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Is Remote Work Making Us Paranoid?

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Liz Drews, 35, started a new job as the manager of merchant operations team in Omaha during the pandemic and worries a lot about how she comes off on her video calls, since she has a 2-year-old at home. “I have a house that’s not organized or clean right now,” she said. “Especially in a new role where nobody knows that history, it’s a little embarrassing that I have this dresser sitting behind me with a sippy cup on it.”

Jane Marie, 42, who is the owner of the podcast production company Little Everywhere and is a single mother, said she’s worried that she is losing out on business opportunities because of how she comes off on video calls. “I wear the straight bangs across short bob that only eccentric gallery owners in movies have,” she said. “I always worry if I’m meeting new people remotely on Zoom, I won’t get my serious side across — already being a woman is the worst for that.”

Mr. Kramer said that “when people feel like they’re a token, the only woman in a group, or the only Black person,” that can lead to more anxiety. Minda Harts, the author of “The Memo: What Women of Color Need to Know to Secure a Seat at the Table” and a career consultant for women of color, said that “many women of color, including myself, are acutely aware of being the only one, and that feeling is compounded at home.”

She added that she’s heard from some of her clients that they are changing clothes more than once a day because they’re concerned about their image on video chats; others have received insulting comments about their natural Black hairstyles.

The onus is on employers to bridge the communication gaps left by our new remote reality, Ms. Harts said. She suggested having more structured video meetings so that everyone can be heard without anxiety about breaking into the conversation; for big meetings, having someone be in charge of taking notes and ensuring equitable contributions can help.

This person can observe that, for example, “when Sonia is going off mute, no one gave her space to talk.” Ms. Harts also recommended that offices try to set up virtual water cooler moments for employees — and open a videoconference or Slack channel for chatting. “Create opportunities where people can have organic conversation and still build social capital,” she said.

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