is it unprofessional to take a Zoom call from a treadmill?

A reader writes:

I’ve noticed an increasing number of employees (from individual contributors to managers or even directors) getting their steps in on a treadmill during Zoom calls. Video is on and they’re bouncing around, even wiping their brows.

What is your take? It feels so unprofessional to me. It is quite distracting, and almost insulting for a junior team member to be walking and talking to a senior level VP.

Yeah, it really reads as “My main priority right now is the gym, but I suppose I’ll make room to take this call.”

Which isn’t necessarily unreasonable if, for example, it’s your day off but your expertise is urgently needed so you agreed to join a call with the understanding that you’d be on your treadmill when it happened.

But assuming that’s not the case and it’s during your regular work hours, it’s out of sync with what’s normally expected of people on work calls. Part of it is the “you’re interrupting my workout vibe” but part of it is also that, as you pointed out, it’s distracting to other people on the call.

That’s the case whether the person doing it is junior or senior, although it’s certainly true that senior people have more room to push the boundaries on stuff like this.

However … different offices have different norms. If you’re noticing it happening a lot in your office, then it sounds like this might be considered perfectly acceptable there. If that’s the case, then “unprofessional” wouldn’t apply, as long as the people doing it are still engaged in the conversation and not panting into the phone and yelling “feel the burn!” and so forth.

It’s not a norm in most offices though — although interestingly, I would not be surprised to see that change over time. In most offices, though, it hasn’t changed yet.

{ 218 comments… read them below }

  1. Dawn*

    I don’t do Zoom on it, but I certainly have my exercise bike set up in my home office, because when else am I going to get the opportunity, honestly?

    1. Tabata*


      I miss this the most about WFH now that we are mostly in the office again. So many meetings/webinars/etc. could be taken from a bike/tread/outside walk. Usually I was not an active participant or speaker in these particular meetings, so it did not matter what anyone did if they were not on camera. I miss my exercise time now.

      1. cuddleshark*

        I didn’t have a webcam at home, so I was always (not-so-)secretly working on cross stitch during meetings. It actually helped me concentrate on what people were saying BETTER. I miss it so much!

        1. Anne Kaffeekanne*

          I knit during meetings where I only have to listen not talk. I retain WAY more information that way.

          1. starsaphire*

            Same here. Crochet/knit is a great fidget tool and really helps me focus on the gist of the meeting!

            1. Goody*

              I’ve been referring to my crochet as a low-tech fidget device for years now.

          2. Bexy Bexerson*

            I do this too, but not because it helps me focus better…I just like being able to knit on company time!

          3. Elizabeth West*

            I needed to review a recording of a Teams meeting that took place while I was driving long-distance. I didn’t want to just sit there, so I unpacked kitchen stuff while I listened. I got four boxes done!

          4. Slovenly Braid Cultist*

            Oh, same, definitely! If I’m not doing something with my hands I fall into the trap of checking my email, or trying to figure out a problem, and I get distracted and miss things I need to know.

        2. new year, new name*

          Yes, I think the issue here is not “should you walk while you work” but “should you walk while you are on Serious Professional Zooms with important people.” There is a BIG distinction there.

          Personally, I like to meal-prep during one-way meetings and webinars! Something about chopping vegetables hits that “just busy enough to pay attention” button in my brain. And I periodically do press calls/interviews, and for some reason I always pace around my house when I take those (at least, as long as they are audio-only). I struggle way harder to hit my talking points when I’m sitting still.

          1. Kacihall*

            I am incapable of taking long phone calls while sitting still. I once banned up my knee, was using a knee brace and supposed to be resting and I had a phone interview. I ended up doing laps of my hallway leaning against the wall.

      2. Kuddel Daddeldu*

        Just yesterday I was riding my bicycle to the office while on an internal Teams call. (I have a cycling helmet with built-in speakers and mike that works surprisingly well for that).
        It was a low-stakes internal call, a safe route with bike paths, and I stopped when I needed to unmute and talk, of course. I wouldn’t do it regularly, though.

    2. tiredworkingmom*

      I have a little desk that sits on top of my Peloton handlebars so I can do compliance trainings/sit in on webinars/anything that doesn’t require me to be presenting. I think a walking pad where the person isn’t out of breath, panting, visibly sweaty is fine, though, and very in line with the norms of my company culture.

    3. Ann O'Nemity*

      At the beginning of the pandemic and WFH, my steps/exercise dropped dramatically. I had never realized how much walking I did to/from the parking garage, between meetings, and all the way down the hall to the restrooms! And then suddenly I’m WFH, at my desk all day except to go to the extremely close bathroom or kitchen.

      I know a lot of people, myself included, who started trying to find ways to add back exercise during the workday, and standing zoom meetings were a good way to do it. I wouldn’t do it on a call with a senior leader, though, or in one where I was playing a key role in the discussion. It was better for those big meetings where you’re just listening.

      1. SarahKay*

        I feel you on that one.
        My entire flat would fit inside the footprint of our office (with room round the edges to spare) so going to the bathroom at home took fewer steps than going to the photocopier at work. The round trip to the bathroom at *work* is 200 steps, which is a tenth of a mile; the differences really add up.
        I ended up setting reminders to go and run up and down the stairs twice a day (not shared stairs so I wasn’t affecting anyone else) to make sure I got some exercise, and then when restrictions on moving around outside were relaxed I’d go and walk round the block at my normal tea-break times.

      2. Dawn*

        I think I put on almost 40 lbs from the start of the pandemic to my heaviest during it, just because I wasn’t walking around anymore.

        I barely eat and I was still gaining weight.

        The exercise bike came shortly after that.

    4. Green Goose*

      There are two monthly two-hour meetings where I just listen to updates and I’ve started turning my video off and working out on my bike while I watch and listen.

    5. JM60*

      Same here! I’ve lost well over 100 pounds in large part because of extensive use of a “deskercise bike”. Although I use it a lot when off of work, being able to use it while working is one of the many advantages of being able to work from home.

      However, I won’t be peddling on my bike when I’m on a call (unless I’m passively listening to a call with my camera off).

    6. Jenni*

      I think you just inspired me to move my exercise bike to my office rather than my basement gym. It’s so easy to ignore down there (out of sight, out of mind) but if I have to stair at it all day…. plus I could TOTALLY spin on at least 1/2 my meetings!

    1. Ali + Nino*

      Yeah, my husband has to be on hours of calls each week, usually on mute with no video. I think he could definitely manage this, pausing just to give input as needed (which again is just a few minutes per hour).

    2. The Prettiest Curse*

      Yeah, I think unless you’re just listening in and on mute, doing something sporty should be avoided on a work call if possible, just because it could be distracting to others. Same thing applies to all those senior execs who call know while golfing or clay pigeon shooting or whatever. Nobody is interested in watching your pickleball match, Jim.

    3. WillowSunstar*

      Right, I’d get off the treadmill, take a break, and have the call. Then get back on after the call if I was able to.

      1. Ally McBeal*

        I’ve seen quite a few videos of folks recently who have treadmill mats that they place under their standing desks, so all they’d have to do is pause their walk for the duration of the meeting. I’m honestly half-tempted to get one for myself!

        1. ThisIsTodaysName*

          I have NOT! Are they actual mats or just like….small treadmills without handles?

          1. Silver Robin*

            Small treadmills without handles, or folding handles, generally. Also considering one…

            1. It's me.*

              They’re called WalkingPads or you can search for under desk treadmills. I want one…

    4. Sloanicota*

      I do this sometimes but even then you have to be careful – have a plan to stop and re-set if you’re called on!

      1. not sporty enough*

        I just watched an official work safety video that *suggested* doing sports during meetings, “just don’t turn on your camera”.

    5. BaskingInMyWindowlessOffice*

      This. I am thinking about getting a foldable treadmill to go under my standing desk but I would never use it while on camera.

  2. Local Bureaucrat*

    I’ve seen a number of advertisements for under-desk treadmills lately – so not a full gym workout, but an extension of the standing desk trend – but I can’t imagine they’d go over well in my stuffy government office.

    1. DEJ*

      This is what I am curious about too – is this ‘treadmill desk’ or is this ‘this person is clearly in the middle of a workout and still trying to hold a zoom call.’

      1. renata ricotta*

        My partner and I share a home office, and he uses his treadmill desk 80% of the workday; he’s just walking, not sweating or getting out of breath. Still the noise (not crazy, but clear whirring/stepping sounds) is enough to drive me insane while trying to focus at my neighboring desk without excellent noise cancelling headphones. It would definitely be distracting if he kept doing that for Zoom calls.

