Five Reasons All Your Work-From-Home Conference Calls Are So Utterly Cringeworthy

Your employer, coworkers and general office life may be top-notch, but that doesn't mean your digital conference calls will be. In the midst of the nation's coronavirus outbreak, companies have begun to shift to a new routine of digital meetings, conference calls and isolated working at home.

While there are huge perks to this corporate behavior, like lowering employees' and clients' risk of getting COVID-19, the virus' disease, learning curves go with all of it.

Twitter users have already begun to share the comedic nature of the conference call life, from wildly awkward moments to uncomfortable confusion on how to behave.

Work From Home
A picture taken on March 15, 2020, shows glasses on a laptop at a home office desk in Salzburg, Austria. BARBARA GINDL/APA/AFP/Getty

Here are some of the reasons you can't help but cringe when you pick up the phone, or turn on your webcam, in this unprecedented period of digital work.

To everyone now working from home, let me introduce you to conference call bingo.

— Runa Sandvik (@runasand) March 11, 2020

I have never experienced anything more awkward than the conference call meetings that are now being attempted to replace in-person events.

— Gordon Chaffin (@GordonAChaffin) March 12, 2020

You See People's True Colors

You're probably used to seeing your coworkers and bosses only in a professional light. Business behavior, you may find, is an easy way to hide someone's true self. You've likely had peeks into your coworkers' personalities based on their cubicle décor, but now you're being invited into their homes.

Digital meetings may be more than awkward when your peers don't consider their home meeting's backdrop. You're likely to find yourself staring at an unmade bed, dirty dishes or an insane amount of horse posters, which adds a whole new feature to the standard meeting.

It's gonna be super awkward during my 4th conference call of the morning when Halloween 4 is playing in the background.

— Spooky Ant (@sometimes_ant) March 16, 2020

I activated a virtual background during a Zoom meeting yesterday. Someone noticed and called it out. The CEO immediately says "Good to see you guys are paying attention to what we are talking about." 🤣😭

— Accidental CISO (@AccidentalCISO) March 14, 2020

There's a Problem With the Patriarchy

In digital meetings, there's bound to be an awkward silence or two. Even more common, though, is the problem of people talking at the same time. Professor André Spicer of London's Cass Business School told The Guardian that this more than likely occurs with your male coworkers. "It tends to enhance existing patterns of behavior," he explained. "We know that males tend to dominate conversations, and with video calls this is often the case."

The learning curve lies in the digital dance of saying "No, go ahead" over and over until someone finally takes the reins in the conversation.

Technical Issues

Chances are, if your business is meeting digitally, you'll get bumped from a call, miss a few sentences or have trouble figuring out if all of your employees can hear you. Technical problems will occur in your digital workplace in waves, some of which are undeniably comical.

Your meetings may even be longer because of the small talk, confusion and frustration that accompany them.

During social distancing, it’s important to remember good conference call etiquette:

- awkward silence
- can you hear me
- [weird small talk because someone is 10 min late]
- strange crunch
- heavy breath
- oops sorry you go ahead
- sorry no, you
- BOOP beep
- bye?

— Julieanne Smolinski (@BoobsRadley) March 10, 2020

Script for our future of conference call based meetings:
1. "I'm going to run through the roll call really quick..."
2. "If you could put us on mute please."
3. "Jane, I wanted to get your input...Jane, I think you are still muted."
4. "Sorry, I was muted..."
5. *weird noises*

— Andrea Bitely (@AndreaBitely) March 9, 2020

Social Distancing

While practicing social isolation is necessary these days, it can cause an even more stressful workplace. There's a chance your office peers are feeling less like themselves because of the strict confines of a self-induced quarantine.

You may find general insecurity and a lack of confidence when it comes to digitally communicating, as many coworkers are bound to overthink distorted social cues from phone calls and video chats.

"The interesting thing about remote working is that people always think it will be better," Bruce Daisley, author of The Joy of Work, told The Guardian. "But people's stress levels are actually higher when they work remotely. It's stressful and lonely. We think our boss doesn't trust us and our team doesn't like us."

This Could Have Been an Email

In a time of social confusion, you may find yourself having even more meetings than usual. Digital-only communication could leave you wondering if everything explained via video or phone would make even more sense as a companywide email.

this call could’ve been an email is the new this meeting could’ve been an email

— Ashley Fern Rothberg (@disco_infern0) March 11, 2020

Coronavirus showing us that every meeting could have been an email

— Ruth Millington (@ruth_millington) March 11, 2020