“When using Zoom, many of our male colleagues report feeling uncomfortable with being continuously observed… Being visually assessed in such overt ways is not something most men are familiar with, especially in their professional lives.” —The Conversation
Yo team! First of all, I want to thank everyone who attended last week’s Virtual Trivia Zoom-a-ganza! We completely disrupted Zoom trivia! By the way, some of you have asked if these virtual meet-ups are mandatory, and the answer is… not technically.
While 2020 may be over (such a grind, right?), it’s clear that video conferencing will still be a crucial component of our workplace. So, this is just a quick note to establish some new policies going forward as we zoom—ha!— into 2021.
It’s been brought to my attention by several of our male employees that they’ve become uncomfortable in our Zoom meetings. Due to the “close-up” nature of video conferencing, they’ve become much more aware of their appearance, and feel uncomfortable having their faces and upper bodies looked at so intently. Being constantly observed makes them feel self-conscious and judged, almost like they’re “pieces of meat” or “objects.” They say that they feel like they have to be “on all the time” and that much of their mental bandwidth is now being taken up with thoughts about “wrinkles” or “double chins.” Some have even admitted that, at times, they’ve considered making excuses—or worse, apologizing!—for their on-camera hair or clothes; others are feeling pressure to wash and shave their faces, wear hats indoors, and have even purchased skin care products and ring lights to enhance their appearances.
Simply put, our current Zoom reality has made our male employees feel vulnerable to judgment and commentary. I am particularly concerned that this will lead to the men internalizing this feeling, which in turn could lead to self-monitoring, self-objectifying, or even shame. We simply cannot allow that.
So it’s time for a pivot. Going forward in 2021, there will be a new focus at our company on making our male employees feel more comfortable. To that end, all female employees will be required to take a series of online courses, the focus of which will be learning how to make sure you’re really listening to what your male colleagues are saying, and not just focusing— or worse, commenting—on how they look.
Ladies, please rest assured that these courses will not cause you to fall behind on your workload, because I’ve already asked the men to take over all of your projects, and every one of them has graciously said yes. To that end, please make all of your notes, data, and ideas available for them to use. We’re hoping that seeing their names on your work will give the men a bonus ego boost to help reverse their budding feelings of shame.
If this new online course program doesn’t succeed in making our male employees more comfortable in the Zoom environment, we do have a Plan B in the works: a new, proprietary video conference app that allows men who feel like they aren’t being heard to mute their female co-workers.
We’ve all had a tough year, and the last thing we want to do is embarrass or judge our co-workers. So, thanks as always for your cooperation, and I’ll see all of you at Friday’s Virtual Talent Show and Dance Party Hosted by Liquid Death Mountain Water!
Karen Lurie lives in Brooklyn and writes comedy, lyrics, scripts, and games for TV, radio, podcasts, websites, apps, and… you?