        1. VI Guy*

          I have been in meetings where my big dogs have suddenly barked loudly near me and I could barely think, yet when I apologized to my coworkers they said that they couldn’t hear anything. I wouldn’t want to assume that my dogs were always filtered out, but I suspect that the video participants can’t hear the treadmill.

          1. Keyboard Cowboy*

            Yeah, treadmill noises are definitely something that most noise filters can cope with easily. I often take a hobby group call from Google Meet and run power tools during (belt sander, lathe) and nobody can hear them. The only problem is when you try to talk over the white noise – then the noise filter has a lot of trouble providing high quality voice audio and you’ll sound kind of garbled.

    2. Maglev No Longer to Crazytown*

      My office has had a number of people get these desk treadmills. I am also in a stuffy government office, and there have even been some director people using them. The overall response was curious questions and general thought it was really cool. It wasn’t heavy jogging or anything, just light walk pace that didn’t disrupt or otherwise interfere with the remote meeting.

      1. Somehow At The Top*

        I have a standing desk and a rocking pad that I stand on when it’s up so that I can shift my weight from side to side and avoid fatigue – I do rock or bounce slightly if I’m not focusing on staying still, but given that I’m a fidgety and animated casual speaker in general and am often swiveling my chair side to side or leaning towards and away the camera in internal meetings when I’m not worried how I look, I can’t imagine a walking desk would look any stranger than I how I look now.

    3. ThursdaysGeek*

      I use my DeskCycle especially during meetings – it helps me focus. I can tell I’m moving a bit, but it’s under the desk (not visible), and I’m wearing a headset (no sound from it, although it’s really quiet anyway).

      1. WillowSunstar*

        I do soleus pushups when in a meeting but I don’t have to be on camera or presenting. Something that doesn’t present as “I’m exercising” but still counts as burning calories.

        (Google if interested.)

        1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

          hmm helps the metabolism. This is definitely going to be my go-to fidget move from now on, because my metabolism could really do with a boost.

      2. My take*

        I think the focus thing is really interesting! That’s true for me too… it helps me be less distracted. Almost like some of the fidget things that some people find helpful to focus with (to keep their hands busy)!

      3. Waiting on the bus*

        I have a desk bike as well and will use it during meetings (we’re always using video). I don’t use it to exercise, just to move. If I were sitting at my desk in the office, I’d be swiveling on my swivel chair, if I were sitting in one of our meeting rooms I’d be jiggling my foot… idly pedaling on my desk bike satisfies the same urge to move, which would distract me otherwise. But I don’t think you can tell that I’m on a desk bike when I’m doing it and it’s obviously not taking any focus away from work the way a workout would do.

        Once you’re panting for breath or sweating I’d say you’ve reached the point of doing a workout, which you shouldn’t do while at work, never mind while in a meeting.

    4. My take*

      Walking pads are 100% acceptable in my (remote) office! On a team of 10, 3 of us have them. I do think it’s different than a gym treadmill… people are going at the pace of a slow walk.

    5. Fluffy Fish*

      Government office, not stuffy, and Risk Management would lose their minds if people were using walking pads, under desk pedal or the like.

      Absolutely not allowed in our facilities.

    6. LetPeopleWalk*

      People used them all the time in my stuffy bureaucrat office and it wasn’t frowned upon. Typically they weren’t on them during serious calls, but during check ins or places where they just needed to talk it was seen as fine. In my now non-stuffy WFH job people do walk and talks a lot and use the phone instead of zoom. Letting people move shouldn’t be a problem!

      1. anonymous educator*

        An external collaborator had one at OldJob, I think it was a standing desk type one because if they weren’t moving, you couldn’t tell. It was sooooooo distracting though! They were leading a meeting of a professional association group. Still informal, but I personally found it off putting on top of distracting. If they weren’t running the meeting or had camera off I wouldn’t care.

  3. Box of Kittens*

    Does this advice change if it’s one of those walking pads underneath a standing desk in a home office, as opposed to a treadmill in an actually shared gym? I can definitely see how being in a gym while on a call is unprofessional, but feel like the line is blurrier with WFH. I guess you wouldn’t want to do this when speaking with a higher up, but I don’t really see the problem with, for example, a regular team meeting with peers, as long as you can talk normally and do what you need to do on the computer (not huffing and puffing).

    1. A Girl Named Fred*

      I was wondering the same, whether the speed of the treadmill or walking pad matters at all. I think I’d read a slower, casual pace as if we were having a “walk and talk” meeting in the office, but a faster pace that seems like an intentional workout (instead of just “keeping moving throughout the day”) would register differently for me.

      1. elle *sparkle emoji**

        Yeah, the wiping sweat OP describes feels over the line, but I’m curious if using a walking pad in an office would be as much of an issue.

      2. E*

        See I feel like the bouncing and wiping the brow and being out a breathe seems like the more unprofessional part. If someone was just casually walking on one of those office walking pads just to get some steps in to me that’s no big deal since some people sit for 8 hours a day. As long as they’re present and not disturbing others I don’t think standing and simply walking is the end of the world:

    2. Michelle Smith*

      To me, it’s a problem if you’re bouncing up and down and wiping sweat off constantly. I’m easily distracted by a lot of unnecessary movement on my screen and I don’t have the ability to just minimize the Zoom window in a meeting where I might have to unmute to talk. I think it’s better to turn off your camera if you’re going to be doing any distracting activities.

      1. old curmudgeon*

        Agreed, and I’d add that if the person is working hard enough to be out of breath or puffing, it’s too energetic for a Zoom or TEAMS meeting.

      2. Rose*

        This, one of my old direct reports had a walking pad and would take calls on it and I was fine w it because I knew she was an amazing employee, but I made her turn her camera off because it legit made me motion sick to watch her bob.

    3. I should really pick a name*

      I think what matters is if other people in the meeting can tell if you’re doing it or not.

    4. Double A*

      I’ve noticed people at walking desks or using an under-desk elliptical but they’re not, like, sweating or panting, just moving at a slow walking pace.

      I don’t think it’s possible for it to be completely not-obvious if you’re doing some kind of exercise, but I’d like to think “walking desk” level activity should be acceptable. I notice it, but don’t find it distracting.

      At the same time, I have one of those ellipticals and I feel very awkward using it with video on because I’m moving a little bit, so I don’t use it in meetings with video. Unfortunately, this is the best time to use it, because it’s harder to use when I’m doing more engaged tasks. So I don’t use it very much.

      1. Relentlessly Socratic*

        I have one of those, too. I can’t seem to work and use it at the same time (which…brains are weird), and I can’t use it on video calls with the camera on. So it’s mostly an expensive foot rest now.

    5. Tio*

      Probably full on standing and walking would be a bit much if you’re on camera; walking does have visible, distracting motion. If not, and if you can talk normally, then I guess. It’s mostly a “what they don’t know won’t hurt them” sort of thing.

    6. The Person from the Resume*

      IMO, yes. LW says “Video is on and they’re bouncing around, even wiping their brows.” That’s a more intense workout vibe than what I expect from a walking desk; although, I have never seen a walking desk in action so I could be wrong.

      It seems like a walking desk would involve less huffing and puffing, dripping sweat, and bouncing up and down. And if it isn’t, don’t use it while on a video call. Sit for that and save the walking for non-video calls and times when you’re not on a call.

      1. Student*

        Like any other treadmill, the amount of huffing and sweating depends on:
        (1) How fast you’ve set the treadmill for
        (2) How your climate control is doing
        (3) How in-shape you already are

        Sure, the end user has a lot of control over #1.

        However, #2 started to get into some class-based territory, and will also vary a lot regionally. Air conditioning is wonderful, but it is not uniformly available and it is not uniformly necessary. I’m solidly upper-middle class, but my last DC-area apartment had a building with an ancient AC system. We had to wait for the building management to turn it on, and it took a full week to switch between building heat and building cooling, so they’d only do it twice per year, no matter the weather conditions – once in the spring to switch AC on and heat off, once in the fall to turn AC off and heat on. We had a couple of times where the apartment would be absolutely boiling, where we’d be sweating just sitting still, and no amount of fans or open windows made an inch of difference.

        #3 is pretty firmly in some harmful weight-based stereotyping, in my opinion. If the only people ever allowed to exercise must look good and not ever dare break a sweat doing it, then what exactly is the point? I am out of shape and overweight. I can work up a sweat on a long but slow walk. I have friends with medical conditions who will start huffing and puffing on a walk after a fairly short distance. We’re just not pretty enough to exercise in view of people – or, apparently, in our own home at our personal desks with our personal treadmills, because the company likes lots of pointless video on work calls.

        1. Person from the Resume*

          You are putting words in my mouth that I did not say! Stop it, Student!

