Grooming, pooping, pacing: Survey shows what people are really doing when they should be in a virtual meeting

Zippia surveyed 2,000 people across the U.S. and found out exactly what’s happening when they turn off their video during a meeting.

Grooming, pooping, pacing: Survey shows what people are really doing when they should be in a virtual meeting
[Photo: Damir Spanic]

Meetings look a little different these days.


Social distancing has more workers dialing in from home, trying to focus with all the distractions and temptations of home. Other workers are struggling with technical issues. Some are stuck putting up with their coworkers’ tech issues and sick of saying, “Can you mute yourself?” for the one-thousandth time.

With so many meetings virtual, we surveyed 2,000 American workers to find out how workers are coping.

Keep reading to see what workers’ are actually doing during those Zoom meetings, and what they are absolutely sick of (hint: it’s all the meetings).

  • People are most annoyed by unnecessary meetings.
  • After meetings that could have been emails, workers are most frustrated by loud background noises, late starts, and technical difficulties
  • Most states (a whopping 20!) are most likely to be checking their emails during meetings
  • 12 states say they are multitasking and doing other work during meetings
  • 50% of workers have one to three hours of meetings a week, which is too bad for the 20% of workers who find meetings a waste of time
  • When Rhode Islanders aren’t paying attention during meetings, they’re surfing the web for something a little more interesting
  • Crunch, crunch—that sound might be the six states that are snacking during meetings

Overall, most people are just trying to do their jobs more efficiently—answering emails and multitasking to get things done. However, it is no surprise that workers are tempted to send a quick text or take advantage of their proximity to the kitchen to grab a snack.

Over 15% of people are bold enough to do household chores during that Zoom meeting. Hope the sound is off, or colleagues might hear the beautiful music of the dishwasher being loaded. Another 9% are interrupted from their meeting by childcare. I guess their crying kid doesn’t care about quarterly profits.

Curious about the others? So were we. Luckily our survey respondents were happy to enlighten us.


Other common things people are doing during meetings:

  • Be frustrated/annoyed/unhappy with coworkers
  • Pet care
  • Personal grooming
  • Walk around/pace
  • Lay in bed
  • Watch tv
  • Sleep
  • Use the bathroom

We left off some great uncommon (but hilarious) answers such as applying for a new job, attending a virtual birthday party, and going on a jog.

Frustration and annoyance was a common response—and common meeting distraction. When asked what was the most annoying part of virtual meetings, workers’ common replies were “unnecessary meetings,” “late starts,” “loud background noises,” and “technical difficulties.”


Many workers (20%) say their work meetings are rarely productive (evidenced by the number of workers who use meeting minutes to answer emails or do other work). So it is not a surprise so many workers dislike meetings themselves—or anything that prolongs the meeting or wastes more time.

Be careful, that camera or microphone may get you

Virtual meetings can tempt you to zone out. While most people are just replying to emails or doing other work activities, some people are getting pretty comfy while working from home. From going to the bathroom to getting dressed, and to outright napping—people are living their lives, hoping no one asks them a question during the meeting.

However, they should be careful. They are only one camera or mic snafu away from one very memorable and highly embarrassing meeting. Maybe they should just stick to texting? Or better yet, see if this meeting might actually be important.


For the bosses and meeting schedulers of the world out there, you can minimize distracted attendants by having a clear purpose and agenda for each meeting. Have the meeting start on time and end promptly. Better yet, make the most of the meeting time by having everyone come to the meeting with their tech in order.

Just think how many minutes of “Can you mute yourself?” you’ll save.

Methodology, a career resource website, conducted a study of 2,000 work from home workers across the U.S. on virtual meetings. Each respondent was asked a series of questions about their feelings toward meetings and their behavior during them. North Dakota was excluded due to sample size.


A version of this article appeared in Zippia and is reprinted with permission.