Of Course! And then sit and read a book or something while the exercise goes on. Maybe this is not the hill to die on. Maybe they’ll forget about in a week or two. Can’t imagine this going for too long.

    1. kiki*

      I was thinking the same thing. It’s ridiculous, but I wouldn’t mind 20 minutes of reading time in the middle of the day 3X a week :D

    2. LifeBeforeCorona*

      With the camera off, put your dog on the treadmill and record his panting as working hard. Bonus points if he barks!

    3. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      At my office this would last for exactly as long as it would take for some other Important Priority to pop up and then suddenly it would not be a Thing.

      And I would be off camera, on audio, probably on low so I could get my actual stuff done.

  10. I'm Just Here For The Cats!*

    OMG! Just go to HR!!! Your team leads are either ableist and/or clueless about people’s abilities. And being they told you that people need to disclose their disabilities so that they can find other ways to participate?? What the actual F???

    1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      And I loved Alison’s question about what other ways to participate actually looks like. I’d bet just about anything that this is a boilerplate response that they haven’t thought through for even 10 seconds. Because if they did, the problems would be obvious. Like how there isn’t any real way to do adaptations of any of the exercises/movements when it’s all through a YouTube video, versus having someone who knows what they’re doing leading.

    2. Jora Malli*

      Absolutely. Send all the messages you have about these fitness days to HR and tell them your concerns. I’m sure they’ll handle it from there.

    3. Observer*

      I’m a bit bothered by the total focus on physical ability here. I DO agree that this is a genuine problem, and on its own enough of a reason to push back.

      But there are a lot of other reasons why someone might be unable or unwilling to participate. And the idiot manager just blew right past it.

      Note that the OP said that “When this coworker messaged the lead in the group chat to say, “I tried but I don’t really have space around my desk haha,” the lead’s response was, “Well, maybe next time you can move your laptop where you have more room.” Which is just jaw dropping. Not everyone has the space to a work out. Some people may not even be working from home! And maybe they can’t do the workout / move to a different space because of someone else in the space.

      OP, if you bring it up, if you can, please point out that this new nonsense “voluntary” requirement is a problem not just for ADA issues. And, it’s possible that SOME of the issue could have legal ramifications as well. eg Someone is in a shelter because of a DV situation – these workouts are NOT going to work for them. But, in some localities you are not permitted to discriminate against someone who is a DV victim. Oops.

      I’m sure that there are lots other possible scenarios. (Having someone in a shelter is actually something I ran into – I knew about it, because I had to help find some work arounds for technical issues that cropped up because of it.) You don’t have to think of all of them, especially since any given scenario is unlikely by itself. But in the aggregate, the likelihood of someone having an issue that they legitimately don’t want to disclose is high. Good HR should really not want to touch that with a 10′ pole.

      1. LW*

        Definitely. Having safe space to perform such activity has been vastly overlooked. Not to mention people who deal with things like eating disorders or body dysmorphia whose needs are not being considered. List of perspectives to this and I appreciate people bringing them up!

        1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          LW, that you for taking this issue on because you are correct that many wouldn’t know they could or would be too intimidated to do it. Please update us!

        2. DJ Activist*

          LW, thank you for standing your ground on this in spite of all the commenters who simply don’t understand why this is a problem and why you can’t just pretend to exercise with your camera off. (Honestly, I’m horrified at some of the comments here from what is usually a pretty self-aware commentariat.) And Observer, your comment is spot on as well.

          I have chronic fatigue and pain, and if my boss wanted me to work out at 10am, they better also be willing to spot me a 2 hour nap in the afternoon to compensate.

      2. EmmaPoet*

        There’s also simple things like people working at a coffee shop or a library- our study rooms are small, and the odds that you could workout in one of them comfortably is pretty much nil (to say nothing of how public that workout would be through the glass walls!) And coffee shops aren’t cut out for this, and most would probably kick you out for trying.

    4. yala*

      I think there’s not “just” about it–going to HR can be pretty intimidating.

      That said, if this is a large company, and the team leads were THAT dismissive about accessibility issues being raised, then I think HR might be the way to go. Technically, the leads shouldn’t be able to retaliate. And a large company wouldn’t want the potential hassle this could create.

  11. kittycontractor*

    If the gym I voluntarily gave money to couldn’t get me to exercise, there’s no way in hell my work is going to get me to do it for free.

    1. Clobberin' Time*

      And on the flip side, the fitness resources I give my money to are the ones that can get me to exercise. I’m not going to shuffle around and disrupt my workout schedule to accommodate being my manager’s exercise accountability buddy.

      1. EmmaPoet*

        Yes, my last group workout was a bellydance class. I’m not doing that with my coworkers.

  12. Emily*

    Are you expected to be on video for this? If not, this seems like an easy problem to solve – just be on the call and don’t participate. Or if you are, you can push back against that part — “oh, I’m totally joining but I don’t want you guys to watch me!” Obviously this whole thing is not good management, but it’s also the kind of thing that lying was made for.

  13. Prospect Gone Bad*

    I am pro occasional meetings and team work. I did a group yoga class IN PERSON with coworkers 5X in a year and liked it. It felt good and we talked about before and after the class and it was generally relaxing.

    However, 3X a week is overkill.

    I suggest you recommend something else. I posted this weekend about some social activities I get invited to being too intense. I think this can be a problem. I am not an introvert and I like people but I cannot socialize 5X a week and go to three hour events unless I give up exercise or housework or time to do actual work (my job regularly goes until 7PM).

    You need to recommend something less frequent and actually in person. No one is bonding on zoom. And don’t let any “I don’t want to do any event” cloud your judgment. I see people online who never want to interact with anyone. That is not realistic or healthy. Try to meet them a 1/3 of the way.

    1. Fluffy Fish*

      “You need to recommend something less frequent and actually in person”

      No. They are fully remote and there is zero need to meet up in person.

      You don’t get to be the arbiter of what is realistic and healthy. They are all remote and it works just fine so it would seem it’s perfectly reasonable and healthy.

    2. LW*

      Pretty unrealistic to recommend meeting in person when everyone would have to get on an airplane to do it.

    3. Curmudgeon in California*

      You need to recommend something less frequent and actually in person. No one is bonding on zoom. And don’t let any “I don’t want to do any event” cloud your judgment. I see people online who never want to interact with anyone. That is not realistic or healthy. Try to meet them a 1/3 of the way.

      No. Just no. I am remote for a reason.

      Covid is not over, and I don’t want my coworker’s germs and disease. One of my housemates is immune compromised, and we all take precautions to preserve her life.

      This obsession with face to face socializing at work needs to go back to 2019 and stay there. It isn’t needed. Your coworkers are not your on-demand social group. Get your face time on your own time. Your coworkers should not feel required to provide your physical social interaction. They are paid to work, not meet your social needs.

      This whole thing is ableist as hell. Remote work is a great opportunity for disabled people. Even with my camera on it doesn’t show my disability, I don’t have to answer questions about it, and it doesn’t color people’s perceptions of me. I should NEVER have to disclose a physical disability to do remote work.

      Just FYI, when I was first disabled, it took me 10 minutes to get up and limp to the bathroom. My entire social life outside of my housemates was on UseNet and IRC – no faces, just asynchronous communication via text. I made a lot of great friends that way, several of which I am still in touch with today via various platforms.

    4. Lenora Rose*

      This is ablist and anti-remote, and both of those things are also not, in your own words, realistic or healthy.

    5. Observer*

      You need to recommend something less frequent and actually in person.

      Why? That’s not snark, that’s a genuine question. Why are these meetings actually necessary? What *work* purpose would they serve?

      No one is bonding on zoom

      Maybe. And maybe not. But why do they need to “bond”? As others have noted, people have been forming strong professional relationships for decades without the benefit of video conferencing. Again, what is the *business* need we’re talking about?

      PS All of this would be my response in the case of an organization that was previously in person, and where the majority of staff are local. In a case like the OP’s that’s even more true. As the OP notes, the staff is too dispersed too be able to gather everyone together on a regular basis.

      1. Seeking second childhood*

        In the early 90s, I worked on a daily basis with a vendor in a city 1,000 miles away. We talked on the phone and by email. I was in New York City, picking up a Tennessee accent.
        We never saw each other’s faces, but we exchanged family stories and a lot of the same back and forth that the regulars have on this site.

  14. CatCat*

    You can band together with coworkers who share your lack of interest in group work-outs

    Team bonding in action, just like management wants!

    1. Heidi*

      This is the part that confuses me the most. How is this supposed to be bonding if everyone is watching a video and not communicating with each other? Or is there supposed to be some conversation happening? It can be so awkward when one person gets so wedded to an idea that no one else likes.

      1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        Good question. My only thought is that some people seem to think that suffering together is bonding.

  15. Rain's Small Hands*

    I had an office where two of my coworkers chose to do a fitness challenge sponsored by the company and asked me (no pressure) to join them. I simply said “I don’t think its really professional for my coworkers to see me sweat.” (As such, I’ve never used the on site fitness centers at a job). Its a line I used a lot – I don’t drink at work events and use the same line. I won’t wear a swimsuit around my coworkers (that one was proposed for some reason at some point in my career).

    The other problem with working out during the work day is that a shower, drying my hair, and reapplying makeup to the point that I felt presentable in a professional environment (and everyone’s comfort level varies here, but I’m not a wet hair at work type of person – and a “little mascara and swipe of lip stuff at a minimum” person) turns a 20 minute workout into a 40 minute break. For most of my career, that’s been too much of my job to set aside when I could get me day done faster and get home to kids.

