The Elephants in the Zoom Room

Lu Hanessian
5 min readApr 28, 2021

Calling out the barriers in our virtual work life is the first key to dismantling them. Here’s to calling out 4 elephants in the Zoom room — and 7 ways to strengthen team connection and resilience.

Photo by Kaffeebart on Unsplash

We weren’t built for this.

These disconnected simulated eye contact sessions, where, to make it look like we’re looking at each other, we must not look at each other.

“Stare into the black camera hole,” we’re advised by Zoom coaches.

I totally get it. It’s good advice — if you’re a television anchor. I was a television anchor for 25 years. I know how to look into the black box and talk to a sea of invisible faces. It’s second nature. That’s the life of studio work. When we’re given the countdown by our trusty floor manager, we position our bodies, relaxed and upright, confident and credible, and face the camera. We smile at an imagined audience. For split screens, we look ahead, not at our guest who is sitting next to us on set. For satellite shots, we look ahead into the lens, not off to the right or left at the guest’s face.

Otherwise, well, it looks weird to the audience. We feign focus, because optics are close to everything in visual media.

And, ZOOM?

It’s a bit complicated. On the one hand, we’ve seen our share of ceiling shots, cluttered shelves, crooked paintings, cats walking across desks, and we don’t mind because it’s human and low maintenance and a sign of our collective survival mode.

On another hand, what we practice grows. And as people have begun to feel dazed by Zoom fatigue, the dread and drain of back-to-back meetings that feel like a black hole is mitigated only by the fact that we can close our camera at will (who’s going to question us?) to take care of our needs.

A year ago, we thought lockdown was a temporary, emergency response. More than a year later, as virtual work has become our norm, research has begun to reveal millions of employees now want a hybrid work model moving forward, one that allows them to work from home (WFH) and come to the office 2–3 days a week — with safety conditions.

Zoom has become more than a means of communication in our pandemic world of uncertainty. It’s now our workplace, our watercooler, our…

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Lu Hanessian

Adjunct Professor, Journalist, Former NBC Network Anchor/Discovery Health Channel Host, Host & Exec Producer of “The Foreseeable Now” podcast.