When it comes to video conferencing etiquette, we're all learning (and failing) together.
One boss has asked if it's okay to set a Zoom dress code for employees, after they caught one worker on a call with clients while wearing *gasp* a tank top. The boss took to Reddit to ask if it'd be an a-hole move to impose a Zoom dress code.
I’m in charge of a team of people (industrial designers, if it matters) whose jobs involve daily meetings with others in the company to collaborate on projects and usually two or three clients to touch base on progress.
I jumped onto a client discussion recently to check in on a large project, and to my surprise found the person responsible for the call in a tank top in their living room. We usually do business in a pretty formal setting, when we typically come to work the most casual we get are jeans button downs/polos/sweaters, though a lot of times we need to go full jacket and tie/blouse and blazer.
So I sent an email out basically saying “Reminder as we all adjust to this new meeting format, use a plain background free from clutter and wear what you normally would for the same meeting in person.”
I immediately got angry emails that I’m not being compassionate enough, I don’t know what any given individual might be going through, l that it shouldn’t matter because the clients/other employees know we’re at home and that further I can’t control what they do at home.
If I worked at any other job I’d think “Huh, I guess I was out of line to request this.” But I work with some people who are prone to being a little over sensitive, maybe because they’re mostly new to the working world.
Am I the a-hole for asking them to dress up for virtual meetings?
Kaifinja argues that a tank top sends a bad message:
It shows the client that they only dress the part for work and not because they respect the client. In other words, you usually have a dress code as a way to portray professionalism. It also shows the client you take them(and yourself) seriously. If your team members are in tank tops during client meetings it shows the client that they are not invested in the relationship the company has with the client. It’s about professionalism and respect.
CatCatBirb says the stuff about the background being clear might be a bit of an overreach:
I've had to do video calls with a plain background before, and I literally had to sit on the floor in my bathroom beside my toilet to find a place that met all my plain background/bright lighting/electrical outlet/quiet space needs. Don't be the boss who puts their employees in that position....
But as far as the dress-code goes, I think it's fair to ask people to wear business attire during video calls with clients. If they haven't already, they'll learn that the secret to video conferencing from home is PJ pants/sweats/undies/towel on the bottom, business casual from the waist up.
SalaciousSapphic gets where the boss was coming from, but says they could cut the employees some slack:
So you’re not wildly out of line to wish for this... but your employees aren’t wrong for feeling like your request seems frivolous in the face of everything else that’s going on in the world.
I’d say it’s fair to request office attire for client-facing meetings, and go a little easy on team-only meetings. Give a little grace, get a little, you know?
But tamaraisredditing thinks the employees are getting off easy all things considered:
You’re not asking them to dress up all day long, just when they’re visible in meetings. That’s a completely appropriate request, especially if their clients are doing the same.
Appropriate-Energy thinks the clients probably don't care as much as this boss thinks:
We are all having to adjust. Your clients will understand.
And happybalsam thinks the employees' reaction is understandable:
I agree that it is lacking not only compassion but sensibility. You also just alienated your workers, which is completely counterproductive to what you were trying to achieve. If you were my boss, I would have just lost some respect for you and would be resenting you, given the pandemic we are in. No one is working from home for fun right now.
Everyone's in their feelings right now, so be gentle!