is it unprofessional to take a Zoom call from a treadmill? — Ask a Manager

A reader writes:

I’ve noticed an increasing number of employees (from individual contributors to managers or even directors) getting their steps in on a treadmill during Zoom calls. Video is on and they’re bouncing around, even wiping their brows.

What is your take? It feels so unprofessional to me. It is quite distracting, and almost insulting for a junior team member to be walking and talking to a senior level VP.

Yeah, it really reads as “My main priority right now is the gym, but I suppose I’ll make room to take this call.”

Which isn’t necessarily unreasonable if, for example, it’s your day off but your expertise is urgently needed so you agreed to join a call with the understanding that you’d be on your treadmill when it happened.

But assuming that’s not the case and it’s during your regular work hours, it’s out of sync with what’s normally expected of people on work calls. Part of it is the “you’re interrupting my workout vibe” but part of it is also that, as you pointed out, it’s distracting to other people on the call.

That’s the case whether the person doing it is junior or senior, although it’s certainly true that senior people have more room to push the boundaries on stuff like this.

However … different offices have different norms. If you’re noticing it happening a lot in your office, then it sounds like this might be considered perfectly acceptable there. If that’s the case, then “unprofessional” wouldn’t apply, as long as the people doing it are still engaged in the conversation and not panting into the phone and yelling “feel the burn!” and so forth.

It’s not a norm in most offices though — although interestingly, I would not be surprised to see that change over time. In most offices, though, it hasn’t changed yet.

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