          To be clear this isn’t about looking pretty while working out or not breaking a sweat while working out. It’s about what you look like on a business Zoom call, and you shouldn’t look like you’re working out while on a work video call unless you’re some sort of remote fitness trainer.

        2. Allonge*

          The company is paying you to be on the pointless video calls though, right?

          If someone needs to be constantly moving during the work day, they can consider a non-office job. Or where there are very infrequent meetings. It’s not reasonable to expect that your employment will never impose any limitations on your life. Sometimes you don’t get to work out at the same time as working, and that is not a human right violation.

        3. Courageous cat*

          Then there’s just the option of “don’t walk on the treadmill for that brief period of time during the day when you’re on meetings” that eclipses all your concerns, #1-3. I don’t see the point on debating each of the fine points here when the ultimate thing is just… it’s not a requirement to be on the treadmill. So don’t.

          1. treadmill director*

            I’m a director-level employee in a reasonably informal government agency (APS EL2) and I’ve been doing this since shortly before the pandemic. I’m a bit selective about what kind of meetings I do it in (large groups where I’m not presenting, sure, small groups where I’m going to be a major participant, nope). I switch my camera off when I’m walking, and mute myself to avoid treadmill noise, and when I do have something to say I’ll stop the treadmill while I say it.

            I’m autistic/ADHD, which creates a tricky situation where I’m full of restless energy but most of the standard options for exercising are unworkable. I’ve tried swimming laps, and outdoor walks, but I never managed to stay in the routine because I get bored after a few minutes without anything to occupy my mind (sorry, outdoor scenery doesn’t do it). The only thing I’ve found that works is to be exercising my body at the same time that I have something to occupy my mind. (When I was a kid, long before my diagnosis, I used to get yelled at for bringing a book to read when I was going for a walk.)

            Some days I have five hours of meetings, and it’s hard enough to stay focussed on them even *with* something for my body to do, even worse without. Some days my body needs to walk for four hours, and if I leave that until after I’ve finished work and made dinner, I’d be finishing up at midnight before getting onto anything else I needed to do that day – and I have enough trouble with keeping good sleep habits as it is.

            So I walk, and I work while I walk. Happy to say my co-workers have taken the attitude that as long as I’m doing my job and not distracting them with bouncy-head and treadmill noise, it’s none of their business, and we’ve never needed to get into “reasonable accommodation” discussions.

            Unexamined norms of “professionalism” are often really unnecessarily awful for neurodivergent people, and I’m very glad to be working in a place where I don’t have to deal with that nonsense.

    7. onetimethishappened*

      Yeah these are pretty big on Tik Tok and Instagram. People sharing their day and showing they walk during work and while taking meetings.

      This is something I could def manage at my current job. I think its different if you are actually running and at a gym. But at home, on a meeting where you aren’t presenting or contributing much…. who really cares.

    8. Nom*

      I wouldn’t bat an eye if someone was walking on a treadmill or walking pad at their home. I’m a pretty sweaty person so wiping sweat would be very understandable to me. I think the line would be walking fast enough to be out of breath (unless off camera, muted, and not expected to speak).

  4. TNT*

    This is super normal in my remote-first tech industry office. Not so much the bouncing/wiping because no one is full on running, but on any given call at least 1-2 people are walking on an under desk treadmill.

    I don’t read it as “my priority is the gym but I guess I’ll take this call.”
    More like “might as well move my body while I’m on the phone instead of sitting all day.”

    1. ferrina*

      I’m often able to focus better if I’m moving, so this makes sense to me. But that’s more a walk-and-talk situation. If someone were visibly sweating from their workout, that seems like it’s starting to cross the line.

    2. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

      One of our SWE at my old job would be walking on a treadmill frequently in meetings. It never bothered me but he was also excellent at his job so the walking didn’t interfere with work getting done.

      But like others said there’s a difference between a normal walking speed and getting to the point you are sweating.

    3. CR*

      We actually have a treadmill desk in my tech office. It’s like a standing desk, but on a treadmill.

    4. LetPeopleWalk*

      Letting people walk should also increase overall health of the company, which is good for the bottom line if anyone cares more about $$ than people. Healthier people are less likely to call out sick, less likely to get long term illness, less likely to use tons of insurance, blahblahblah.

      I think it should just be allowed because …. humans aren’t made to sit for 10 hours a day.

      1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        If they could make a pill that gave you all the benefits of exercise, it would be the best-selling drug of all time, a true miracle.
        It keeps you fit, it keeps your weight down, it boosts your immune system…
        So yes, people should be allowed to move while working.
        You do need to look like you’re fully focussed on the meeting if you’re on camera though!

    5. Jesshereforthecomments*

      I work at a remote-friendly Fintech startup and totally agree. They expect us to work 45-50 hours per week at minimum, we have a lot of meetings, and there is a culture of being on-camera. There’s no problem with someone walking on a treadmill and participating in the meeting. You gotta get your steps in somehow.

    6. NewJobNewGal*

      My previous tech/start-up company job was like this. People would be walking on a treadmill, or even walking outside around the neighborhood while on internal calls. It was a company where leadership needed a lot of attention so 50 people would be on a call listening to the CEO, President, or a VP rambling on about a book they read.
      It was a camera on kind of company.
      But no one was running or sweating, just walking.

  5. Guacamole Bob*

    I do think there’s a range of treadmill use between “I’m using a treadmill desk and walking slowly in a meeting where I’m not presenting or even speaking much, the same way some people find it helpful to use a standing desk” and “I’m actually exercising rather than being present in the meeting.” Many offices would be okay with one end of the spectrum but not the other.

    1. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

      I’d rephrase that to “people are perceiving that I’m exercising rather than being present in the meeting,” because “paying attention” norms are very neurotypical.

      1. Boof*

        I mean, if other people are distracted by whatever you’re doing, it’s probably too far outside of “professional norms”. Either have the camera off / muted if it’s just a listening thing, or don’t be visibly engaged in some other activity if it’s a normal work meeting type of thing. I guess I’d say the same thing for any number of other things that potentially can help with attention, but can also be distracting (let’s say, certain fidget toys, crocheting during an in-person meeting, etc; if it’s discretely in your lap, why not? If there’s a bunch of yarn strewn out about the desks, loud clicking, etc; not so great!

  6. The Buddhist Viking*

    I walk on my treadmill during most of my Zoom calls–but the operative word is “walk.” Generally I’m going no more than a mile per hour, which keeps the noise and movement to a minimum. It’s not exercising as much as just keeping moving a bit. My team doesn’t appear to be fazed by it in the slightest, and my boss has never objected. IMO a full workout, with real exertion, would be much more distracting to others, and much more difficult to concentrate during.

    1. Emmers*

      Same, I’m walking in most of my meetings now. But not running.
      If I’m presenting to external folks I’m not on it but I’m not working out, I’m just getting my steps in and I’m in zoom mtg appropriate clothing.

  7. Marie*

    Early on during WFH in 2020 I was on a group call and one male member of the call was walking on his treadmill, sweaty and wearing a small tank-top… which I was so squicked out by!

    I’m fully on team “If I’m listening on a call and my camera doesn’t need to be on, walk away!” but even in my super laid back company culture I think it’d be weird to be obviously walking (even on a small under-desk tread pad) while on camera.

  8. Pretty as a Princess*

    I have held designated “Everyone is going for a walk” audio only calls with my two team lead direct reports, but that’s been explicit (early in the pandemic, these were a lifesaver).

    I have viewed webinars or town hall meetings where I am not on camera (participant end audio & video disabled) and only in receive mode, whilst walking or running on the treadmill. For me, it is a good way to focus and not get distracted when I am in receive only mode. Not tempted to hop over to AAM while listening with one ear:)

    However, I would find someone on video bopping around and walking to be incredibly distracting and not respectful of the participants who have to see you on video. We had someone here who tried doing an important status briefing over zoom while *swinging on his porch swing* and it made people seasick. There are situations where it is fine to be audio only – we still have some standing designated audio only calls – and I think as long as you can speak normally and there is no background noise, then whatever you are doing is fine. But if you need to be on camera, bopping around on a treadmill or a bike is something I would view as unprofessional. (Unless all participants have agreed specifically.)

    1. Looper*

      You bring up a good point about the camera swinging/movement on video. I think a lot of movement in someone’s frame, regardless of activity, would be distracting.

  9. Katherine Vigneras*

    I wouldn’t do it on camera but I’d absolutely do it on one of those big no-cameras town halls with 50+ (or hundreds or thousands) of attendees

  10. GrooveBat*

    I wouldn’t do it. For the same reason I don’t like taking phone calls from friends or family while they are driving or running errands. It makes me feel like an afterthought, someone to be multi-tasked into a host of other responsibilities.

