Dear DEI, Esq: How Do I Deal with Zoom Fatigue?

In this series, DEI, Esq. is helping individuals who may have experienced or perceived some sort of bias become bias interrupters.

Dear DEI, Esq,

I’ve been with my company for five years and have a great team I manage. Lately, we’ve been working remotely, and I feel like the lines between my personal and professional lives have been blurred. Too much of my personal life is on display when I am on video calls from home, and the idea of turning the camera on is oftentimes daunting. I don’t want my team to see me when I am not “office-ready” and judge me.

One day last week, I forgot to remove my hair wrap and was dreading going on camera. This is exhausting. How do I overcome this?

Hope for your wisdom,

Too tired

Dear Too tired,

Video call fatigue is a phenomenon that’s here to stay. When on camera, it’s easy to feel vulnerable and under a microscope. When we come to the physical office, we can leave our personal lives at home. A virtual office does not offer such a luxury. Our personal lives are on display in their full glory — whether it’s our home décor, kids running in on camera, our unique cultures, or lack of “office-ready” makeup, hair, or outfit.

What you may be experiencing is the “isolation” bias pattern where people intentionally keep their personal lives hidden to maintain their influence and authority or for fear of judgment, whether that fear is real or perceived. Knowing that video calls are not going away anytime soon, here are some things for you to consider.

The concept of bringing your whole self to work is not novel, but it gained new momentum in the virtual workplace. Doing so requires embracing vulnerability, but it’s important to remember that vulnerability does not equal weakness or loss of influence.

When you know that “hiding” your personal life is not manageable for you, embrace the idea of being vulnerable and transparent about who you truly are and become empowered to bring your whole self to your video calls/remote meetings. This can be an opportunity to share with your colleagues what makes you unique and perhaps even educate others from different backgrounds or circumstances about the history of hair wraps or anything else that makes up your whole self. Our uniqueness and authenticity are powerful and should be celebrated.

Bringing your whole self to work can be overwhelming, so start small. Begin by having one-on-one conversations with your colleagues with your camera on, opening up about some aspects of your personal life. Hair wrap on? Share the history and purpose of hair wraps. Unique artwork in the background? Explain its significance. Once you get more comfortable at being transparent and vulnerable on a smaller level, consider bringing your whole self to a larger meeting — whether on camera or in person.

You’ve got this!

DEI, Esq.

DEI, Esq. is comprised of in-house counsel who share a deep passion for diversity, equity, and inclusion. While the members, Jane Howard-Martin, Connie Almond, Olesja Cormney, Jennifer N. Jones, and Meyling Ly Ortiz, work as employment counsel at Toyota Motor North America, Inc., their views and the thought-leadership expressed are their own and not necessarily the views of their employer.