Background distractions and things not meant to be broadcast require a different approach. It’s important to remember that probably everyone able to peek into your world through your webcam is either in a similar situation or knows someone who is, regardless of what’s going on, and they understand that we are all human, and our living rooms do not a professional corner office suite make. If your dog drags the garbage can through the frame or your child decides to behave like a holy terror right after your 10am management call starts, we recommend not interrupting when someone else has the floor. At the next appropriate moment, you can issue an apology, which if followed by a “You know how it goes some days!” will probably get you a lot of vertically shaking heads in agreement.
Perhaps you didn’t realize the Zoom call has connected, and you’re ranting out loud to yourself about the new employee in accounting who can’t seem to get you your expense reimbursement check in a timely manner – How would you wipe the egg off of your face and move on from this unfortunate incident? If it isn’t clear to others what exactly they were privy to overhearing, then don’t explain to them what the context was. It’s best to address this situation one-on-one, whether the subject of your ire was on the Zoom at the time or not – even in a remote working world, there’s a virtual water cooler, and what you said will be made known. While it’s best to be patient and compassionate, and remember that everyone has had to shift their lives around due to COVID-19 restrictions and safety precautions, and that hasn’t been smooth sailing for some, frustration can sometimes get the best of us, and we spout off about something at the worst possible time. Be sure to apologize directly to the person your rant may harm, and if that part of the conversation goes well, you may both just end up laughing at how stressful, crazy, and upside down we all feel on some days while the pandemic continues to make life adjustments necessary. (As a side note, we also recommend learning a lesson from this specific situation – to remember from then on until forever more the ideals of compassion and understanding – as well as never forgetting that the mic or webcam might be on without you knowing it.)
If the snafu on your end is close to pandemonium and has completely thrown the work proceedings off course, quickly and handily squash the chaos, and follow with a mea culpa. And also remember, your sentence should fit the technological “crime” (so to speak) – it’s doubtful an interruption of this sort would require going overboard with numerous and repetitive apologies, gift baskets, or long emails of remorse.
We all try to put our best foot forward at work, and the past year of upheaval has tested even the most stoic and resolute among us. We hope the advice we shared is helpful when tech trolls attack. Remember too, your willingness and ability to move on from embarrassing technology issues will be mirrored by others who witnessed the situation.