    1. Hamster Manager*

      “I don’t think it’s really professional for my coworkers to see me sweat.”

      I love this, totally agree. I use a desk treadmill and always have it set to a leisurely stroll during meetings, on camera or off (they don’t need to hear me huffing and puffing either!) Feels kinda like eating on camera during a meeting.

    2. Kesnit*

      “I don’t think its really professional for my coworkers to see me sweat.”

      To each their own. My boss and I go to the same gym. (I didn’t know which one he went to until I went to sign up.) We mostly ignore each other, other than him asking me how fast I’m going on the treadmill.

      1. mreasy*

        This doesn’t work during the summer in NYC when everyone is melted after the subway ride!

        1. quill*

          Or in the summer in the midwest where it’s even odds whether opening the door to the outside will turn you into a puddle or not.

      2. Observer*

        To each their own.

        Yes. Which is another reason why this is such a bad idea. Whether or not you agree with this poster, that’s the way they feel and absent a good business need (or the realities of summer in a place like NYC, as someone else noted), they should not be forced to change that.

    3. quill*

      “For most of my career, that’s been too much of my job to set aside when I could get me day done faster and get home to kids.”

      I think you’ve hit on the main problem that people have with work events / breaks / social hours – everything that proposes making people be at work longer is interfering with the rest of their lives. So if it’s mandatory work out off the clock, lunch out, after work drinks – it doesn’t necessarily matter what the activity or context is, once being at work longer is the net result, it’s going to get push back.

    4. allathian*

      Yeah, I have no choice in my coworkers seeing me sweat, I’m fat and not particularly fit. But they aren’t going to see me in any state of undress. So no group exercise with coworkers for me that would require a shower, i.e. anything more strenuous than a stretching session.

  16. KHB*

    It seems like we’re starting to see all kinds of misguided and absurd efforts at “team building” for teams that are mostly or entirely remote. It’s like the managers are trying to recreate the camaraderie that arises organically when you’re all in the same place at the same time, but none of these proposed activities actually do that, and they just feel like a waste of time, at best, if not downright offensive.

    I realize not everyone agrees with me on this, but I’m in the camp that believes that natural, organic camaraderie among coworkers is a good thing, and is worth trying to recreate. But these ham-fisted activities are not the way to do it, and I don’t know what is. I suspect it will take some time for workplaces to figure this out.

    1. EPLawyer*

      YES. trying to find a way to have that camaradie is great. Using a one size fits all is not. I mean do you have a slack channel. Do you have channels by interest those say those who like manga ska music can all chat together? that’s what happened in the office. the daily chitchat that let you see coworkers as human beings not just automatons showing up to their desks in the morning and leaving in the evening.

      1. Anonymous tech writer*

        I work for a global corporation that increased yammer channels as varied as job functions and photography. It is so extremely cool getting to see what is ‘local’ to coworkers on all those different continents. I even found somebody in my own area on one of those … and now we have something in common.

    2. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      I’m with you. I’ve created relationships with two coworkers who were hired while we were 100% remote. I didn’t meet either of them for a year. By that time, relationships had indeed grown. We do the same work, therefore we are similar in temperament, in interests, even live near each other. This came up as we were working together, troubleshooting or sharing new ways to do things. Just like if we’d been in the office. There was no need to schedule play dates with team members.

    3. MsSolo UK*

      Yeah, I can sort of see a once a week “hey, we’re going to watch this yoga video on YouTube at the same time and do it together, and anyone who wants to can join us” kind of activity, especially when everything was in lockdown and people were struggling to figure out how to replace some of those spontaneous office bonding activities that take place, like someone finding a lunch time yoga class and asking if anyone else wants to go too. But three times a week, and shaming people for not being physically able to or having the space to join in has the hallmarks of “but I solved camaraderie! Why doesn’t everyone love my idea?”

      Some stuff it’s just hard to recreate outside of a shared physical space. The LGBT+ group at work keeps trying to do remote lunch meetups, and as happy as I am to join people for lunch at work, if I’m at home I have too many chores to stay on top of (plus actually making lunch, instead of something I bought on the way in) to make space in my lunch hour for socialising.

    4. anonymous73*

      I agree that camaraderie is good, but it needs to happen naturally and not be forced. And it IS possible to do that remotely WITHOUT forced group bonding activities. Plus in this example, you’re exercising in your own homes – how does this exactly create bonding among teams?

      I mentioned above that I became very good friends with a co-worker where our relationship was solely based on phone calls. We became close and saw each other maybe 10 times over the course of the 6 years I worked there.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        I had a coworker who I only talked with over the phone for at least 6 months. Meeting him was actually a shock. He had a lovely bass voice, so I expected someone over six feet tall. He was around 5′ 9″. Still a nice guy.

    5. Gnome*

      Yep. I had a new manager who wanted us to all go to a teammate’s crawfish boil in matching t-shirts. The kicker: I don’t think he ran it by teammate first AND while we are one “team” it’s administrative, not functional. I never see, email, or speak to most of the team except for all-hands types of meetings.

      Also, we have multiple people who cannot eat crawfish, but at this point, it was the least egregious thing.

      1. quill*

        I would have been so tempted to propose an alternative shirt: one that just reads ALLERGIC TO SHELLFISH across it in clumsy sharpie.

        1. Gnome*

          I keep kosher. One Team Member is in a different time zone. So, for a “team” of under 20 people, he’d already necessarily excluded 10% (assuming no allergies… or that Team Member actually wanted to invite a bunch of coworkers they’d never met to their event).

      2. EmmaPoet*

        I’m allergic to crabs and lobster, so I’m probably allergic to crawfish and don’t want to find out the “Hello, ER,” way.

    6. Richard Hershberger*

      I don’t think this is a controversial stance, within the AAM commentariat.

    7. kiki*

      I agree. I think part of the difficulty is that a lot of in-person team-bonding activities before the big move to working remotely weren’t inclusive or good at fostering camaraderie in the first place. So then people try to recreate them remotely, but those activities never really good at what people wanted it to do. That leads to people trying to remotely recreate the experience of something that never achieved its purpose, so you stray even further from the original goal– we want coworkers to have some fun and get to know each other. The goal should have never been to re-create the experience of a group fitness class from home, it should have been looking for remote-friendly activities that foster camaraderie.

  17. AlexandrinaVictoria*

    I am SO SICK of being erased in company culture because I am disabled! So many perks and bonding exercises are built around physical fitness and there are those of us who just can’t do it. My company prides itself on being inclusive, but it never occurs to them to include disabled people in the things they are inclusive with. Being asked to disclose to get out of it, after it has been branded a bonding exercise, is so horribly inappropriate. People should just stick to work at work.

    1. Prospect Gone Bad*

      What do you recommend in it’s place though? I notice people online keep calling out ableism but then don’t recommend anything in it’s place. The response is usually “it’s not my responsibility” to come up with ideas, but at some point, someone needs to come up with ideas, and I think it would be easier for you (a generic you, not specifically you) to recommend alternatives rather than waiting for other people to propose them and then shoot down the ideas.

      1. Prospect Gone Bad*

        Edit: you mixed up two ideas. You say ableism but then say you don’t want to do bonding ideas at all in your last sentence. If someone is going to raise this issue, they need to pick one they believe in more. If you’re not going to do the activity anyway, there is probably no point in calling out it being ableist.

        1. I'm Just Here For The Cats!*

          Also just because AlexandrinaVictoria doesn’t want to do bonding doesn’t mean that others on the team don’t who could also have physical limitations. And they also mention perks, not just bonding exercises.

        2. Nameless in Customer Service*

          Apples to Apples.

          I’m serious. If we must do a Team Bonding Activity [TM] a rousing game of Apples to Apples is funny and provides interesting insight into how people think.

          (Cards Against Humanity is even more effective but not worksafe.)

          Now that I’ve come up with a suggestion, are disabled people allowed to object to being made second class citizens?

          1. quill*

            You can only play cards against humanity with people you already know too well to be disturbed by, and people you will never see again. Definitely not work safe!

            (Taboo is also a good idea if you don’t have apples to apples: it’s a word association game, but it has teams.)

            1. yala*

              Honestly, I’d say Apples to Apples isn’t exactly safe either, since every game I played with anyone but my mom quickly became CAH rules (although this was before CAH), and playing it straight is kinda…eh? But YMMV.

              Taboo, password, Life’s a Pitch, etc are all pretty fun though, and less likely to be made awkward by one or more people playing inappropriate cards.

              1. quill*

                Yeah, apples to apples absolutely CAN be played inappropriately for work, but at least the premise did not start out inappropriate…

        3. Curmudgeon in California*


          It’s not the disabled person’s responsibility to provide solutions to other people’s ableism. It’s a bit like blaming the victim and making them solve your problem.

          “No.” is a complete sentence. “Team bonding” is not required to make an effective team.

          The fact that these people are even trying to require it at all is ableist.

      2. anonymous73*

        I’ve been a participant in many social activities with colleagues, none of which included physical activities. And when they did, you could opt out and still attend to socialize.

      3. Mockingjay*

        Because you don’t always NEED bonding exercises at work. You want a tight team? Give them the tools and training they need, clear assignments, and let them know they can bounce ideas and problems among themselves. Empower them to ask for what they need, then follow through to see that they get it. You’ll end up with a band of rock stars.

