I used to hate teleconferences. Now, we’re either all teleconferencing or video conferencing each other. Just as before COVID-19 we would all complain about pointless meetings or the overuse of meetings, now we can do the same for inconvenient or unnecessary video updates. 

While it’s true that virtual meetings can add a layer of fatigue to our COVID-19 life right now, some of the issues we’re having don’t have anything to do with whether or not Zoom is sending our information to China or how to keep our meeting sessions secure. Rather, we’re dealing with the same challenging people online that we used to be able to just deal with at the office. They’re now invading our home space and draining more mental and emotional energy. 

Here’s the thing: challenging people in face-to-face meetings during normal situations are worse via video conferencing. Who are these people that take a little more meeting management in real life, but even more during this coronavirus pandemic? 

Top 5 Annoying Coronavirus Coworkers

1. The small talk person.

Maybe this person is lonely, or maybe they don’t really read the social situation well. But, they tell you small details of their life that you really don’t have the time or energy to care about in a meeting. On video conferencing, this person tells you about their house, their pets, their kids, or any other small topic that is not relevant to the meeting. Small talk is fine outside of meetings, and face-to-face discussions can withstand this intrusion, but online, it is awkward, a waste of time, and really tiresome. The reality is that as soon as the meeting is over, many of us need to teach a kid or check on a grocery delivery status.

2. The interrupter.

Interrupting is rude in face-to-face meetings. It can be challenging to get a full thought out with this coworker. However, online, it is extra annoying because it makes the video feed choppy. So, whatever the first person was saying cuts in and out with the interrupter’s words. Because common courtesy is not the norm, the meeting participants get zero benefits from what is being discussed in those moments. 

3. The barely-there coworker.

Maybe this coworker was always late or tried to be nonexistent at the office. Sometimes, we all have our reasons for remaining aloof, but when it affects project deadlines, it means it’s affecting your coworkers. When we’re all online, we don’t have the luxury of swinging by someone’s desk…if they don’t pick up the phone, answer an email, or show up to a meeting, everyone is paused until they resurface.  

4. The create work to look busy coworker.

This is an especially stressful time. Studies are starting to come out about “Zoom fatigue,” and we all have various levels of fear with this current pandemic. But when an employee who likes to make up work gets thrown into the mix, it can really amplify all of the stress. Not only are we being asked to work in new ways (not all bad but new to many) while managing other family and home responsibilities, there’s the added fatigue of the coworker who seems to create imaginary problems, all while sending too many emails and meeting invites. 

5. The clueless person.

Sadly, this clueless person could fall into all of the above categories, but there’s an extra level of specialness with this coworker. They seem to have no idea in regular settings how their actions and words affect others around them, but online, it takes on a whole new level. You might find this person reclining at an awkward angle, or you might have to remind them that their mic is on when they’re yelling at their barking dog. “Hey Cheryl, we can hear that person in the background using the bathroom….” It’s like they have no concept that when the video is on, the meeting participants can see everything in the camera line. So, if your significant other walks into the camera line and adjusts a pant zipper, everyone sees that. Honestly, when a Texas mayor left his mic on while using the restroom, it brought me a lot of laughter. It’s funny until it’s your clueless coworker. 

Make sure you don’t fall into these categories of coworkers. You might think you’re fine, but it never hurts to be sure.

Four video tips to make sure your coworkers aren’t laughing about you in the chatroom

1. Pay attention to your camera

You want what goldilocks wants – not too high and not too low, but just right. Weird angles are not only unflattering, but they are distracting. And look at the camera when you’re speaking – not yourself.

2. Check your lighting.

You don’t want to look like you’re in the witness protection program by sitting in front of a window or a light. Overhead light or side light is best. 

3. Consider your attire and your surroundings.

Whatever you wear or have in your background can be distracting – or embarrassing. 

4. Pay attention to the meeting.

There are some exceptions to this rule, and I have worked on my ability to look at the camera and work with mute on during meetings. But this should only be for the meetings that are not interactive. Honestly, it’s what we would have done in person if we could have gotten away with it. Of course, this begs the question if the meeting was really needed in the first place…perhaps while we’re quarantined, we’ll learn better ways to disseminate information.

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Jillian Hamilton has worked in a variety of Program Management roles for multiple Federal Government contractors. She has helped manage projects in training and IT. She received her Bachelors degree in Business with an emphasis in Marketing from Penn State University and her MBA from the University of Phoenix.