Smokin’ in the Zoom Room

Posted on May 20, 2020


We had a recent ELGL Facebook Group anonymized question that sparked a lot of discussion:

“What are your thoughts on smoking during video calls while working remotely?”

Here’s a summary of the responses. And a reminder – you can submit an anonymous question! Just email us and we’ll post for you.

  • I kind of view video calls like being in the office: if you wouldn’t do it there, maybe don’t do it on a video call.
    • One exception: sweat pants on video calls are okay, maybe not so much in the office.
  • Don’t do anything you wouldn’t do in a meeting at work.
    • Agreed. Everyone should have a professional appearance based on what is expected in your office.
  • um, no
  • Hard no
  • Nope!
  • Nope nope nope nope.
  • Why not if you’re okay with breaking social norms? Sure, people may not like it, but if you’re a smoker the health consequence for others isn’t there. It’ll be distracting for sure, but hey, if you’re a norm breaker and have the desire to let others know you smoke go for it. And yes, people will flip out likely and yes, impact to your perception, but I’m curious how it goes. Totally obvious downside and not much upside, but fascinating question.
    • I actually really appreciate your points. *I* view it as unprofessional, but others do have the right to make their own choices, and if they want to do so (social consequences be damned) I guess they could.
    • also interesting that this conversation probably wouldn’t even happen 15-20 years ago, maybe even more recent than that in some areas.
    • Then again, I’ve also had conversations with local contractors on why they can’t open (or concealed) carry their firearms in City Hall, either… So I live in a different kind of place…
    • What other moderately horrifying 80s workplace norms can we dust off? JK. In all seriousness you’re spot on. I know it’s todays social norm being busted, but history can be a fuzzy lens.
    • fair enough and I respect the difference. I’m no part of the protestor camp but this feels like a different choice for those who would want to make it.
    • totally that would be a fun project to look at how much things have changed in short periods of time related to norms.
  • I’m fairly certain I’ve watched a staff member from another City do it during their virtual council meetings. It’s a hard no for me.
  • Assuming that’s a prank Q…
  • What year is it again?
  • I’m on the “fascinating question” front. I wouldn’t recommend it if a smoker was asking my opinion…for most of the reasons listed above. Leading a culture of wellbeing is one of our core competencies so smoking would generally be a no go. However, I think people do it on phone calls so it makes me wonder why seeing it is less acceptable if they are still remote. They could always turn off their video feed.
    • my related question is if sweat pants are okay now and that was a social norm that was an unbreakable rule of professionalism, why is this one different? And yup, just shut off your video if you’re going to smoke. Simple fix.
    • we could get into a deep convo here on our society of secrets. We’re ok knowing as long as we don’t actually know. I think everyone is also being pretty up front about the sweatpants and jeans every day which makes me wonder why we’re so hard on ourselves.
    • true story. Let’s go easy on ourselves team! It’s a pandemic not a productivity contest.
    • This is why I like “Don’t do anything you wouldn’t do in a meeting at work.” because it totally depends! Zoom meeting with my coworker to go over why the hell the PowerPoint isn’t formatting correctly? Stained t-shirt and sweats over my kitchen counter/food, totally okay. Zoom meeting with Council? Suit. Early morning Zoom meeting? Switch to conference-call instead and try again in the afternoon.
  • I’d say hard no to the smoking… because I don’t smoke… but wine or a mimosa (for early meetings) seem like sort of a good idea!
    • There’s probably a policy that specifically prohibits the wine or mimosa, but not the cigarette. Places some conditions perhaps, but not outright prohibit.
    • that is why we don’t invite HR to the fun meetings!
    • HR schedules, plans for, leads, and cleans up after the fun meetings!
  • That’s a definite no.
  • I would find it distracting. Also, I would subconsciously judge you. Then I’d tell myself not to judge you. Too late. Damage is done.
  • Nope
  • Absolutely inappropriate.
  • Just turn off your video. Smokers are being singled out because they don’t have the luxury of hiding their beer or wine in a coffee mug. also, we are all under tremendous stress. I personally wouldn’t do it on camera. My 2 cents.
    • ok my mind is blown. People are putting booze in their coffee mug for work calls? I…can’t envision this at all. Maybe I’m the naive, non drinker, but I can’t envision any of my colleagues doing this. Granted I work at the police department.
  • Pandemic rules=Mad Men rules ??
  • Next you’ll be saying I have to wear pants!
    • But seriously, I would find it inappropriate. Sure, you are at home, but you are conducting municipal business.
  • What are they smoking? Is it marijuana? If yes, I have many questions… if it’s a cigarette, I think it’s a little strange to smoke in a meeting.
  • Hard no. Also against smoking non-remotely. ?
  • I had a direct report who wanted to test my authority by drinking non-alcoholic beer at his desk. I didn’t think of it as “man—he really likes the taste of weak beer.” It totally came off as “how much can I push the limits of socially acceptable behavior before my boss confronts me?” Like he was forcing me to play chicken… It contributed to a very uncomfortable supervisory dynamic.
    • pretty sure I could guess. Yup. I’ll leave that one alone. But can we also acknowledge the fact that anyone who needs to show off by drinking O’Douls at work as a form of misdirected latent teen angst has MANY more issues at play…haha. Crazy story.
  • As a smoker I wouldn’t do it, I don’t smoke when I’m working, I take a smoke break. However to each their own. No judgement here. If you want to smoke and maintain your relative level of contribution to the calls, go forth and prosper. However why wouldn’t they want to just turn off the camera? I suspect the individual doing this, or wants to do this, is just trying to push boundaries. Or the entity looking for input on this has deeper issues with the smoker and is looking at this as an opportunity. It’s probably both. My point is that the issue is likely much deeper than someone smoking a cigarette on a zoom call.
  • This thread reminds me of when all the other housewives judged Leah for having tattoos.
  • Interesting thought: we have a clause in our HR Policy that forbids smoking in vehicles, uniform and when using city-owned equipment. Intention was that you are not out smoking on a mower or something. Could possibly extend to say no smoking when using a laptop at home ?‍♂️??‍♂️
  • Hard no. We are a smoke free workplace. That extends to the premises of any working member during working hours(yes, even you are home).
    • Dress Code apply the same as well?
  • I would advise against smoking in general 😉
  • Smoking no… We get a lot of knitters thou, which I like and encourage!
  • You can’t make me stop.
  • Smoking is a bad idea anytime
  • As the son to a mother who died of lung cancer – an unpleasantly long, horrific, painful death, i’d suggest smokers do all they can to stop. If not for you, for your partner, children, grandchildren, family, and friends, current or future.
  • I have asthma. Just seeing cigarettes gives me a flare up.
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