        In my experience, every company that implemented team building exercises did so to mask lack of action on real, systemic problems or because – in AAM lexicon – the boss is an ass.

        1. Clisby*

          Yes. I’m retired now, but during my whole working life, camaraderie happened by people working together. If that isn’t happening, the answer is to fix work, not to come up with ridiculous ideas for creating camaraderie artificially.

      4. I'm Just Here For The Cats!*

        That’s like saying the only black person or the only trans person should be the one to do diversity training and teach people on correct ways of conduct because the previous trainings were bad.

        It is NOT up to the disabled (or BIPOC, or out LGBTQ+) person to come up with perks and bonding that are inclusive with everyone. There are plenty of resources for managers to look into for inclusive bonding. I’m in charge of activities for my work and I can think of a bunch of bonding activities that do not include any type of physical activity.

        * party games like Mafia or heads up
        *online escape rooms
        * 2 truths and a lie

        But it’s not just bonding activities but it can be perks too. For example gym memberships or paid time during the work day to use the gym. If able-bodied people can get 3 hours a week paid for going to the gym at work then that really stings for the person who has physical disabilities and cannot use gym equipment. It’s saying that because of my physical fitness I have to cover for my coworkers who get to blow off work because they cam physically do something.

        1. Prospect Gone Bad*

          Except race is a static characteristic. Disability can be a thousand different things. Just saying “I have a disability” doesn’t give the other party a glimpse into what specifically you can or cannot do, hence it may be easier to make it known what you can or can not do.

          1. I'm Just Here For The Cats!*

            You are missing the point i was making. It is not up to a disabled person, no matter what their disability is, to make perks and activities inclusive. If they feel like they want to help then yes they can. But there are so many resources that even a mediocre manager could google and find something that everyone could participate in. Heck even a 20 minute how was everyone’s day, let’s learn about each other chat is better than any sort of forced activity.

            1. Prospect Gone Bad*

              I get your point but don’t agree at all! Not everyone is going to know what your disability is or how it impacts you!!!! It literally becomes a guessing game! For example, one person in my parents’ generation has rheumatoid arthritis and was basically homebound, while one of my in-laws has it and travels the country and tries to exercise and eat clean and is in much better shape. There is no way an outsider party is going to be able to predict what either of them can do or not do simply based on someone saying “I have rheumatoid arthritis”

              1. LW*

                This is literally the point. No one has the right to know about an individual’s disabilities or how they impact them UNLESS that disability directly impacts their ability to do their job, and in that case it is only a select number of people who should be informed in order to provide an accommodation. There are plenty of inclusive activities that can be done for team building both in person or remote that do not require someone to disclose their personal health information.

                1. Me ... Just Me*

                  As a disabled person, many of the benign seeming activities that someone listed above would be extremely difficult for me to do and would take accommodation in some way. There really is NO activity that literally everyone can do. So, yes, it is my responsibility as a contributing member of the group to educate folks on what my limitations are or, even, just to suggest activities that would not be problematic for me to participate in. There’s no sense in me getting upset about it, as the reality is that I do have limitations that others’ don’t. I’m a practical person, so I just chalk it up to another aspect of my disability that sucks.

                2. Prospect Gone Bad*

                  But people here have always wanted events to be cancelled with no explanation. I am a Director. The world and employees don’t work this way. I’ve never had someone play this game of “I might have a disability but I am not going to tell you about it, but predict what I need.”

                  I have refrained from commenting on these type of threads for a year or so, but enough is enough.

                  You can’t make a reasonable accommodation without knowing what you’re accommodating!

                  And as far as I know, none of my employees have had disabilities, so I operate with notion that they don’t. And if someone doesn’t want to do something, they always tell me why. When I get the reason, I can use it to change my request. But I am not going to never plan anything because someone might be hiding a disability very well. The world doesn’t operate that way at all

                3. Eldritch Office Worker*

                  @Prospect Gone Bad – this game???? are you serious?

                  AS FAR AS YOU KNOW none of your employees have disabilities, but you don’t know. And you don’t know who you’ll hire in the future. People also might just have a preference for not doing physical teambuilding (a LOT of healthy people on this post are commenting why that wouldn’t work for them). The bar for inclusive activities is on the floor, you are choosing not to reach it.

                4. DJ Activist*

                  Director’s statement about two relatives with RA tells me everything I need to know about how little they understand disability. Is it possible you only THINK your workforce is “a team of healthy people” because you say things like “one of my in-laws has it and travels the country and tries to exercise and eat clean and is in much better shape”? I have a disease similar to RA and would certainly not disclose anything to you, for fear I would face a lot of judgmental comments like the one you just made about how if only I was eating “clean” (which btw is not a meaningful or real category) or exercised more or differently, I would be able-bodied. You sound like a nightmare to work for.

                5. yala*

                  @DJ that is a REALLY good point. You can Eat Clean and Try To Stay In Shape all you want…and still be unable to physically do things that someone with a similar diagnosis can.

                  Or may choose not to do those things, because the trade-off isn’t one you want to make.

              2. Curmudgeon in California*

                It’s not reasonable to require that people disclose a disability, or that they provide “bonding” activities for an entire group.

                It’s not their job. Period.

              3. Jora Malli*

                I’m sorry, how hard is it to remember that disabled people exist and shouldn’t be excluded? How hard is it to realize that exercise based team building will exclude disabled people? IT SHOULD NOT BE HARD.

                I’m a librarian, and the major problem I come up against in terms of disability inclusion is reminding management that some of our staff are disabled. Our customer areas are ADA compliant, our online programs for customers include closed captioning, in-person programs use microphones, a lot of consideration has gone into providing service for disabled customers. But our staff areas are not accessible. Some of our libraries have service desks at standing height where disabled staff members can’t be as effective. Our staff trainings aren’t closed captioned and in person presenters love to do the thing where they say “I talk loud, I don’t need this microphone,” as if none of our employees could possibly be hard of hearing. It’s like our leadership has decided that yes, there are disabled people in the world, but none of them work for us.

                I guess what I’m getting at is that managers need to stop assuming that they don’t have any disabled employees. They need to make ALL of their plans based on the assumption that some of their employees are disabled. And if you want to plan a team building event and aren’t sure whether your team will be able to do the activity you’re thinking of, ASK THEM.

                1. Prospect Gone Bad*

                  See my comment above. Personally, I manage a team of healthy people. Accommodating disabilities they don’t have doesn’t make any sense. Many comments want us to preemptively accommodate every disability that exists because they don’t want to tell their boss everything. I am not asking people to go rock climbing. I am going to assume someone who walks around and acts healthy and doesn’t say anything can get through an activity like miniature golf. I don’t know where y’all have worked that companies accommodate disabilities that they never were told about and don’t know of. I’ve worked at fortune 1000 companies and have never heard of this concept IRL. We just don’t do extremely risky activities because liability but doing some stretches in your house definitely doesn’t rise to that level.

                2. KoiFeeder*

                  (@Prospect, not Jora)

                  Apparently I look healthy enough that people will get aggressive with me for using my cane in public, but if I do some stretches at home there is a solid chance that my hip will pop right out of its socket. You really, really, cannot tell these things at a glance. If you don’t care enough to actually put thought into your team-building activities, make them optional.

                3. Canadian Librarian #72*

                  @Prospect Gone Bad – with all due respect, you cannot assume you know whether your team are all “health” or that none of them have disabilities.

                  I know you think you know this information, but you don’t. Lots of people don’t disclose personal health information to their supervisors when it’s not relevant to the job requirements (of which mini-golf is typically not one).

                4. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

                  One of the disability advocacy groups I work with suggested planning activities as if all your employees had a disability and I have found that a really useful frame to use. If you center disability access you can include everyone, which has been an invaluable lesson for me since I now plan more community events

                5. yala*

                  “Personally, I manage a team of healthy people. Accommodating disabilities they don’t have doesn’t make any sense. ”

                  As far as you know.

                  And if you hire someone disabled in the future, and now whatever Fun Things the team is used to aren’t on the table anymore because the New Guy is disabled?

                  Or is there a chance of weeding them out in advance for “not fitting the vibe” because they wouldn’t be able to participate in regular team things?

                6. Jora Malli*

                  First of all, responding to a comment about disabilities by saying it’s not a problem because all of your staff are “healthy” is really ableist. Disabled people can also be “healthy” and not all people who are “unhealthy” are disabled.

                  And to echo what the others have said, unless you are your employees’ doctor, you have no way of knowing if any of them have a hidden disability, and if you talk about your staff and their “health” around them the way you have in these comments, any disabled staff members you may have would probably not feel safe or comfortable disclosing that to you.

              4. Hannah Lee*

                That’s why managers, corporate HR people or whoever is coming up with these team-building or perk ideas needs to be thinking, from the get go, about “What is it we’re trying to achieve by adding this new thing?” and “How do we design this so the outcome, benefits of this program are available to a wide range of not-just-current employees, but also future employees?” (if it’s something that is intended to be repeated) So the fact that Employee A may have COPD and is unable to run far or fast isn’t required to design the program, but thinking from the start with a diversity mindset such as “what program can we design that is accessible to all employees (including the intended benefits) regardless of their physical capabilities?” is.

                Otherwise you get things like “We have an annual golf outing … but no we have 2 new employees who can’t golf (or worse, aren’t allowed to golf at the place we always go because of reasons) It’s okay to have them ride behind in the drinks cart, right?”