    1. Antilles*

      I think it kind of depends on what the call is though. Not everything requires your full and undivided attention. There are plenty of work calls where you’re just sort of listening in and providing an opinion once every 10-15 minutes or where only a small portion of the call applies to you but you need to stay on for the entire thing anyways.

      Also, FWIW, even if your family and friends aren’t driving or running errands, there’s a good chance you’re still getting multi-tasked but just don’t know it – a household chore like folding laundry or cooking dinner, surfing the Internet on their computer while chatting, watching the ballgame on TV, or something else of the sort that’s taking up part of their attention.

      1. GrooveBat*

        I dunno, if a meeting doesn’t require someone’s full and undivided attention I wouldn’t invite them. And if it’s me, I either wouldn’t attend unless it’s mandatory, but if it is mandatory I’d at least do the organizers the courtesy of pretending to pay attention.

        As far as FaF go, they could very well be multitasking me, but I might not know it. It’s when it’s so obvious and blatant that it is rude.

        1. Guacamole Bob*

          This is very industry/workplace dependent! My spouse is a lawyer, and she usually has to pay real attention in meetings – if she didn’t, she wouldn’t be attending (and billing the time).

          I’m a middle manager in a government agency, and there are a ton of meetings where I need to be there but don’t need to pay full attention. The meeting topic requires that there be a rep from my department available to chime in as needed, I need to know in broad strokes how the meeting outcomes will affect my team, etc., but I could be walking for 50 minutes out of the hour a lot of the time and no one would be the wiser.

        2. sorabird*

          I think this is one of those things that’s somewhat dependent on your brain chemistry. If you want my full and undivided attention in a meeting, I need to be walking or knitting or otherwise physically occupied. I can’t just sit still and pay attention – my brain will wander off on its own without my say-so and be impossible to keep on track otherwise because it needs more stimulation.

          I have a series of 2-hour long meetings starting at the very beginning of my day for almost a month. They’re technically optional, but useful because it’s talking long term strategy in a number of areas. But, as an engineer especially, I can find it hard to pay attention and absorb it all when they don’t go into as much detail and keep it high level. Add that it’s at the start of my day after I have had nighttime meetings (2x/week) that keep me up later than usual, and it has been a challenge. I’ve been experimenting with a) just sitting still and listening (very poor results, I end up writing emails and looking at my phone), b) knitting or embroidering (decent results, sometimes my thoughts wander off but I can get back on track pretty easily), and c) walking on my treadmill (very good results, I absorbed more information that meeting than any of the others).

          If I had to have my camera on I would manage with a), but I always end up paying more attention to what I’m showing on the camera than the actual meeting. If it’s more of an active meeting where I have things to contribute, no problem, I get the necessary stimulus from contributing.

          A lot of people really do not thrive under typical business expectations and WFH has given folks more leeway to do what works for them while still contributing at a high (or often even higher) level. As long as no one is being harmed or distracted, I don’t think we should be trying to force everyone through the circle slot any more.

          1. Third or Nothing!*

            I’m the same way! My team has a daily Q&A session (we’re basically the team people go to for training) and most of the time I do the dishes during it. If I try to sit there and stare at the screen, my mind wanders or I go answer some emails or whatever. But with my hands busy, I can watch the screen from the sink (yeah my house is small) and actually absorb the information.

        3. Antilles*

          Here’s an example of the first that I encounter all the time: Monthly project team status updates for big multi-disciplinary projects.
          It’s critically important for the PM that every individual discipline provides their status update and knows what’s going on. It’s useful to have everybody on the same hour-long monthly call rather than 15 separate five-minute calls, since there’s project-wide updates that everybody needs to hear (budget, safety, etc) and also regularly cases where one person’s update affects someone else’s role possibly in unexpected ways.
          But there’s also plenty of that hour call where people are providing updates that don’t require everybody’s full attention – I hear the environmental designer start his five minute summary and figure out in the first 15 seconds that nothing he’s talking about is likely to impact my work, so I can just sort of half-listen for anything that pings my radar.

    2. Sloanicota*

      Man, and I feel guilty that I’m (visibly) sitting on a couch for most of my zooms these days!

    3. Bear Expert*

      Oh, you’d hate my family.

      A good half of our communication is while someone is doing an errand/driving home from a thing/needs to finish some very boring task.

      “Hey mom, I’m driving home from a customer meeting, do you have half an hour?”
      “Sure, I’ll get the leash and take the cat for a walk.” (Yes. She does.)

      We keep each other company and stay in touch. It works for us!

      1. Not A Girl Boss*

        I agree. I used to have an hour commute each way (not a very stressful or complicated commute, I was largely able to give full attention to the conversation). If you don’t want to talk to me while I’m driving, I guess we are literally never talking, because I don’t have any hour completely free in my week to sit on a couch and stare at a wall while I talk to you. Plus, wouldn’t you rather I get to make a crappy part of my day less-crappy by chatting with you?

        My mom went through a random spell a few years ago when she decided that calling her while I was driving was ‘rude’, and it sucked. I very much wanted to spend quality time chatting with her, but I literally could not find a spare hour in my week to make it happen because, adult responsibilities. We fought about it for a while when she got upset I wasn’t calling her as frequently, and she finally relented.

  11. Firecat*

    Any chance you have an office wellness team or initiave that’s recommending this?

    There’s been an explosion of these under desk treadmill pads at my job and I’ve been pushed to get one by the work sponsored wellness coaches as well as by a nurse from our health insurance.

    1. NYWeasel*

      Our office put them around as a (pre-Covid) wellness initiative. In general we like having the option to use one if we’re just watching a presentation, but it’s pretty distracting to everyone else. Of course there’s also someone who uses it as his workout station with sweaty tee shirt and shorts as he takes calls.

  12. EJR*

    I just beg that you not do your work call in the middle of the gym with a bunch of other people around you who have nothing to do with your job. I have seen this happen more and more and I HATE it.

    1. Anne Kaffeekanne*

      The confidentiality issues alone would make this impossible in my job!

    2. Stuckinacrazyjob*

      oh I would hate it. I use head phones in the office to dampen the amount of noise people hear from meetings I have ( I try not to zoom in the office but sometimes you gotta do it

    3. Pivot!!!*

      I have an under-desk walking pad and use a laptop riser. I generally walk anywhere from 1.5-2 hours a day, but I haven’t walked during any on-camera meetings. In fact, I build my day around my walks. if I know I’m going to be pulling data for a couple hours, that’s a perfect time to walk. or town halls where cameras are off, and I don’t have to talk. it’s a great use of my time and really helps me focus! That said, I wouldn’t feel comfortable being on camera and walking.

  13. Managing to get by*

    We’re encouraged to do “walking meetings”, but we’re also not expected to be on video for most calls.

    If I’m in a meeting where I’m mostly listening and don’t need to present information I try to be moving as much as possible. I also make tea/coffee and sometimes cook lunch when I’m on a call (since I often don’t get a lunch break).

    I do very few video calls, mainly only with external clients. We don’t find the video aspect adds much to the call. We’re mainly either voice only or sharing screen through Teams to walk through spreadsheets or documents. I’m so glad our culture doesn’t require video for meetings, it’s one of the few positives of this job.

    1. VI Guy*

      We’re also encouraged to do whatever makes sense. I attend a meeting in a different timezone and sometimes it goes late for me. Early on I said that it can go as late as needed provided that I can turn my camera off and make supper or enjoy an alcoholic drink outside on a beautiful day. The only time they pushed me to turn on my camera was when I said something about walking the dogs, and they only wanted to see the dogs.

      I prefer to avoid the camera and spend more time multitasking with tea brewing and jigsaws and other tasks that are mindless so they allow me to focus better.

  14. Brain the Brian*

    I think this speaks to the extreme boundary violations around time to which companies regularly subject their employees in the modern economy. If I’m expected to be available from 7am-10pm — meaning that even if I’m not actively working, I am largely chained to the desk in my home office — I need to to find a way to exercise some, because there’s simply not time otherwise, and I feel awful when I don’t move my body about at least a half-hour each day.

    1. Siobhan*

      But realistically, MOST people are not at all expected to be available from 7am-10pm. If the majority of workers couldn’t go out to dinner or run errands on a weekday because they needed to be by their desk for 15 hours a day, there would be an extreme pushback to that.

      1. Brain the Brian*

        And yet… even 8am-8pm is too far, IMO, but it’s not out of the norm at least where I work.

    2. Courageous cat*

      If you’re chained to your desk for 15 hours a day, I’d wager that’s a very Specific To You problem, and almost certainly not the case for most people. That’s pretty uncommon.

      It’s not a boundary violation to expect your employee to get off a treadmill for a 1 hour meeting.

