Whether your company has always allowed for remote work or you’re one of the many exiled to a home office setup because of COVID-19, working from home comes with some unique complications. While working from the office comes with its own social risks—have you ever spilled coffee on a white shirt?—working from home leaves you vulnerable to roommates, neighbors, pets, and unfortunate dress code violations.
These are some of the work-from-home embarrassing realities that we’ve experienced. Laugh, cry, and prepare yourself for your own inevitable humiliations.
1. The surprise child
Working parents, I salute you. Balancing work and child-rearing is a complicated dance, especially when the whole pack is home. With kids running around, be sure to keep an eye on any open (or easy-to-open) doors— or you might end up like Professor Robert Kelly, who had a surprise visitor join his interview with the BBC.
2. The pet who won’t stop talking
You don’t have to have children to be a parent. Pet owners can commiserate over the joy an animal at home can bring—and the complications unruly pets can cause. While a set of good headphones might keep thunder from interrupting a video call, there’s nothing on the market strong enough to mute out a crying dog while you’re trying to talk.
And for the cat owners out there, the cat-on-keyboard dance is always a danger. Make sure to save your documents regularly—or prepare your collaborators for the occasional cat typo.
3. The messy backdrop
When you’re on a video call, you’re not the only one in the frame—your workspace is too. Your Phish poster might have been cool in college, but now that you’re working it might grab the wrong kind of attention. The same goes for that sock on the door. Take a look back and see what people are really seeing when you video conference call…
4. The wardrobe malfunction
If someone knocks on the door and you want to open it while on a video call, make sure you’re wearing pants.
It happened once and that was enough
5. The unaware partner
Your new work-from-home normal isn’t just an adjustment for you. For those of us with live-in partners, it impacts them too—especially when they’re not working.
Let me help you, from personal experience: if you’re sitting on the couch together and a work call comes through, one of you has to move. Because otherwise, one poorly-timed phone call or stretch and you’re stuck explaining the phantom hand in your frame to your manager.
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6. The surprise video call
If we’re talking about video calls, rule #1: they should never come as a surprise.
Among the many social conventions that go out the window while working from home—see #4, pants—one of them is keeping in mind other peoples’ schedules. While you might be a morning person, for example, your teammates might not be. So a 7:30 a.m. video call might not be a welcome surprise.
For the introverts among us, video calls can be a huge source of panic. The only thing worse than back-to-back calls is thinking you’re safe and then having your camera’s green light come to life.
Pro-tip: “Hey, can we hop on a call today?” is always a good start.
7. When you think you’re on mute
…but you’re not. And everyone can hear you.
A horror story from my past job: On an all-hands department call (!!), someone thought he muted himself when he went to answer his phone. Turns out he did the opposite—and we all had to cringe while he went off on how boring the call was, what a waste of time, what…well, eventually the VP cut him off, but you can imagine.
So, whether you’re picking up a call or asking your dogs nicely to please be quiet for once!!!!!!, double-check the mute button. It can’t hurt.
The rules of working remotely are being redefined daily. Have any cringe stories or suggestions? Tweet at us here.