              5. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

                At work, I would only disclose a disability that affected what I could do at work, or that I needed accommodations for. For an office job in a building with an elevator, it doesn’t matter that I can’t run at all, or walk fast or long distances.

                If you asked me to do a one-size-fits-all workout, that would change. And I wouldn’t have already talked to HR to let them know that sometimes doing X, Y, or Z is painful or impossible, and sometimes I find that out by trying.

                I have an exercise program that works pretty well, including a bunch of weight lifting and work with resistance bands. I developed it with a personal trainer, who was aware of what I can and can’t do. Exercising three days a week with a YouTube exercise video that someone else selected would interfere with that. There’s no way HR would already know that, because it would never occur to me to ask for the accommodation “don’t make me do an exercise program routine other than the one I’m doing now.”

              6. Irish Teacher*

                Some of your employees almost certainly have disabilities. About one in four people have a disability, so if you have 10 or more employees, the odds are very high that at least one of them does.

                And I think you might be mistaking what is being asked for. It sounds like you might be interpreting it as “know what disabilities your employees have and work around them” rather than “don’t plan activities that are very likely to leave a significant proportion of your employees out” (and while one can’t know exactly what disabilities there are in any workplace, it is pretty easy to realise that any workplace is likely to have people who, whether due to physical disability or medical condition or lack of space or mental health issues that mean exercising can lead to obsession or just being unfit, might not be able to participate in a workout; you don’t have to know what disabilities people have or even if they have disabilities to know that statistically, there are a lot of people who can’t participate in things like that and it’s very likely some will be in your workplace) and “leave people a way to opt out without having to disclose their disability.” Just accepting “I can’t do that” without expecting people to disclose WHY goes a long way.

                I will add my workplace has been amazing with regard to some of my…oddities. I have some sort of autistic-like characteristics (no idea if I am autistic or not; I’ve done a few online tests and they are like “um, maybe, maybe not; your results are inconclusive”). To be honest, I don’t really need any particular accommodations, but some of my colleagues have gone out of their way (without being asked or my ever telling them any of this, though given that I’m part of the resource department, it’s possible they’ve guessed) to be clear about what they are asking from me, to prompt me when students try making small talk and I have no way to respond. “Miss, Miss, I just won a race on the sports day.” Colleague: “oh, that’s fantastic, isn’t it, Irish Teacher? Did you know he practiced really hard for that?” and so on. At our staff party, we were in a very packed bar and one of them turned to me and told me some of our colleagues were sitting in the next room where it was quieter and did I want to go join them. And another of my colleagues asked if I wanted to go and help set up (which is more structured). None of this is stuff I’ve ever mentioned having difficulty with; they just paid attention and noticed when I could do with some back-up.

                You don’t always need to know if somebody has a diagnosis to be inclusive.

                1. quill*

                  This. Particularly with physical disabilities, it’s easy to plan for team activities to not be workout sessions or extreme sports, or in non-ADA compliant locations. If something comes up that was otherwise overlooked? Well, at least you made the effort and the fact that you are already looking for inclusive activities and locations will make changing things easier. And it’s good practice to plan things based on the certainty that you do not know everyone’s limitations, rather than assuming that if you don’t know about someone’s disability they must not have one.

                  Much like a thinking person planning a team lunch for a team whose health they knew nothing about wouldn’t plan it somewhere that only served cheese, steak, and shrimp tacos. Because chances are pretty high that the food would not work for someone out of a group of 10 or more.

              7. yala*

                “But people here have always wanted events to be cancelled with no explanation.”

                … Can you point to where you read that exactly? Because you sure seem to see a lot of things that “always” happen that…don’t seem to?

                “And as far as I know, none of my employees have had disabilities, so I operate with notion that they don’t…But I am not going to never plan anything because someone might be hiding a disability very well. The world doesn’t operate that way at all.”

                I mean. It could?

                We’re talking about Team Building Exercises, not actual Work Requirements, where disclosure of a specific limitation may be necessary for accommodation.

                Maybe you SHOULD plan your events with an eye towards greater inclusivity? It strikes me as really odd that you don’t. No one is saying you have to cover Every Single Base, and that Everything Is Failure if it turns out you didn’t anticipate someone’s specific needs. But why not plan events with the consideration of what will be easily accessible to people?

                Yeah, some people with Disability A can do Activity X with no problem. But many people can’t. So instead of planning a Team Bonding Experience around Activity X, maybe look around for activities that have a better chance of being something everyone can do, without waiting for folks to have to come forward about their specific disability that doesn’t actually affect their work at all, but does affect their ability to participate in the Team Fun Time–especially considering that if the Fun Thing needs to be cancelled because of accessibility, the options are either: cancel with no reason, cancel with a vague reason, or cancel with a specific reason. And either of the latter two can generate ill will towards whoever asked for it not to be a thing, because people are good at figuring it out. (Or, even better, good at deciding they’ve Figured It Out, and being crummy to the person they decided is at fault.)

                Like, you wouldn’t plan a whiskey tasting as a Team Building Experience without knowing in advance that every member of the team enjoys drinking whiskey, right? You see how announcing something like that, and then walking it back for Team Reasons after the fact could generate a lot of rumors, don’t you?

              8. Worldwalker*

                You do realize that rheumatoid arthritis exists in different levels of severity, and affects people differently, whether or not they “eat clean”? And that RA can make it impossible to exercise?

                No, it’s not a matter of your in-law being morally superior — it’s a matter of a disease affecting different people differently.

          2. Lenora Rose*

            Or… just stop trying to artificially create a thing that should happen organically.

      5. Richard Hershberger*

        The problem is that there is no top-down activity that everyone will enjoy. I could do most of the stuff that we see. Very little of it would I want to do, much less as a management-organized activity. Taking as an example the Friday happy hour, the occasional “Who’s up for this?” is one thing, while the reminder email from my boss that it is that time again is another entirely. The entire theory of the team-building exercise is flawed. Yes, functional teams tend to like each other and therefore to socialized together outside of work. But if the team is dysfunctional, or even works just find but not in a socializing sort of way, then the problem, if there is a problem, is not that they aren’t drinking together enough. Teams socializing together is the effect, not the cause, of their being happy teams.

      6. Myrin*

        I mean, I’d assume the alternative is “not doing anything at all”. If that’s someone’s wish, they don’t really need to recommend anything in its place because in its place is “nothing”.

      7. starfox*

        I mean, I don’t think it is the responsibility of disabled people to have to come up with all the ideas on what to do instead…. And I don’t think someone should have to “out” themselves as having a disability if they don’t want to. There are plenty of alternatives… The only “bonding” my team does is my boss buys lunch for everyone occasionally and we eat together in the conference room.

        (But I’m also not really a “work bonding” kind of person… I think you either hit it off with your coworkers or you don’t… I have coworkers I consider to be casual friends and we didn’t become that way through any kind of forced bonding activity… and no amount of bonding activities would make me want to socialize with some of my coworkers outside of work…. But I work in a small office, so maybe it’s different if you have more employees? idk).

        1. Hannah Lee*

          The expectation that people should have to “out” themselves and their disabilities, limitations … around stuff that has ZERO to do with their core job functions and the essential skills, capabilities to successfully perform in their positions is way out of bounds to me.

          The point of disclosing that information to employers is so that they can fulfill their obligations to provide reasonable accommodations to enable a person with disabilities to do their job. Not so a manager can put a note in the Bob the Senior Accountant’s file that says “has severe Vertigo, is unable to participate in balance beam, rope wall, over the wall, or spelunking challenges” or grumble to themselves about how the team used to LOVE having all offsites at the local CrossFit gym, but since Becky with the bum knee got hired HR says CrossFit is off the table.

      8. Observer*

        What do you recommend in it’s place though?

        Being a decent human being and when called on it, not giving ridiculous responses.

        That includes a frequently insincere “Well, what ELSE do you suggest?!” or the actual responses that were given when the OP brought the issue up. Which is to say that the problem here is NOT that there just “aren’t” any good alternative, but that the manager doesn’t want to consider alternatives AND doesn’t even want to consider letting people quietly opt out without invasive and inappropriate questions from the bosses.

        1. Prospect Gone Bad*

          What invasive questions? The OP and many commenters are telling them to proactively complain. How do you think managers handle complaints? If someone complains to me, I’m not allowed to respond or ask follow up questions? That would be very peculiar. I feel like many people are writing about the world as they specifically want it and not as it operates, and not as other people want it to operate. And the way it operates isn’t that bad.

          I’d much rather someone just say “I hate yoga, the idea is dumb” than come up with all of these scenarios like “what is someone on the team has a disability they can’t talk about.”

          If we took that slant literally, yoga can be modified for various body types. My grandma used to go to “yoga” that was done in a seat when she was 80. So it doesn’t even get to the issue that you don’t like any team building exercises.

          1. Observer*

            How do you think managers handle complaints?

            I don’t have to “think”. The OP told us how their managers are reacting and it’s just atrocious.

            1. They blew off the POSSIBILITY that someone might have an ongoing disability
            2. When that was explicitly mentioned they said that people need to disclose and be given another way to participate.
            3. When someone said that they don’t have space in their workspace to do the workout safely they were told to move their laptop to a bigger space.

            If these people actually reacted with “Oh, I’m sorry I didn’t think of that. Let’s do some brainstorming. Any suggestions?” we would not be having this conversation. It’s happening because the managers have already made it clear that they are not interested in dealing with this appropriately.