  15. Liz*

    I play Dungeons & Dragons remotely with a group of friends (so, professionalism is NOT a factor here) and had to ask one of our players with a treadmill to either stop walking or turn off his camera during the game. He wasn’t bouncing around or wiping sweat off, but even his slow walking speed was causing him to shift back and forth between each side of the frame in a way that was both distracting and making me seasick!

    1. Dr. Doll*

      I agree. If you are walking, you ARE swaying and I will hang up on you. ….If you SHOULD be on camera, please be on camera and sit down/stand still.

  16. Garblesnark*

    when I used to work at a Microsoft satellite office fully one third of the hot desk workstations were permanently affixed to a bike or treadmill and many a person who got to the office ten minutes later than the others got stuck presenting in meetings while trying to balance on an exercise bike.

    to be honest i found it funny to watch.

  17. ldub*

    I have a walking pad under my desk so I can walk on Zoom calls. I wear a work appropriate shirt (usually a light button down) and walk 1mph or less, so no sweating. The Zoom background noise setting completely blocks any treadmill sound from getting through (I’ve checked on multiple calls) and obvious I elect not to use it if on the phone with board members, etc.

    Sitting rigidly on camera for up to 7 hours a day is miserable. Like anything, be respectful and professional about it, and do what your body needs.

  18. Essess*

    It’s definitely rude. Remember the person who is on the call is listening to a microphone near your mouth and nose. They are stuck listening to you pant and breathing heavy in their ear. Plus the added distraction of constant movement is very distracting for others to try to stay focused on the actual meeting if you are on video even if you are muted. Plus treadmills are often noisy and microphones pick up vibrations so it adds additional noise interference to the others on the call.

    1. OffDutyWorkerBee*

      This! My old boss got into the terrible habit of taking every Zoom meeting and Slack call while 1) out on a run complete with panting and street sounds, 2) walking the dog so there was also some barking, or 3) banging around her kitchen possibly cooking entire meals from the sound of it. She did this even on very important calls with funders. At least she kept the camera off. But it was still super rude (and made it difficult to understand whenever she spoke because of all the other sounds).

  19. My Take*

    The answer: yes.

    This is the kind of boundary-pushing that leads remote workers to be viewed as less focused and less available than the people who are in the meeting room.

    1. H2*

      This is what I thought too. And talk about taking the perks of WFH and rubbing it in people’s faces. I realize that’s not the intent but if I were an in person worker on a zoom with someone on a treadmill, I would lose my mind.

  20. CharChar*

    I have coworkers who use their threadmill and have a zoom video background that shows they’re walking in a forest. This works much better than when they’re in a static background or without a background.
    Considering how unhealthy all of us got during the pandemic, I applaud them getting in their steps but my office is not a huge formal environment.

  21. Ifnotnowwhen*

    We’re bombarded with “healthy habits” emails from our HR department which includes everything from physical to mental to financial. They offer many optional on-line training sessions and even award a small yearly stipend for those who attend a minimum number of sessions. Exercise is mentioned all the time–how sitting all day at your desk all day is awful for your health. No one is on a treadmill on calls, but with how hard they push it, they really have no room to complain about it. Not jogging and sweating bullets of course, but strolling speed would be no different than a “let’s walk and talk” meeting. There are only so many hours in the day, if you want healthy employees you might need to give room for that to happen if it doesn’t interfere with their work.

  22. Anonomatopoeia*

    OK but now I REALLY WANT the letter from someone whose colleague yells FEEL THE BURN intermittently during meetings.

    (Also, I have a couple of colleagues whose contributions are so aggressively poor all around that I would like if people responded to them in a manner such that a good “feel the burn” would be the appropriate next thing for people to say. I know this is not a kind inclination, but like, for the love of tiny green apples, can someone help them know they are terrible?)

    1. Global Cat Herder*

      A couple of months into the pandemic, I was “borrowed” for two months for a project in another division. Lots of people I hadn’t worked with before, different team cultures, people still adjusting to WFH and Zoom etiquette.

      We had weekly project status updates with the head of division. She took the Zoom meeting every week WHILE ON HER PELOTON and WITH HER CAMERA ON. Very much bouncing around, very much huffing and puffing, literally dripping sweat, wearing only a sports bra and tiny shorts.

      She would actually say “hold on, this is the uphill part” and make everyone else on the call wait while she put her head down and huffed and puffed and sweated even more, with the camera somehow pointed straight down her sports bra.

      Every meeting at least one person asked her to turn the camera off and she refused. We’re supposed to have cameras on in Zoom meetings, it builds relationships! She would not understand that staring down her cleavage while watching her work out made people intensely uncomfortable.

      Between the motion and the sweat and the occasional nip slip, I ended up turning my monitor off for those calls.

      1. coffee*

        How did this situation somehow keep getting worse every sentence??? My deepest sympathy to you & everyone who had to attend those meetings.

      2. Not A Girl Boss*

        This is… horrifying.
        I am all for (reasonable, non-puffing) exercise during work hours but for the love of… just turn your cameras off people!

        Your story also reminded me of one of my senior directors, a man. His Zoom photo is of a ~16 year old girl in a sports bra and shorts, jumping over a fire at a Spartan race. I assume its a photo of his daughter? But it creeps me out on so many levels.

      3. Anonomatopoeia*

        …and the occasional nip slip.



        Look, I (a fat cis woman) am really comfortable with things like changing my shirt in a space where a guy might momentarily see me in my bra, in a non-work setting (e.g., I have sometimes gone to a gym with only one restroom and afterward waiting in the line is stupid so I just change my shirt in the hall, whatever), but my supervisor’s nipple is outside the bounds of things I am willing to see bouncing around on my monitor in the middle of a work day.

  23. Molly Buck*

    I’m happy to report treadmill walking on Zoom calls IS acceptable in my employer’s culture, at any level, and has been since before the pandemic. We’ve had standing and walking desks in office locations, and several colleagues have them in home offices. It’s great for employee health and wellness and is a tangible demonstration of cultural values.

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

    Alison, What about treadmill desks? Should people not take Zoom calls while using those desks? Or does it matter how much exertion they are doing? Like, I could see a gentle walk being ok but if they are jogging or running then that could be a problem.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’d say it comes down whether people can tell — are you sweating, out of breath, bouncing, etc.? Those things can be distracting but if no one can tell, do whatever you’d like (within reason)!

    2. IT But I Can't Fix Your Printer*

      A director in my office does this, and you’d never be able to tell without video but he also stays on video during video-optional calls. I find it SUPER distracting so I just end up hiding everyone’s videos – he’s just kind of slowly bobbing up and down while everyone else is staying still, which makes it really noticeable even though he’s not moving much. He’s several levels above me so it’s not my problem to solve (and clearly no one above him has a problem with it since they haven’t stopped him), but if I were a manager I’d tell people not to do it on camera.

  25. Lifeandlimb*

    Every work culture is different, but I’m of the personal belief that if you are doing something potentially distracting on a call (exercising, driving, cooking dinner), you should turn off your video.

  26. Bamboo*

    Treadmill desks are a thing. I’ve tried them since they have the in our office and I can’t do work like writing while using one. But emails and meetings are actually easier for me with fidgets or other small distractions.

    The culture in my office is that you either have your speed set slow enough that no one notices you are on one, or you have your camera off. But we’re in a pretty informal place and HR actively encourages us to take walking meetings.

    I’d find visibly wiping my brow on camera weird. Just like I turn off my camera if I need to eat during a meeting.

    1. GrooveBat*

      “Just like I turn off my camera if I need to eat during a meeting.”

      That’s a great comparison.

    2. BellyButton*

      This. My company is very casual and people will jump on the call with their camera on and say “I am going to turn my camera off while I eat/ walk on my treadmill.” When they are speaking they turn their camera back on.

  27. AngryOctopus*

    My building has treadmills available for people to take meetings from! You book them like any conference room! But people are pretty much not working out, just walking on them. I imagine any sweat that happened would be if the sun was shining directly on them during the meeting.

  28. Spicy Tuna*

    My husband and I have our own business. This morning, I was meeting with a vendor at a jobsite while my husband was at home, available by phone if we needed him. I called and he sounded a little winded and like he was outside. Finally, the vendor asked what was up and my husband admitted he was out for a walk. We were all laughing and honestly, we are the boss so it doesn’t matter. It might be a little different if you are someone’s employee

  29. GirlyQ*

    I saw a TikTok recently where a woman was actually crying about no longer being able to walk on her desk treadmill during meetings because she was told it’s distracting. A startling amount of people were commenting saying that it was BS she had to stop and it isn’t too distracting.

