Setting boundaries for web conferencing

Last week I averaged five hours of virtual calls every day with frequent requests from people to turn on my video. People are very into video calling now that we are working from home but it is an over familiar way of working that’s become more normal than it should be.

For the most part I do not turn on video because my internet is not that good but also because virtual working is taxing enough without having to mind how you look, how you sound, where in your house you sit and how you position yourself when not talking etc. There is peer pressure though, even online and when asked to turn on camera so people can see you I find myself obliging usually just so I am not the spoil sport. I shared this sentiment on social media recently and had an interesting discussion about setting boundaries with people around video calls. Maybe its time we rock this boat.

“No is a complete sentence. If I am working from home, wearing an old tee shirt, no bra, and my face reflects my state of mind and if I really don’t want to show face I just say “Sorry, I can’t get on video right now”. Full stop”. – Francoise Moudouthe

I felt that. Its a firm boundary set. No excuses made. You are simply saying you do not want to use video and not trying to qualify with it with some excuse that you think people may accept and not take offence with.

“Is there a reason we need video for this call?” – Francoise Moudouthe

Now there’s another response that I found really interesting because 99.99% of the time there is no reason you need video for the call. People just want to see each other. If you find that intrusive and unnecessary then just don’t do it.

I know we showed up for meetings in person with no complaints pre-COVID but here we are letting people into our homes via video for months now because virtual meetings is all we do. It is invasive and weird on so many ways.

We don’t talk about this much but here goes;

  1. Asking people you work with to turn on video is as awkward as inviting yourself to their home for drinks after work. Contexts differ of course but for the most part we never attempted to go to co-workers homes before unless enthusiastically invited. Why are we so cavalier about entering each others homes via video now?
  2. Many people do not have home offices and work in all sorts of weird locations inside their homes. Video calling requires that they find or create a corner that’s presentable enough for them to show to the world. In a time when just showing up for work is an act of strength and resilience, that’s a lot to ask.
  3. People are going through a lot, the pandemic is emotionally draining in every possible way – getting up, dressing up and showing up daily is sometimes too much. Insisting on video means folk cannot just show up while not looking their very best for you. They are forced to put in extra effort with energy they may not have just so you can see them for 2 minutes or half an hour.

I have switched off my video setting as a default and only show face when absolutely required, my profile picture is good enough for you to get a sense what I look like if we have never met before and it we already know each other my voice is proof of life. And that is that about that. I also keep a scarf handy just in case I actually feel like it and decide to switch to video for like one minute.

What are your thoughts on video calling during this pandemic? Is it a “Yes, please” or “NOOOO!” for you?

3 thoughts on “Setting boundaries for web conferencing

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  1. I am one who doesnt like switching on my video because I feel like you have gotten into my home uninvited and it gives me unnecessary pressure to ensure that I have a perfect background. I am one person who is using my personal bedroom as an office because that is the most quietest space I have. My son is 2 years old and is all over the house. The bedroom is the only space where I dont get disturbances from him. So imagine me switching on my video whilst in my bedroom. Its a no and there shouldnt be any obligation towards doing so

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  2. I find it really intrusive and I feel my presence is enough without seeing my face😩 Heck I don’t want to be seen in my natural habitat and working from home is more relaxed in that you don’t have to dress up. Formality is kinda old school, in that remote working has proved to be productive and efficient. We don’t need to see each other everyday at the office but your work speaks for you.

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    1. That’s exactly it. It’s intrusive getting into people’s homes like that. We have been too polite to say it but a boundary is being crossed that shouldn’t

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