            This is not about “proactively” complaining. This about complaining after the manager already over-stepped in a major way.

          2. Canadian Librarian #72*

            I mean, personally, if I knew when I was interviewing for a job in my field that doing yoga with my coworkers was something I’d be expected to do, I’d remove myself from the competition.

            If it’s not necessary for business purposes, there is no excuse for forcing employees to do it (or forcing them to give you a “good enough reason” why they shouldn’t have to). It’s invasive, annoying, and a waste of time.

          3. Eldritch Office Worker*

            I have a specific genetic disorder that makes my body incapable of doing certain exercises, including modified yoga. It puts me at a high risk of injury and it gives me panic attacks. None of that is my employers business.

            The reason able-bodied people should bring up the possibility of a disability is because “dumb” is not legally protected while ADA accommodations are, and disabled people already have to deal with enough crap advocating for themselves that “let’s be a bare minimum of inclusive under the law” is a pretty low bar for everyone else to meet.

            Observer’s comments cover how this manager already failed but I’d really like you to examine your understanding of how the world works and realize not everyone is privileged enough to be experiencing the same reality you are.

          4. yala*

            ‘I’d much rather someone just say “I hate yoga, the idea is dumb” than come up with all of these scenarios like “what is someone on the team has a disability they can’t talk about.”‘

            That really sounds like a You Problem, because the latter is generally a good thing to consider when planning ANY activity. It’s good to get in the practice of running through potential issues.

            Do you really plan things without considering possible obstacles that may come up? Not just in regards to ability and accessibility, but in general. Coming up with hypothetical scenarios where things don’t work out exactly as planned to make sure you’ve covered your bases as well as possible seems like it’s…just common sense?

            1. Worldwalker*

              Yeah, isn’t that kind of ordinary practice? I had a discussion with my boss this morning about a project that was a lot of “What if *this* happens?” “What about *that*?” “How will customers react to *this other thing*?” We do a lot of that, because we want to find potential problems — and prepare solutions to them — while they’re still in the hypothetical stage, before *this* or *that* or *this other thing* actually happens and it’s too late to brainstorm what to do about it. You should be doing that about everything, not just forced-camaraderie events with your subordinates.

          5. Nameless in Customer Service*

            To be honest, after reading your comments in this thread, I don’t think you’d be a safe manager to disclose a disability to. I sincerely hope that all your employees are and continue to be as healthy as you think they are, for their sakes.

      9. Canadian Librarian #72*

        I mean, it’s really not anyone’s responsibility to come up with activities unrelated to business purposes, though. That wasn’t part of my job description or anyone else’s on my team, that I remember.

        That said, my teams over the years have done things like trivia and quiz games, which were really fun under the right circumstances. Once we got a remote tour of [European city], where the tour guide had a camera and did voiceover as he walked us around the urban landscape, telling us about various landmarks and history. It was pretty neat. Definitely not possible all the time, and probably financially out of reach for some companies but that was what we did in December 2020 instead of our holiday party.

        Idk, think (or Google) a little harder and I’m sure you’ll come up with plenty of ideas for group activities that don’t require people to be in the same room and/or exercising together.

      10. yala*

        “I notice people online keep calling out ableism but then don’t recommend anything in it’s place.”

        That sounds like confirmation bias, because I notice when folks talk about systemic ableism, it almost always comes with suggestions of ways things could/should be.

        Heck, not all that long ago there was a similar letter about Team Bonding Fun Times that OP couldn’t participate in because of Body Reasons, and the discussion was FULL of effective alternatives.

        “at some point, someone needs to come up with ideas”

        This is such a weird thing to say, because again, it implies that folks AREN’T coming up with ideas or suggestions, which, again, just isn’t true. You’ve just got to actually listen to disabled people.

        And yes, sometimes it will involve people proposing ideas and shooting them down, because that’s how problem solving works.

      11. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Any activity that occurs within the confines of ability already present at work. If you’re a fully remote team – trivia is an idea. If you coach soccer your options are probably slightly broader. It’s not that hard.

      12. Irish Teacher*

        I’m not sure entirely what you mean people to recommend in its place. If you mean for you to promote bonding in a remote team, I’d say one thing would be to give a number of options and make them GENUINELY optional. If they are doing three 20 minute activities a week, have them three different activities and let people participate in as many or as few as they wish. “We’ll do an online workout on Monday, an online quiz on Wednesday and play an online game together on Friday.” Something like that. Another possibility is just have an online meet-up time and just let people chat as they would in the office. Have an “online lunch hour” once a week or once a fortnight where people can just chat and again make it truly optional.

        And that’s assuming bonding activities are needed at all. They may not be.

      13. Worldwalker*

        “I have created a problem. If you can’t solve the problem, then you have no right to object.”

        No. Just no.

    2. I'm Just Here For The Cats!*

      I agree. Although I am not disabled I have some chronic conditions and a bad back. There are several exercises that I can’t do. I remember years ago I worked at a place where we had these mandatory “fun” events. Long story short the stupid team-building exercise ended up making my heavy-set coworker step on my ankle, which, was just out of my brace from a bad sprain. I did not feel like I could say no as I was already ostracised with this group and my team lead kept making backhanded comments. When I went to the HR guy and said I got hurt and I needed to go home to ice and keep my foot up he told me that I shouldn’t have participated as it “wasn’t mandatory”.

  18. anonymous73*

    I will never understand this type of forced activity. Regardless of ability, this is 100% over the line. I wouldn’t work out “with” my co-workers ever, period, end of story. How I workout is my business, and has nothing to do with my job. Hell even when we belonged to a gym, I didn’t work out “with” my husband. We rode over together and then did our own thing. I would go to HR immediately because if they’re pressuring people to participate, it’s not “optional”, and mention the liability angle. They’ll act fast if they foresee a potential lawsuit.

  19. Sady*

    I mean, it sounds like everybody can just say no, without pushback from the company. It also sounds like these exercise classes are not on camera with other people so no one will ever know who participates and who doesn’t, so no one has to really do anything at all. Why do you care? Your letter made it seem like you were very anxious to report this to HR, but is it even necessary?
    Just leave it alone for goodness sakes.

    1. BreakfastBanana*

      That’s how I’m feeling about this one. If attendance is already low, just keep not going. One pushy manager doesn’t mean you have to attend, unless it starts to become clear they’re making things difficult at work for those not attending.

    2. anonymous73*

      Because it NEEDS to be reported. They say it’s optional but are pressuring people to participate, so in the leadership’s mind it’s really not optional. At my last job they did an online happy hour. It never said it was mandatory and I had no desire to stay online after my work day was done. My manager asked me after why I didn’t go. I told him that I thought it was optional. I could tell he was bothered that I hadn’t attended. So clearly it wasn’t optional in his mind.

      1. I'm Just Here For The Cats!*

        exactly. It might not be written out as mandatory but when it comes to how the bosses perceive the person who skips out then it is mandatory.

      2. LW*

        This. They have it labeled as optional but are pushing back on people when they give legitimate reasons why they can’t/don’t want to go.

      3. Curmudgeon in California*

        Sure, it’s not “mandatory”. Except that when everyone is pressured by the boss to participate it is, in fact, unofficially mandatory.

    3. Bagpuss*

      I think it i appropriate to report it. OP may or may not feel that she can opt out, but it’s still a terrible idea and it’s very hard to judge whether there may be others who feel they can’t opt out – perhaps if they ork more closey or report directly to the person pushing it, or because they are more junior and don’t have the confidence / capital to be able to opt out without experiecing, or fearing they will experience, negative consequences as a result.

      I think that if you feel that you have the ability to push back or report it then it is a good idea to do so.

    4. starfox*

      Disagree. It sounds like there is “pushback” in the form of LW’s manager being pushy. There’s nothing wrong with the exercise program, but being pushy about it is making people uncomfortable. No one should feel like they have to disclose a disability that isn’t interfering with work at all.

      The manager is incredibly tone-deaf and he needs to be educated….

    5. Observer*

      Why do you care? Your letter made it seem like you were very anxious to report this to HR, but is it even necessary?
      Just leave it alone for goodness sakes.

      Because there is apparently pressure being put on people, to the point that at least one manager said that people need to disclose stuff that they don’t want to disclose to be allowed to opt out of this officially voluntary and totally non-work related activity.

      So, there does seem to be a problem here. It could be that if no one shows up it will die of its own. But if the managers keep on pushing, the OP would be doing their coworkers and the organization a favor by giving HR a heads up.

  20. Liz the Snackbrarian*

    I would go to HR because of the privacy issues. People should absolutely not be pressured to disclose any disabilities or other issues that would prevent them from working out. Also seems like this sort of pressure can be super triggering to people with disordered eating or body dysmorphia or other health issues, and can feed into toxic diet culture.

    1. Curmudgeon in California*


      Forced exercise, regardless of the reason, can be very triggering, especially for those who had a hellish high school experience. If I wanted mandatory exercise I’d be in the military.

      1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

        “…especially for those who had a hellish high school experience.”

        *raises hand*

        Oh, hell yes. This so-called “bonding activity” would be the absolute opposite for me. And just from looking at the comments here, a lot of people would hate it, for a lot of different reasons.

        That manager, or team leader, or whatever the hell they are, is out of their damned mind.

  21. NW Mossy*

    I’ve been doing workouts with colleagues for about 10 years now, starting with on-site fitness classes pre-pandemic and shifting to virtual sessions thereafter. It’s one of my favorite things about my job and has provided me with significant career and social benefits over the years.