    1. Pierrot*

      That just seems like a disproportionate reaction from the person who made the video. Is she literally in meetings all day or does it just mean not using a treadmill for an hour or two?

      1. GirlyQ*

        I think it means not using it for an hour or two, whenever she had meetings. It was so ridiculous. I need to get off TikTok, because the people on there make me so annoyed haha

      2. DataSci*

        For me meetings are the best time to use my under desk elliptical (no noise, no visible motion, low speed, no sweat). I don’t need to me concentrating in meetings the way I do on the rest of my work. 95% capacity is more than enough for a meeting.

  30. GreenDooor*

    I lean toward *walking* on a treadmill being OK. Plenty of workplaces do “walking meetings” or “walk and talk” conversations. But running? I would be very put off by that. To me, it reinforces the idea that people who work from home aren’t actually working (because, like Alison said, you’re creating the impression that your workout matters more than your actual work). This doesn’t help dispel stereotypes about people who want to work from home. Another thing to consider is your professional reputation. If you like (and even depend) on people perceiving you as polished, professional, conservative, modest, authoritative, or any other such image, joining a meeting while you’re sweaty, wearing athletic gear, and huffing and puffing doesn’t exactly project the image of a polished professional.

  31. JTP*

    This would not faze me at all. In fact, one of the leaders on another team that my team frequently collaborates with joins meetings while on her under-desk treadmill. She’ll usually keep her video off, as most team members do (thank goodness our office has eased off of “video must be on!” mandates), so it’s not distracting.

  32. Delphine*

    My telehealth doctor video-called me from the gym once. Made me laugh but not something I’d do professionally.

  33. Iris Eyes*

    Depends on the Zoom call. If its an all hands type thing go for it, it your company culture allows. One on one probably less so or at minimum know your audience. Also there’s a huge difference between a casual walk and a sweat inducing workout, if you have to change your outfit its too intense. I have several coworkers who have walking pads and its the next big investment I want to make in the office.

  34. BellyButton*

    My office encourages it and will provide money for a treadmill, stand up desks, exercise balls, whatever someone wants. We are pretty relaxed company and really promote and support well-being and health. Almost everyone on my first meeting today was sitting outside enjoying the nice Spring weather.

  35. Lady Danbury*

    We had treadmill desks at a former workplace over a decade ago. They were intentionally meant to be used for calls/meetings where you’re mostly in listening mode. This isn’t a new thing at all. The level of intensity probably matters because I would think someone would be more distracted if they’re doing interval sprints than simply walking.

  36. Catling*

    I work in a non-clinical role in the healthcare field, and back when we HAD offices, there were standing desks and treadmill desks provided for us. Of course, back then, we were in the office and would hop off our treadmills and go to conference rooms during meetings.

    Now we don’t have offices anymore, and during the pandemic I saw a lot of people walking on Zoom calls – it was common and kind of expected. I’ve done one or two meetings on camera and on treadmill, but it was definitely super slow walking. It’s a bit hard for me to just stand up for an hour – my knees start to hurt. But if I’m walking I’m distributing the force more evenly and it’s just more comfortable. My boss does it, a few members of my team do it… but I guess in my field everyone is going to applaud you for trying to be even a little healthier, no matter what!

  37. Dancin Fool*

    I can’t stand people who are moving around a lot while on a video calls. it actually can make me nauseous and give me a headache. I often have to minimize the screen so it doesn’t make me feel ill. If you are going to be walking on a treadmill or even moving around your house please turn off your camera.

    1. FashionablyEvil*

      Totally feel you on feeling seasick. I had an employee who would take calls in a rocking chair. It was awful.

  38. Midwest Teacher*

    It’s normal at my agency. Maybe not doing a full out run, but a light walking pace is fine, and I frequently see my direct supervisor on her home treadmill during meetings. HR even bought a few walking treadmills for around the office several years ago, although they’re rarely used because we all refused to sign the liability waiver that’s required to access them.

  39. Immortal for a limited time*

    Yes. The answer is yes, it’s unprofessional. This is only the tenth time today I have wondered, WTH is wrong with people?!

  40. Just Another Boss*

    I don’t mind walking for a phone call, but if we’re on video my team knows they need to be seated at their computer (wherever that may be). I would never walk on a treadmill on a Zoom.

  41. FashionablyEvil*

    Ugh, the head of our corporate wellness team has a treadmill desk and it is SO visually distracting to watch her on it even at a fairly slow pace.

    Although worse still was my employee who would take calls in a rocking chair. I finally told him he couldn’t be on camera if he was in the rocking chair because it made me motion sick to watch.

    Definitely team, “okay, but not on camera.”

  42. Turtlewings*

    Personally, I can’t imagine passing up an excuse to stop the workout! XD

  43. MxBurnout*

    The line “almost insulting for a junior team member to be walking and talking to a senior level VP” is enough to make me want to get a treadmill and use it during zoom calls just to scandalize people who think like this.

    1. Office Cheetos*

      I’m going to start doing this. I really dont care anymore. If employers would stop cramming Zoom meetings down everyone’s throats and actually give us an appropriate work-life balance, this would be a non issue.

    2. mb*

      I think that as a junior person you’d want to convey that you’re paying attention to what the senior person is saying and taking it seriously. Being on a video call while exercising conveys the opposite. Plus, it could give others motion sickness as has been commented. If you’re not on video and don’t have to talk, then I don’t see a problem with it.

        1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

          Because your nervous system compensates for your own walking motions. You know how birds seem to bob their heads as they walk? It’s to keep their eyes from moving relative to whatever they’re looking at. (They’re actually keeping their heads level while moving their bodies around.) We have software – the nervous system – to manage that for us, so we can keep our heads still as we walk. But if you’re just watching someone’s image and they’re bouncing around, you can’t compensate for what the image is doing.

      1. treadmill director*

        As a neurodivergent person who sometimes *needs* to be physically active in order to focus on what’s being said to me, it is disheartening to see in these comments that so many people out there still think “paying attention” looks the same for everybody.

  44. pumpkin*

    I get video motion sickness pretty easily and have had to ask a coworker to turn her camera off a few times as she uses a walking pad and bobs around all over the place. Makes me feel pretty ill and feels really odd to subject everyone else to that.
    I think if you’re not on video, they’re perfectly appropriate. My old office had treadmills with laptop rests in a special room.

  45. Kelly L.*

    It reads to me like “I am performatively showing off that I am ~Exercising~! Behold my healthiness!”

    Surely there is some other period of the day when one can exercise. Like before or after work, or even at any other time of the workday when you’re not on Zoom.

    1. I have RBF*

      Yeah, this is the vibe I get off of it. They are performing their healthiness/exercise routine for all to see and think well of. I just roll my eyes at it, and think less of them as a person because they feel a need to perform healthiness at work.

  46. AJ*

    We have a school board director who has done this on camera during a school board meeting (meetings are now hybrid). Distracting doesn’t begin to convey how unprofessional this comes across as.

  47. DinoZebra*

    Anything that involves your head/eyeline moving noticeably on the screen is going to be horrible for people with Visual Stress/Vertigo type issues. Unless you want to make people giddy/sick/having a splitting headache please keep the camera off.

  48. Samwise*

    Students will try to do virtual appointments with me while walking, driving, folding laundry. Fairly distracting and they are clearly unable to pay appropriate attention to the degree audit I’m screen-sharing with them.

    If they’re driving, I tell them I’m hanging up because it’s dangerous, and then I do.

    Otherwise I tell them: let’s reschedule this for a time when you can focus better. Use the app to find an appointment. That usually gets them to sit down and pay attention, because my calendar is *crammed*.

    My colleagues across campus don’t do any of these things, fortunately. Or if they do, their camera is off.

  49. Synergy*

    Distracting and unprofessional, yes, but insulting? That’s taking it a bit too personally.

  50. Office Cheetos*

    Then employers need to pick a lane.
    You want to screech about making sure we exercise and get away from our desks but then get upset when we take long, boring calls on treadmills or walks with mandatory cameras on. The human body was not designed to sit all day.

    1. mb*

      I think the objection was to people who are in important meetings with senior people, and they’re huffing and puffing, bouncing around, and visibly sweating. The letter writer specifically mentioned bobbing around and wiping away sweat. Light walking where there’s no sweating or excessive bobbing around probably wouldn’t even be noticed.

      Most video calls and meetings are boring – some may be necessary even if they’re not particularly interesting – that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t appear professional and like you’re paying attention. Every job, even someone’s dream job, has aspects that aren’t enjoyable and we kind of just have to deal with it.

  51. mb*

    I’d think it would be very distracting. But if you’re just listening and not on video, I think it would be fine. Personally, I wouldn’t want anyone from work to see what I look like while working out. It’s not a good look.

