Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Co-Workers Turn Off Video During Conferences

DEAR HARRIETTE: My company has videoconference calls every day, often several times during the day. I have noticed that the women hardly ever show their faces. We just see their names across a blank screen, even when they are talking. The men typically show their faces. I imagine this is because nobody can get to the hairdresser or any other grooming place, and women don’t feel pulled together now. I wonder what the etiquette is for participating in these calls. My gut says it would be much better for people to be fully participatory, meaning showing their faces. -- Video Call Etiquette

DEAR VIDEO CALL ETIQUETTE: The new business world includes ongoing videoconferencing for many people. I agree with you that it is smart to be visible on these calls, at least when you first join in on the call and whenever you speak. In this way, you humanize yourself during the conversation.

It is also true that many people are struggling with grooming and maintenance during this extended period under stay-at-home orders. To all, I suggest that you figure out how to look your best professionally, and that should include what you wear. You may not need to wear a suit jacket, but think about your industry and who will be on the various calls you have. Dress appropriately for that moment. Be sure that your hair is neat. Also pay attention to your background to ensure that you move anything out of the shot that you would prefer not be seen.

DEAR HARRIETTE: My town is reopening, and I am so scared. When I listen to the news, I hear many conflicting messages. On one hand, they say that if we continue to stay six feet apart and wear our masks, we can go back to work. I know that we need to begin to turn things around, but I am worried.

I have underlying health conditions, but nobody knows. I’m afraid to say anything because I might lose my job, even after my company allowed all of us to stay on payroll when we were closed. I don’t know what to do. Should I speak to HR or my boss about my concerns? Should I go in and just hope for the best? Should I stay home? What do you recommend? -- Back to Work

DEAR BACK TO WORK: Start with your primary care physician. Schedule a call to discuss how you can go back to work safely. Ask for advice on what you can do that will be safest for you. If your doctor doesn't want you to go back to work, get a written note stating that you have been asked to stay at home for medical reasons for a particular period of time. Your doctor does not need to state what your circumstances are, just that you have a medical reason for staying at home. Talk to your employer about how you can do your job remotely for an extended period of time.

If your doctor says you can go back to work, be careful. Keep your surfaces and hands clean. Wear a mask consistently. Do not touch people. Do not let your guard down -- even if co-workers brush off the precautions as frivolous. Stay vigilant.

(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)