'Zoom blunders' | Staff are being sacked over video call mistakes - here's why

Staff are being sacked over video call mistakes - here's why

A quarter of bosses have admitted to sacking an employee because of a ‘Zoom blunder’, according to new research, reported on by CBS.

The study from Wakefield Research, which questioned more than 200 US executives with a minimum seniority of Vice President at companies of 500+ employees, found that one in four bosses had indeed dismissed a worker over a mistake they made on a video call.

83% of those surveyed said workers have been disciplined for mistakes in company video or audio meetings. Measures included losing the responsibility of steering a meeting or formal and informal reprimands. One-third were removed from projects, according to the findings.

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Additionally, 91% of respondents reported some kind of mishap that interfered with a virtual meeting, including not being able to share information or employees showing up late because of technical glitches, according to the survey which was commissioned by Vyopta.

Such glitches can mean lost business, the researchers found. Around 42% of bosses blamed employees for such mishaps, according to the survey.

Standards drop for remote workers

As the line between home and work life became increasingly blurred in light of the coronavirus pandemic, it is possible that some workers lowered their Zoom standards and ‘office etiquette’ went out of the window.

For example, last year, a CEO was sacked after reportedly popping to the toilet during a virtual meeting with colleagues where he is said to have showed his bottom as a prank.

More recently, a WIRED article detailed that during a company Zoom call, a Canadian school trustee decided to light a cigarette. The publication reported that his work colleagues were so appalled that many called for his resignation.

In addition to this, the school trustee appeared to be sipping from a wine glass on camera and at one point appeared to nod off.

HR’s role

With the reported actions of employees impacting their roles, is it time that HR leaders introduce work policies for Zoom calls and explicitly detail the repercussions of inappropriate behaviour?

Andrew Willis, Head of Legal at Croner, believes so. He previously told HR Grapevine: “An employer's specific policy on conduct while at work should be applied to those working from home temporarily as a result of the pandemic. Those who have a remote working contract and are not working from home as a result of the pandemic should already have an agreement in place as to the conduct expected from them while performing work for the employer.

“Therefore, unless it has been previously agreed that a remote worker will be held to different standards of working, employers should treat all staff working from home as though they were in the main office setting.”

He pointed out that if a conduct agreement is not adhered to, staff members could be at risk of disciplinary action, whether that’s formal or informal. This should be clearly laid out in a written statement for employees that outlines “employment terms and conditions which must contain disciplinary rules and procedures or refer the employee to some other easily accessible document containing those rules and procedures,” he explained.

Should staff be sacked?

Willis stated that remote working does not mean employers and HR cannot hold their staff to the same standards they would expect in the workplace.

He added: “More serious cases of misconduct may warrant a formal disciplinary action which could lead to a suspension – and later termination.” While this may be a possibility, he also adds a caveat that HR and employers should be mindful of the situation and take each scenario on a “case-by-case basis”.

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