  52. Peripatetic Patty*

    I have a walking treadmill under my desk and I start every meeting saying that I’m happy to stop walking or turn off the camera if it makes someone seasick, and that they can interrupt me to do so at any point. I am not a manager and I regularly have information/working calls with people across my org/around the world and nobody has batted an eye. Most people have questions about how they can get one themselves!
    I walk max 1.4 mph and I wear normal clothes (actually mostly nice-ish clothes, think top/skirt, casual dress) and don’t get sweaty.
    If someone thought I was ‘insulting’ them by walking during our meeting I would be having a discussion with their manager about norms at our (ENORMOUS) company and not taking things personally.

    1. MicroManagered*

      Video is on and they’re bouncing around, even wiping their brows.

      Yeah this is not what you are describing. I think you are fine!

  53. OfficePlantAdopter*

    This reminds me of a meeting I once had with a colleague who spent the entire conversation bouncing on an exercise ball. This was nearly a decade ago and in his office — so not someone’s WFH set-up that doubled as a home office/gym. I’m all for people using unique chairs to be more comfortable, but trying to make eye contact with someone while they’re actively bouncing up and down in front of you was so awkward (and a bit dizzying!).

  54. DrSalty*

    I think it depends on if you are walking slowly on the treadmill or doing a vigorous workout. Like if you are bouncing around and huffing and puffing that is very distracting and not professional or courteous imo. But there are people in my office who use treadmill desks and it’s noticeable on calls but not horribly distracting and they present professionally.

  55. I have RBF*

    I am of the opinion that if someone is working out, I don’t need to see of hear it. “Sweaty” is not a work appropriate aesthetic, IMO.

  56. Kuddel Daddeldu*

    Just yesterday I was riding my bicycle to the office while on an internal Teams call. (I have a cycling helmet with built-in speakers and mike that works surprisingly well for that).
    It was a low-stakes internal call, a safe route with bike paths, and I stopped when I needed to unmute and talk, of course. I wouldn’t do it regularly, though.

  57. hayling*

    I had a coworker who had a treadmill desk, and I found it give me motion sickness if he had his camera on during Zooms. He wasn’t walking very fast but it was distracting.

  58. KatEnigma*

    I don’t know. Two jobs (10 years ago) my husband worked for a Fortune 500 that had treadmill desks. The Execs used them specifically when they were making calls, and made them available to reserve for the regular working stiffs outside of their use. It seems strange to me that a decade later, it would seem unprofessional to use one.

    1. MicroManagered*

      Were the execs “bouncing around, even wiping their brows” and on video? Ten years ago we didn’t *have* video calling capability at my job, so I think that’s the difference here…

  59. Non techy tech editor*

    I’ve done it. But only if I know I can keep my camera off the whole time, and my microphone muted at least most of the time. Ain’t no one needs to see that

  60. MicroManagered*

    I have a treadmill in my office and do walk on it during work calls, but only certain ones that I know ahead of time I would not be expected to be on camera or speak much, if at all.

    If one of my direct reports did this in a meeting, I’d probably tell them to stop if they were bouncing, out of breath, and sweating. But if they’re participating in the meeting and walking at a slow-enough pace that it’s not a distraction, what do I care?

  61. Goody*

    I could potentially see a slow paced walking gait where the participant isn’t bouncing all over, panting and sweaty from the exertion. It would depend on how much their head moved around. Even then, I’d have my camera off if I was the walker.

    Definitely not ever a jog or run, even without a live camera or mike.

  62. learnedthehardway*

    Hmmm… I do a lot of calls while on the phone and also doing laundry folding, etc. I’m starting to think that an under-desk treadmill could solve my lack of time for exercise…..multi-tasking for the win!!

    Definitely wouldn’t be working up a sweat on it during client meetings, though.

  63. H.Regalis*

    OP, you certainly seem to consider it unprofessional regardless of whether you get a group consensus or not.

    On an emotional level, I get wanting to ask other people, “Who is right in this situation (and why is it me)?” How that’s going to apply to your job really depends on whether the junior employees are your subordinates, and whether or not the majority of people at *your* workplace consider it unprofessional.

  64. BrightLights*

    I have a treadmill desk. I spend about half my day on it, including meetings I am leading or where I contribute substantially.

    I have it running at a slower speed than my normal walking pace so that I don’t get out of breath or sweat, and I can carry on an uninterrupted conversation. When it is warm in the room, I have a fan on my desk. I’ve confirmed with coworkers that my microphone settings don’t pick up my footfalls or the sound of the treadmill (which has a mat underneath so it doesn’t squeak or echo.)

    I’m in calls for 7 hours of the day, often back to back. I had horrible back pain before I got this thing.

    I was a bit of an evangelist- now more people in my department have gotten them also.

  65. Adele Bowling*

    First off it really depends on if your organization uses video for meetings or not! For me we mainly do audio so as long as there’s no distracting noise I can walk on my treadmill no problem. I also walk on a low speed so I’m not out of breath. Basically, how well can you hide that you’re multi-tasking?

    1. I have RBF*

      Audio-only calls are really easy to do when walking at a sedate pace, as long as the mic doesn’t pick up road noise. It’s when you add video and/or noises that I get a very performative vibe off of it.

  66. Parenthesis Guy*

    I do this. I don’t have as many meetings as some, but I have way too many meetings where I’m not expected to talk or be on camera. I’m also usually on mute so people can’t hear me.

    I won’t walk on it when I’m in a meeting with one or two people or if I’m leading a meeting. But otherwise I’m team treadmill.

  67. Ginger*

    If you are on a call, with your camera on, I find it SUPER distracting to see someone bobbing along, sweaty or not.

    Participating and taking notes (or worse, saying you’ll remember) drives me batty.

    Sorry, this is BEC territory for me personally. I find it performative, distracting and downright rude.

    Off camera, listen only? Go for it, don’t care.

    Whew, felt good to get that off my chest.

    1. I have RBF*

      Seriously. I agree with you. As long as they don’t shove it into my face or distract/derail the meeting, whatever. But don’t make me watch them bouncing and possibly sweating or puffing hard, please. Then again, I’m firmly on team “cameras off” unless people need to see you talking.

  68. KR*

    I can see how bouncing around and wiping sweat off your brow can be distracting, and that person likely just needs to sit for meetings or slow their treadmill speed. A lot of the treadmills I see are the kind where the person is just at a slow walk where yes, you can tell the person is moving and not sitting still in a chair, but there’s no noise or noticeable movement other than a slight sway to their upper body. That is completely fine IMO.

  69. Tara*

    This is the kind of situation where professional norms harm employee health in the name of optics. It is *terrible* for you to be sitting all day. Same with standing all day. Walking more during the workday, not necessarily breaking a sweat but a casual stroll, can help everyone. The idea that you’re not paying attention is nonsense, most people pay more attention when they can doodle or knit or walk, and less attention when their focus is on how uncomfortable they are and waiting to relieve that stiffness. I can see the motion sickness angle if you’re on video, but beyond that there’s just no advantage to sitting still. I can see this being more and more accepted in “good” workplaces in the future- places that value results over optics, diversity (especially neurodiversity and ability) is valued, and where employee health is prioritized.

    1. I have RBF*

      How is visibly modeling the able-bodied privilege in having easily available exercise equipment valuing diversity of ability? Health does not equal exercise, thinness, muscle development or any of the other superficial things that I see used as a crude proxy for “health”.

      Seriously, my health is between me and my doctor. My workplace shouldn’t be involved in it at all. The fact that my health insurance is through my job means that some companies think they have the right to tell me what I should do for my “health”.

  70. JTP*

    Honestly, I’m kind of shocked at both Alison’s answer and many of the answers here. We’re supposed to take OPs at their word. The OP says “getting their steps in” — not that people were doing on full-on running intervals workouts. How is this any different and less professional than one of the comment questions below about using an under-desk treadmill?

    Is it the sweating? When I had an endocrine disorder and was majorly overweight, I would sweat just standing up. Was I unprofessional just by existing?

    1. treadmill director*

      I’m also getting a bit of a vibe that doing physical things during a meeting is seen as “not paying attention”, and I just wanted to note that for some of us neurodivergent folk, doing physical things is *necessary* for us to pay attention.

      I can sit quietly and perform “attentive”, or I can actually *be* attentive, but often not both.

  71. Anonymousaurus Rex*

    Huh, I wonder if LW is talking about being on a “real” treadmill or just an under-desk walking pad. I recently got a walking pad for under my standing desk to try to get some more movement in my day, as I’m in back to back meetings all day and don’t get a break to step away from my desk. I try to take 1-2 meetings walking, and I try to do the ones where I’m not going to be on camera, but occasionally I turn on my camera if I am walking. I walk really slow–like 1-2 Mph, definitely not huffing and puffing. I was hoping there was some more acceptance of these kinds of health trends. If I don’t walk during meetings, I basically am sedentary all day. I definitely hope I’m not looking super unprofessional or like I’m not engaged.