    All of this is background to say that even fitness-at-work enthusiasts can say with confidence that this is banana crackers. I don’t want to work out with people who feel pressured to participate, can’t participate safely, have other priorities, or just plain don’t want to. Physical activity gives the most benefit when it’s personal and tailored to what works for the individual in question (both physically and socio-emotionally), and frankly, big companies should be up enough on their understanding of inclusive environments to know this.

    For many of us, physical activity is an opportunity to escape the obligations that work puts on us. Converting it to one more thing your boss adds to your to-do list knocks out one of its biggest benefits.

    1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      Yes. This can be a good thing, if it is done correctly. That’s why the company HAS an HR department and doesn’t leave creating company culture to managers with a pet hobby they want to share.

  22. Snarkus Aurelius*

    And this is what happens when you don’t have diversity in leadership AS WELL AS the workforce.

    I read a study that said the more diverse a company claimed to be, the more white, male, and physically abled the C Suite was.

    Because diversity is treated like a broad quota to be met for marketing purposes instead of an ongoing goal that applies across all levels.

    1. Prospect Gone Bad*

      Anything could be true, but the stereotypical white male is not proposing thrice a week yoga workouts!

      1. knitcrazybooknut*

        No, but the stereotypical white male CEO is convinced that his “exciting new idea” is TEH BEST and everyone will love it and it will change the workplace as we know it.


      2. Snarkus Aurelius*

        If the stereotypical white male thinks a wellness program will help the company save money on health insurance, he will. He probably won’t participate in it himself though.

  23. kiki*

    Okay, exercising together on a call is just… so useless as team-bonding. Like, am I just hearing my coworkers breathing heavily into their mics? Maybe the original Physical Friday group was getting a lot out of the accountability and work-sanctioned exercise break aspect, but this doesn’t seem like it’d be very useful or fun for most people. Trying to make it a company-wide thing in such a strict way seems strange.

    I’m somebody who likes group fitness activities and likes the occasional team-building activity (though I prefer these two things not overlap in a venn diagram), but this is just… it is all of the bad with none of the good. I can see enjoying a management-approved excuse to go outside, stretch, or get in a little cardio, and maybe appreciating coworkers sharing some thoughts/pictures of whatever they did, but why make everyone do the same exercise routine?

  24. Valancy Snaith*

    For goodness’ sake, this is not a “normal part of the work environment” unless your work requires a certain level of fitness. And if that’s the case, 3x weekly YouTube workouts ain’t cutting it.

    1. Milspec*

      I know police and military work out together to build camaraderie so it’s not unheard of but in this context it’s ridiculous.

      1. Enai*

        Actually, that and jobs like firefighters are the only jobs where I can see the utility of mandatory group exercise on work time. Otherwise, letting employees form voluntary sportsball teams and such is fine, but even the slightest hint of “no, really, you need to participate to be a team member in good standing” must be avoided.

        We have a saying in Germany: “Work is work and Schnapps is Schnapps” and i think that should apply here.

      2. Sacred Ground*

        Also, they don’t do it to build camaraderie, they do it to maintain a level of physical fitness that leadership considers essential to doing the work.

  25. Jessica Fletcher*

    This is so silly. How is this team building? Who is bonding over this? It sounds like they log into a meeting 3x per week to watch a video, while they huff and puff into the headset? Ew.

  26. anonymous73*

    For everyone suggesting that they fake it since they’re not on camera…this is a VERY BAD IDEA. By pretending to participate, you are sending a message to the leaders of this ridiculous idea that you’re on board, which is NOT what needs to happen. They need to understand that they are overstepping and end this nonsense.

    1. Milspec*

      Agreed as well. Participation just feeds in to the idea that this is normal and customary.

    2. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

      Hard agree here, for all the reasons mentioned.

      I’m on Team Take This to HR. This is wildly inappropriate and should not be happening, and HR needs to know about it.

  27. Turanga Leela*

    The only time I’ve worked out with coworkers is when it’s come up organically. I used to have a colleague who was trained as a yoga instructor, and she offered to lead a free class on Friday afternoons (totally optional, but it was well-attended). The pressure to do this is very weird.

    1. Bagpuss*

      Yes, we had a junior staff member who ran an evening exercise class . several people from work joined, and enjoyed it, BUT it happened very organically, people knew she was running it and asked her to tell them when registration would open for the next round of classes.

  28. Person*

    I workout multiple times a week and am relatively active and still wouldn’t be down to do this. I don’t enjoy at home youtube workouts and the thought of having to do them virtually with my coworkers sounds like a new form of torture. Let alone the overreach in your personal life and the total disregard for anyone who might have disabilities.

    1. mf*

      Yes! And as a fellow workout-multiple-times-a-week person: I already have my own routine and exercise schedule of choice that is designed for my goals and enjoyment. I am not necessarily interested in incorporating another type of exercise 3x per week. (Also, for someone very active, adding more activity 3x per week could actually lead to injury!)

  29. Can't think of a funny name*

    I run at lunch 3x a week…and it’s not light breathing…I’m like huffing and puffing…I’ll run with my headphones and join the workout, how’s that? Pretty sure I’d be “excused” from all future teambuilding workouts after that! :)

  30. Lifeandlimb*

    Once again chiming in as an able-bodied, very athletically fit person who would HATE this. I have enough work to do during the work day and enough physical intensity going on in my hobbies without someone forcing some trend workout on me.

    ADA policies are usually very good for able-bodied people, too. Let people do what they want socially on their off-time. Mandatory work workouts are BS.

    1. Down the rabbit hole*

      I’m also against forced workouts. I would be calling it out loudly and openly—this is not a valuable use of my time and I will not be extending my workday to accommodate this activity.

      A monthly or quarterly team building activity (like trivia, virtual Pictionary, a virtual lunch, or even a virtual volunteer event, etc) would be something I could support but physical activities (especially ones for fitness that I’m not choosing) are not going to happen.

    2. one l lana*

      Was coming to say the same thing. I work out five times a week, but I set my own schedule and pick my own activities and I have ZERO interest in my company getting involved, let alone in doing any of it with my coworkers.

      This seems to serve the boss and literally no one else.

  31. Jam Today*

    The number of ways in which people can be weird in public, and in particular in professional settings is an enduring marvel to me. In a million years I don’t think I would have envisioned a manager suggesting an activity like this. Its so, so strange.

  32. Dark Macadamia*

    The idea that you raised a valid concern and the response was “oh it’s fine if people get injured doing this” is WILD on so many levels.

    1. Charlotte Lucas*

      HR would want to know. When my job offered classes, you had to complete a waiver to participate for just this reason.

    2. LW*

      This is not what happened. The comment was in regards to someone who was injured for whatever reason and unable to participate because of said injury, not that the injury would happen during this time.

      1. Observer*

        That’s how I read it. But I still think it’s absolutely wild. I mean what rock do these people live under that they don’t know of any other disability that might just keep someone from doing these exercises?

  33. The Wizard Rincewind*

    This isn’t even a great idea for people who are physically active. I work out ~5 times a week lifting weights at the gym. It’s not something that can be replicated at home in a group workout environment and I plan my morning routine around it. If my job wanted me to put in another 3 workouts on top of that? Absolutely not, even if it was something low-impact. Just bad policy all around.

    1. mf*

      Yeah, said something similar above. I already workout 5x per week. I can’t really add 3 more workouts per week. I think that would probably lead to injury.

    2. Kesnit*

      I work out 4-5 times a week and train for endurance sports. For this reason, I have a pretty strict workout schedule. There is no way I’m doing a 40 minute ride or run before work, then doing yoga with my co-workers in the middle of the morning.

  34. Former Retail Lifer*

    I don’t work out. I can’t stand doing anything more active than pilates or walking. I don’t have a disability. I just don’t want to. My company used to participate in a charity run, and I was almost the only one who declined to participate. I plainly told my boss and everyone else who was “disappointed” that I wasn’t participating that I’m not a runner and an activity like this would be torture. I think someone suggested it was an ableist activity and we no longer participate, but I’m glad we stopped because it seems like everyone else felt pressured to do it.

    1. Bagpuss*

      Yes, I have chronic pain as a result of some physical issues (I don’t normally think of myself as having a disability because this has been normal for me for so long that a lot of the stuff I do to accommodate my limitations as second nature and I forget most people don’t need them, but objectively, I do have)

      I also have a bunch of other physical issues which are not disabilities but which do mean I need to be VERY careful about what , and what types, of physical activity I do.

      But even when I was young and didn’t have a disability I would absolutely not have wanted to be doing organised physical activities with my coworkers (or at all, probably) Even the kind of physical activities I enjoy, I don’t much want to do as part of a group or in a situation where it might be competative., and I don’t really wwant to have to explain why something won’t work for me

  35. Charlotte Lucas*

    Just coming to say that I used to attend all kinds of classes, & pilates was by far the most difficult, so props to you! (Step aerobics was the worst – boring & really bad for my knees that were just beginning to give me trouble when I tried it.)

    I’ve done voluntary exercise classes at work, & I appreciate when they’re offered, but this sounds awful.

  36. Scmill*

    I worked for someone who thought it would be a fun way to bond by doing an Outward Bound trip. I just said I’m an old lady and I am not doing that, and we did something else instead that everyone could enjoy.

