The Etiquette of Zoom Calls (Or Lack Thereof)

Photo by Chris Montgomery on Unsplash

My hairbrush has a new home. On the desk in my office.

It didn’t use to live there — back when people used to respect the unspoken boundaries of video-calling, which have long since gone out of the window.

And I’m not purposely singling out Zoom — I’m sure it happens on all of the other video platforms — but this is where it’s happened for me.

I realise we can no longer see each other in person and a well-organised, productive weekly video call is great. I feel connected to my clients and ready to tackle the week ahead.

But it doesn’t always go like that.

When did we start blurring the boundaries of what we should and shouldn’t do?

And why have I been the brunt of the definitely shouldn’t do’s for the last couple of months?

Last-minute scheduling

I’m not talking about an hour or even half an hour’s notice. I’m talking about receiving an email or WhatsApp message with a zoom link telling me to immediately join a call. Right this instant.

Twice this has happened with two different clients.

The first time, I was in bed with my laptop, wearing my unicorn onesie. Miraculously I actually had brushed my hair and had an acceptable amount of make-up on so was able to jump out of bed, put on a bra, roll my onesie down to my hips, and put a smart top on, all within the space of a couple of minutes.

But I was flustered. And sweaty.

To make matters worse, it wasn’t just my client in the meeting. Someone else I hadn’t met before was also in it too. Thank God I hadn’t risked keeping the onesie on my top half for jokes.

The second time, I was wearing acceptable clothes but my hair was scraped up into a messy ponytail and I had zero make-up on my face. Which leads me onto my next gripe…

I can hear you but I can’t see you

I logged into that call, staring at the spots on my chin which were not covered by concealer up as they usually would, as I tentatively logged in, wondering if I should shut the curtains in my office so that my face couldn’t be seen as clearly.

I clicked the link and watched my face fill the entire laptop screen. Not the prettiest of sights.

I assumed I was the only one there, until a small black box appeared in the right-hand corner of my screen and I heard a familiar voice say hello.

They didn’t have their flipping camera turned on. And it was too late for me to turn mine off.

The whole call was one of the most awkward experiences of my life and it didn’t help that this client had never before seen what I looked like. And now he thinks I look like that. Fantastic.

Why would you do that to someone? Why use a video-conferencing tool if you’re not going to, oh you know, use the actual video.

No, I don’t want to see your kid’s homework

And then, once I’ve realised that I’m going to have to brush my hair in the mornings, put on enough make-up to make myself look remotely alive, and wear acceptable clothes at least on the top half of my body, then comes the unnecessary content within the call.

Introduce your cat, dog or any other cute pet type animal to me on screen and I’m in heaven. I’m down for that sh*t every day of the week.

Introducing your children’s homework or showing me what they’re up to by moving the camera to face them — I am not. There’s only so many times I can nod along and act interested.

I can’t do it anymore.

So where do we go from here?

A rule book would be pretty nice — although it would probably have to be personalised.

Or alternatively, our clients/employers need to stop working from home. Pronto. When it’s safe of course.

But maybe this is our new normal. In which case, send wine and gin, and help me get the below quote on the homepage of Zoom:

“Boundaries represent awareness, knowing what the limits are and then respecting those limits.” ~ David W. Earle

Freelance writer, procrastinator, and lover of cats. Avid traveller pre-lockdown. Future best-selling novelist post-lockdown🤞 Find me at

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