  72. Lizard*

    I now have a new low-key goal to yell out “feel the burn!” during a call. Particularly if something dramatic is being discussed, like possible lay-offs or a client passing on our project suggestions or something.

  73. SofiaDeo*

    It’s possible to walk without bobbing up and down. We did it in dance class with a book on our head. If no one can tell you are walking, no bobbing or panting or sweating, how would they even know? Similar to sitting in meetings, some people crochet or knit under the table, it’s discreet and no one really can tell. It’s not the fact of *whatever one is doing*, it’s that *one is a distraction.* I could be sitting quietly in a meeting, not making making any noise, but if I was doing jaw exercises or grimacing/making faces on camera I am sure there would be comments.

  74. Chickaletta*

    The other day, I was on a zoom with someone who was using their phone who was apparently shopping during the whole meeting at a grocery or big box store, with their camera and mic on the whole time, and the camera pointed up at the ceiling so you also got a lovely view up their nose the whole time. Like, why? It gave off “I’m so busy and important that I can take this call while doing everyday chores” vibes.

  75. SB*

    I have seen a few people who have a treadmill as part of their standing desk set up but I have never noticed any of them noticeably using it during a teams meeting. I don’t think it would bother me if it was just a sedate walk, but a brisk walk or run which results in puffing & sweating is too much for a meeting.

  76. A person*

    I don’t even like being on video normally…

    If I was doing this I’d definitely leave it off. Luckily at my job, I’m mostly running around unless I’m on a call, so I like the time to sit.

  77. Inkognyto*

    I’m perm WFH in IT. It’s fairly rare for us to have any Video on.
    My work would prob call you out unless it was like over lunch. We’re salary, people would tell you they can have a meeting later after you work out. If we were in the office people would just go down to use the gym on floor 1 anytime. You didn’t have meetings there.

    If I have a meeting with a Director/VP/SVP. They have my attention. I don’t do other things. my video will be on.

    If I am leading a meeting I turn video on as I’m talking and I believe it helps people engage.

    My company also has an issue where our IT Security/Network team limits our VPN to 2Mbit. It sucks but they have some reason for it. It could be that we have over 500 people remote in a smaller area. They did raise it and it had issues. So trying to do many people with video doesn’t work well also. Also facial reading burnout is a thing.

  78. Mademoiselle Sugarlump*

    I worked at a company that had treadmill desks (not for everyone, but in common areas) and sometimes you could tell when someone was using one. During the pandemic there were a couple of people who used treadmills during calls. I’d say it was normal for that company.

  79. Extra anony*

    This is why I believe at least 90% of meetings should be camera off. Audio only? Do whatever you want and multitask away, as long as you are paying attention and not wasting the other person’s time.

    Camera on? Yeah, I think it’s rude to be exercising. In my opinion, if the camera is on, it should be with a purpose, to interact with your colleagues, just like in an office. You wouldn’t fold laundry or go for a jog while in an in person meeting, because theoretically you’d be giving your full attention to the people in the room. I vote when the camera is on, make it count, but most calls don’t really demand it.

  80. Deanna Troi*

    We have tonnes of unnecessary all-staff meetings where everyone has their cameras off, so I’ve started using the time to lift weights. I wouldn’t do it in actual team meetings, but why not use some of the time productively if I’m not contributing anyway.

  81. eeeek*

    If listening/observing only, and no sharing on camera, no problem.

    HOWEVER, if called upon to comment or participate more actively, best to stop the treadmill and take a pause SO YOU ARE NOT PANTING AND HEAVING if called upon to comment without video. Hide all evidence that you are prioritizing your workout, and that’s fine.

    In my environment (Higher Ed Administration), participating in a meeting while on a treadmill would be considered unprofessional and, at a minimum, grist for the rumor and mock mill.

    Tread(mill) carefully.

  82. coffee*

    I’m surprised at the people who are going to “walking meetings”. I’ve been to a few and I hated them, because it’s hard to hear everyone talk when you’re all moving and often facing away from people or at a bit of a distance. I also found them quite distracting. We only did a couple, probably because everyone else found them distracting as well.

    I find the movement of people on a treadmill to be quite distracting, and the LW clearly notices it too or they wouldn’t have written in.

  83. EngineeringFun*

    I have a treadmill horror story. Brand new to the job, my new boss shows up on camera in sports bra jogging on treadmill every morning for 4 hours. She tries to train me and two other people new software while she’s on the treadmill telling me where to click. She would be going million miles an hour until around 4 pm… She kept talking about work life balance but was demanding more and more hours. She was upset she couldn’t reach me over the weekend (I’m a research engineer who doesn’t work weekends). Finally on day 9 she calls me on the treadmill to tell me that she expects me working 60-80 hours a week. And she can show me tricks on how to do that like taking calls while working out!!??!! I said I’m sorry this isn’t going to work out. Is there another position they could use my doctorate degree in? She started screaming at me about how I’d never find a job at that pay and less than 60 hours a week. And a bunch of other crazy things. I quit and found another job that had 40 hour work weeks…

  84. Carlie*

    I physically can’t handle it when people are on treadmills during zoom calls. The back-and-forth movement of their heads/upper bodies makes me motion sick and I get a headache and nausea from it, whether they’re the main speaker or a tiny rectangle in gallery view. Please don’t do it with the camera on.

  85. marie*

    I had a manager/owner who had weekly calls with our team to stay on top of our events (catering company). She was also a full time teacher, so meetings were always video calls. She often would be on her treadmill, but one time called while she was on a trail run! No joke, she was panting through the whole meeting, couldn’t really hear anything we said, and could barely talk.

    After that, the treadmill wasn’t so bad.

  86. galacticat*

    This is a little different context than the question seemed to be getting at, but I would personally make a big distinction between a walkpad/walking on a treadmill at a standing desk in a dedicated office space, versus running or jogging on a treadmill in a gym or your living room. As walkpads and standing desks get more popular, and in light of the clear, well-documented health risks of sitting all day, I think we’ll see more and more people looking to do that. I’d hate to see employers create cultures or policies that pressure or mandate unhealthier office norms for no real valid reason. If someone is walking at a pace where they can maintain a normal conversation (so they aren’t say huffing and puffing while talking), work effectively (not running so hard they can’t focus on much else), and present a reasonably professional tone and appearance (versus sweating in gym clothes during a run), I think we should all get read comfortable with that for internal, less formal meeting situations.

    Biased, though, as I am someone who does outdoor walks or exercise equipment during my workday several times per week, including while taking internal/informal voice or video meetings, and my supervisor does so as well.

  87. Not A Girl Boss*

    One thing thats weird about remote work is how *close* everyone is to your mouth. While I had no problem eating at a lunch meeting in a conference room, I really struggle to chomp away on a salad with my mic right next to my ear. Similarly, I used to “walk and talk” with my manager as a way to get movement in during our work day, but huffing and puffing into a mic reads different.
    At the very least, I wouldn’t have my camera on while I did it.

    However, I do have to complain about how many of my senior managers routinely and openly take (scheduled) meetings while driving or running errands, or once even while getting his blood drawn??
    Its really frustrating and disrespectful, because we often have to prepare slide decks for these kinds of meetings. They’ll unabashedly say “oh I’m driving right now, can you read it to me?” and sometimes… no, we can’t, its a complicated graph that took me an hour of pivot-table-ing to make!

  88. Happy Pineapple*

    I work for a very large (think household name) company and we actually have rooms in our offices that have treadmills for this exact purpose. They’re labeled as “walking work stations.” There’s a place to put your laptop and even a little fan to keep you cool. But I do agree that it’s a distraction if the person is on camera; it’s better suited for when you only need to listen to a call.

  89. Peripatetic Patty*

    Just a note for people who get sick when people are moving on a call — lots of video call platforms let you ‘pin’ one video feed and hide the rest.

  90. rebelwithmouseyhair*

    I read about computers that were powered by your treadmill and asked the boss for one so I could exercise while I worked, but that never happened.
    I suppose I could get one for myself now that I’m freelancing but I got myself a dog to make sure I go for long walks every day instead. Bonus is that we get out into the fresh air too, vitamin D and all that.
    Quite frankly I think that people should be able to do what they want during zoom meetings provided they don’t disrupt the meeting in any way and take all the information they need on board, but if they’re on camera I expect it would be very distracting and unpleasant to watch them sweating and grunting.

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