  37. ABCYaBye*

    I enjoy working out, but I like to do so when I’m ready for it, and not when voluntold to do so. I’m in OK shape, but I am also diabetic so there are other factors to consider and I’d absolutely raise hell if work forced me into workouts that would potentially cause my blood sugar to crater.

    HR needs to know about this ASAP. This isn’t something that is helpful and is actually something that is probably illegal.

  38. OutofOffice*

    In addition to not accounting for people with disabilities, they also aren’t accounting for people who have different workout preferences. Some people like to swim, some people prefer to go for a morning jog, some people use virtual reality apps like BeatSaber, etc. Some folks also like to work out at different times, usually around when they have the most energy and/or when they have time to shower after. Some like silence, some like music or podcasts or TV shows. Universally following a specific workout routine at a set time excludes far more people than it includes!

    1. ABCYaBye*


      My wife has a specific workout routine she follows. I have one. We’ve invited one another to join from time to time, but neither has really taken the other up on it, as we like the routine we have. Nothing wrong with that at all.

    2. Antilles*

      It’s also not accounting for different levels of fitness. To productively train, you need something that challenges your body at the level you’re at – not so tough that you can’t complete it but not so easy that your body doesn’t even breathe hard.

    3. MEH Squared*

      Agreed. I do a very specific Taiji (tai chi) routine every morning that includes stretches, warmups, drills, part of the Solo Form, and weapons forms. I have no interest in following a YouTube video for a kind of exercise I don’t want to do. especially not with the additional pressure of my work silently expecting me to do it on their schedule.

    1. ABCYaBye*

      It actually does. Leaders have been pushy about it. Someone who brought up challenges was told they should rearrange their workspace. That sounds more like “optional” than truly optional.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        Yep. If it were truly optional, everyone would be told about it, then management would not mention it again unless team members brought it up.

        Trust people to know when they feel pressured to do something, even something “optional.”

    2. Irish Teacher*

      I don’t think it’s just about being forced though. It sounds like there is an expectation that people will participate, especially when they said “just disclose any disabilities that will prevent you from doing so.” There is a middle ground between forced and truly voluntary and this seems to fit in there. It sounds like it’s sort of opt-out rather than opt-in and a person who has an eating disorder and a tendency to exercise excessively who might be triggered by this might be almost as uncomfortable opting out without saying anything, knowing that could spark speculation as to why they aren’t joining in as telling people about their eating disorder or taking part and risking it triggering them.

      There might not be force but…it seems like people will question it (even just mentally) if somebody doesn’t take part and that in itself is problematic. There is a huge difference between “hey, let’s have a workout three times a week for anybody who’s interested” and “let’s all workout together. Of course, we understand if you have had a recent injury or something that means you can’t participate for a few weeks. Just let us know and we’ll accommodate you.” And the fact it was raised at a meeting along with goals makes it sound like there is some judgement involved here.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        Yeah, something that is pushed by leadership and peer pressure is not voluntary. It’s unofficially mandatory.

      2. WillowSunstar*

        My concern with this is, is anyone who doesn’t participate going to be labelled “not a team player” in their next review? Do they lose out on chances for pay raises and/or promotions by not exercising with the group? If so, then it is discrimination of a sort.

    3. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

      Was this sarcasm? I originally read it that way, but others evidently aren’t, so now I’m not sure.

      If it isn’t sarcasm, I’m at a loss, because this sounds very forced to me.

  39. LilPinkSock*

    Well, since attendance is low, I’d guess whatever pressure tactics that one person is using don’t seem to be very effective. I’d mention something to HR, see if YouTube videos are anything you’d want to do or can do with modifications, and then sit back to let this project eventually run its course.

  40. Justme, The OG*

    I’m not sure your boss would want to see 20 minutes of my form of exercise, which is tap dance. It owuld be loud and annoying.

  41. EllenD*

    As someone who hates unnecessary exercise – walking to get somewhere is fine – I think this is a terrible idea. If you truly want some form of team bonding, how about an on-line quiz, or game. When my office went remote, we had a weekly half-hour chat late Thursday afternoon – optional – where we could drink and just chit chat about things. A group who liked quizzes and games met via Teams on a monthly basis – after most had finished work – and had an hour of games and another group had a monthly book club. They’re optional and allow you to get to know colleagues better. The quiz/games and book club existed before Covid, but felt to me, at least, a good low key way to interact with colleagues informally, especially those living alone in lock down and build connections that might not otherwise happen. Most of these were video events, as the systems were new and we were used to seeing each other. Personally, after about an hour, I need to switch off watching the video of people and go and look at other things on the internet or work, while listening to the conversation – much as a I do with talk radio, or podcasts.

  42. Irish Teacher*

    This strikes me as problematic on a whole load of levels.

    Firstly, as you say, there will be people who can’t participate. Not just “injuries” but people with disabilities or possibly people with eating disorders or exercise addictions for whom this could be triggering. Even people who are very overweight or unfit or have poor coordination may feel uncomfortable working out with their workmates and it is very likely at least some of the team fall into one or more of these categories.

    And honestly, having everybody follow the same youtube video means the workouts aren’t even going to be personalised to each person’s needs and they may not necessarily be appropriate or even safe for all members of staff.

    There’s also just just the fact that not everybody enjoys working out or wants to and while I realise we all have to do stuff we don’t like at work, having to spend an hour a week on something one neither enjoys OR that benefits one’s work seems a bit of a demand. It’s a bit like having a staff party/potluck three times a week and expecting everybody to participate. Some people would love it, but many would not and while it’s reasonable to have a staff bonding a couple of times a year and have it be an expectation OR have one a couple of times a week that is clearly optional and that it is assumed most people won’t participate in, but multiple times a week as an expectation seems a lot even for people who just don’t find that particularly enjoyable or something they would normally choose to do.

    There also appears to be a slight judgemental aspect. Even if it isn’t intended this way, bringing up working out in the context makes it seem like people who are physically unfit, overweight or are physically inactive are in some way less effective members of the team.

    1. Charlotte Lucas*

      I am going to try to be generous & assume it comes from a good place. (“It stinks to sit all day! Since people are remote & might not move as much as in the office, let’s help them get up & move around!”)

      But it’s the wrong approach & seems to be becoming mandatory. Or as mandatory as the managers feel they can make it. HR definitely needs to get involved.

      1. Irish Teacher*

        Yeah, I feel the same. It sounds like it’s well-meant, but that they aren’t considering all the reasons it may not work for various people.

  43. Goody*

    I absolutely agree that this idea of theirs is exclusionary and narrow minded. I also have a serious problem with the “disclose your limitations” language coming back from these bosses. I feel like HR should be notified of the situation.

    I am NOT advocating for this part (because I don’t think this workout activity should be encouraged at all), but I did have a thought… If you’re all remote and never on camera, what is to prevent you from just listening to the video with everyone else and just taking a break? How would they know if you actively participated?

    1. Curmudgeon in California*

      Have you seen exercise videos? They tank your concentration, and are irritating as heck.

      1. kiki*

        On the other hand, I am more productive when I shout “double time!!” and then turn a strobe light on.

  44. Person from the Resume*

    There are many, many problems with this. First and foremost “optional” actvity with lots of pressure to particpate and possibly being used as a KPI?

    But I do think it is clearly designed to be a team building exercise and to “take a moment away from work” (work-life balance thing?). 20 minutes is just not a lot of time for workout; my exercise routines are usually at least 30 minutes and closer to an hour. Unfortunately it is clearly someone’s preference without considering that is is ablist (some people will never be able to particpate) and some people’s workspace at home doesn’t allow for it.

    I definately think that the change from once a week on a Friday to three times a week is a problem too. It’s placing greater emphasis on it than when it was once a week on a Friday. For me Fridays are quiet because many people are off every other Friday so Fridays are a nice quiet day anyway so something like this taking place on a Friday makes sense if it’s truly optional on a day that’s quiet anyway.

    HR is the way to go. I hope it works out for the LW.

  45. McS*

    Of course people who can’t do the activity due to disability come to mind first, but athletic employees wouldn’t like this either. I have a training schedule and when I am not training, I am resting. Adding a 20 minute exercise class would break my rest cycle. When my coworkers do this kind of thing (never with any pressure from management), it is the “want to get in shape” crowd that is excited. The people who are maintaining an exercise routine outside of work opt out along with those who don’t care for exercise at all.

    1. J!*

      Right? My spouse is training for an ultramarathon and runs like 80 miles a week at 9 minute mile pace. They’d hurt themselves if they tried to add in a random YouTube training video, whether on their training days or off days.

    2. nnn*

      That’s what I was thinking! I grew up surrounded by very technical fitness geeks, and I can just hear my father ranting about how this would throw off his entire regime!

  46. e271828*

    What a waste of work time! No way is the time of the activity 20 minutes only. Each instance will be at least 30, what with getting set up, starting, chitchat, and so on. So this is using at least an hour an a half (at three times weekly) in the middle of the work day for a non-work-related activity. It isn’t a break or lunch.

    Hard pass from me!

  47. starfox*

    Wow, this one is so bizarre to me! I work out… I run with my dog in the mornings. I am so tired from running with my dog in the mornings that I have no desire to add anything else later in the day. And even if I didn’t already get my fill of exercise on my own, I don’t want to work out with my colleagues, remote or not!

    I can understand (I guess) having a group exercise option like… over lunch or something? But who is so tone-deaf as to assume all your colleagues are able-bodied and want to work out together when you’re supposed to be working? I’d much rather get my work done and then work out in my own time than interrupt work to exercise with my remote colleagues. I just don’t get it!

  48. Dr. Vibrissae*

    “Attendance has been very low” …so they decided to increase the frequency? Even if someone really thought this would be a great idea originally, the fact that no one on the team is that interested in means the activity fails one of the lowest bars for being effective for it’s nominal purpose (beyond all the other reasons mentioned that it is a bad idea). The fact that they are tripling (!) down in response to the disinterest feels like there is some personal investment in making this work (maybe if we hammer this screw harder it will become a nail kind of thing).

    1. Indigo Five Alpha*

      Because clearly attendance is low because there’s not enough choice of times to participate!!

  49. DrSalty*

    Flag this to HR and raise the exact concerns about ableism you did to the leads. Be sure to tell HR how they responded.

  50. cheeks76*

    Please, for the sake of yourself and your coworkers, escalate this to HR. I think you are right that not everyone will feel comfortable or willing to do so, but this is definitely worth mentioning as a problem. You can stay positive and informative – you understand the desire for the team to bond, you recognize that this is harder to do when everyone is remote, but a physical activity 3 times a week isn’t a reasonable ask and interrupts work flow. There have to be other ways to achieve what they’re going for that are more inclusive. If there continues to be pushback, you are totally within your right to mention the ADA limitations and how this continues to be pushed despite being “optional”.

  51. CoveredinBees*

    I have nothing particularly helpful to add but I can’t stop thinking about how horrified I am by this. I loathe exercising in groups, assuming I’m able to do all of it. When I exercise, I like to space out a bit and relax. Group stuff isn’t for me.

    Even with the absolutely most generous reading of the situation, it is a horrible idea. If I was fully willing and able to do the exercises how does listening to people panting and playing the video on their own computers lead to bonding?

    This whole thing is appalling and I might just take a nap in protest.

  52. nnn*

    It’s bizarre how many workplace wellness activities assume that people aren’t already doing obvious wellness things for themselves.

    Messaging about how exercise is important is incessant! Workout videos – and even classes if you benefit from a schedule and a group – have been readily available online for years and years! Anyone who’s connected enough to be working remotely would already have done what’s right for them in terms of youtube workout videos.

    1. WillowSunstar*

      Right? You can probably find tons of free workout videos if you Google free workout videos. It’s all there if anyone actually is looking for it.

  53. Empress Matilda*

    During the summer of 2020 when everything was closed, one of my neighbours started a group workout class in the park. My boss happens to live nearby, and I briefly toyed with the idea of inviting her. Very briefly.

    She’s the best boss I’ve ever had, and I feel comfortable talking to her about my personal life, professional weaknesses, and so on. And even so, there is absolutely no way that I would want her to see me red-faced and sweaty, stumbling through a workout in my completely ungraceful way. She knows I’m not perfect, and she knows I’m not at my adult professional best all the time, of course. But still, that’s a level of vulnerability that I just don’t want to show my boss, you know?

  54. Off camera only*

    I know this wasn’t the intent of the letter, but is anyone else shocked that this fully remote offices doesn’t even get on video camera with each other? I might be the minority but I don’t know I would enjoy working with people and never seeing their faces or expressions!

    1. fhqwhgads*

      I’ve worked 100% remote (with all other staff also 100% remote) for 10 years in multiple jobs and the only time cameras became strongly encouraged was during the pandemic.

  55. KoiFeeder*

    This may be paranoia on my part, but even if someone was inclined to disclose their disabilities (which they should not have to!), I’d be worried about the pushy lead consulting Dr. Google and trying to explain to an employee why their disability won’t be impacted and they should participate anyways.

  56. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

    LW, this situation is so whackadoodle that my brain initially read it as, “My bosses want our remote team to work together 3 times a week” and thought this was going to be about aligning time zones or the boss wanting folks to have cameras on while they all typed doing regular work without interacting. This, though, this is something else. I’m pretty physically fit and love a good workout, even group workout sessions, but I would never want to exercise remotely with my coworkers 3 days a week. How is this supposed to be team building (which is usually best done by being a good boss)? We all sweat alone while on camera? Is anyone even looking at their coworkers or just focusing on the video? This makes no sense

  57. After 33 years ...*

    It’s leading to my earlier retirement. I need to see the other person, either virtually or in realty, to do what I need to do for them.

  58. A Pound of Obscure*

    This manager assumes everyone on the team is sedentary AND that they’re all interested in and capable of doing a 20-minute workout. I’m quite active and participate in sports I enjoy, which means I have my own workout routine. There is zero chance I would also agree to do some 20-minute group workout on top of that to make a manager happy.

    1. Beebee*

      Right?? I’m the same way, I am happy with my workout levels out of work that I designed to accommodate my chronic injuries. I don’t need my job telling me how to take care of myself…. Really not their business!

  59. Beebee*

    Honestly I would just not join this and if it was a real issue where I felt I had no pushback, join and mute the call. But I understand if that isn’t an option or if you want to take more action to actually convey why this is not great.

  60. Maverick Jo*

    If cameras aren’t on, I’d be very tempted to sit on the couch watching morning news while everyone “worked out” together. Surely you can’t be required to participate. I would sit on the couch and grunt every so often while eating a bagel.

  61. Michelle Smith*

    As a disabled person, this made me so angry to read. Thank you OP for speaking out against this clearly ableist policy.

  62. WillowSunstar*

    I was bullied severely in gym class in HS and to this day 20+ years later still hate gyms. I will walk outside, hike, do yoga in my apt but will not put myself in an environment to get bullied again.

  63. Gnome*

    I can’t believe I nearly forgot… Boss who wanted us to Be A Team (most of us don’t work together at all) wanted to do weight lifting as a Team Thing. I told him it was a bad idea. In fairness, Boss had just left the military, but… Yeah, he had a bunch of nerds for employees. Some might enjoy it, but most would probably prefer to do just about anything else. Never mind the inappropriate-ness of it.

  64. StitchIsMySpiritAnimal*

    Years ago, I worked a late shift at a bank center with an onsite gym. Sometimes my team got off early, and we’d all go hop on various cardio machines while watching Grey’s Anatomy. Bonding? Yes. Voluntary? If we’d pressured anyone it wouldn’t have been fun. Exercise? Eh. If we had that much breath to waste on Meredith Grey’s life choices, we weren’t getting much of a workout.



  65. Banana Crackers Boss*

    I worked with a banana crackers company that a family was running. The woman in charge required us to meet every week by Zoom to have a “guided visualization” together — we would all have to watch and listen to some woo-woo motivational video — then we all had to share what we visualized and what goals we had for company sales for the week ahead, plus we had to decide what “signs” we would look for (e.g. “This week I will look for rainbows”) maybe to remind us we were on track to increased sales? She was so inappropriate in so many ways. She would also become enraged that we weren’t all liking everything the company posted on every social media site, meanwhile not doing actual things that would increase sales. I was actually glad when the company failed.

  66. SnappinTerrapin*

    The folks pushing this see it as a perk for themselves: They are getting paid to pursue a hobby during the work day. They don’t care whether anyone else wants to play or not, other than thinking it’s easier to justify their own perk if they can pretend there is a “business reason” for letting them pursue their own hobby on company time.

  67. Delilah*

    So if I’m understanding correctly, several people join a call without cameras on to watch a video and work out with audio on? So you’d be able to hear several other people breathing while exercising?

    Firstly, I don’t understand how that’s team bonding, and secondly, that’s not the kind of bonding I’d ever like to do, especially not at work.

    I’d be incredibly tempted to join in and have my mic incredibly close to my mouth and just breathe REALLY heavily so everyone finds it off-putting and decides perhaps it’s not a good idea after all.

  68. That One Person*

    My main worry would be if they are keeping track somehow and try to ding people on their evaluations for lack of participation in something as silly as this. It just strikes me as really odd to have to listen to coworkers grunt and the like for 20 minutes because…the boss wants me to? I would also still be worried about the liability standpoint because if it’s more than just doing some simple stretches to get some blood flowing and maybe wake up a little then it might be a bit too intense for mid workday. About the only thing that saves it is not being on camera so people can wear whatever they like (this hoping they don’t have to be on camera with vendors/customers/the public) and people don’t have to watch each other flop around. Mostly though I don’t want people having accidents or causing them cause of this weird little group workout craze if they don’t have an appropriate space for it.

  69. Kikishua*

    How do they actually know if people are exercising? If RM is watching over teams, I would be tempted to time a personal break to this, accidentally not have my web cam face the correct angle, and grunt off camera while eating chocolate….

  70. EmmaPoet*

    As someone who works out as regularly as possible, is reasonably in shape, and who has a medical issue that can go from “five mile hike and weights workout” to “Hello, week in hospital on an IV” in hours, I have no desire to mess up my regular routine or make myself worse on a bad day because Boss wants to do George St. Pierre’s Rushfit* or hot yoga or whatever three times a week in company.

    * I’d be unable to finish my workday even on a good day when I didn’t have another workout.

  71. LittleMarshmallow*

    I work in manufacturing so I have worked places where there was morning stretches as a group before starting work. But this is different because it’s for safety reasons and everyone doing it is physically performing a pretty physically demanding job so physically doing stretches before say lifting a 50 lb box isn’t discriminatory. But this arrangement sounds bonkers. I will participate in stretching before donning a hard hat to go do something in a plant but I would never want to participate in a group workout session for bonding. That’s just weird.

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