THE ONLY BLACK GUY IN THE OFFICE

Don’t Ask Me to Turn On My Camera for Work Calls

Working from home isn’t an invite into my personal space

The Only Black Guy In the Office
LEVEL
Published in
4 min readMar 30, 2020

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Illustration: Richard A. Chance

Update 6/7/22: Level has a new home. You can read this article and other new articles by visiting LEVELMAN.com.

Even the most buttoned-up corporate companies have a Slack channel where things can get a bit ratchet. You know these 2020 chat rooms when you see them: They’re often dubbed something like #random or #funny, and are home to foolery like Cardi B tweets and discussions about the weirdos on Tiger King. Back in February, folks would hop into my org’s #chit-chat channel and trade memes about the coronavirus — not quite anticipating that it’d grow into a pandemic that has upended every aspect of life in countries around the world.

Of course one of the first major American cities hit hard by Covid-19 was Seattle, where I work and live, so things are pretty much shut down out here. Fortunately, my team is able to work remotely — though that’s been an adjustment, to say the least.

The perks of working from home are cliché at this point: There’s zero commute time, casual Friday has been replaced by wearing sweats seven days a week if you want, and you can take a quick 20 minutes to exercise or de-stress with video games during workday lulls.

But there are some weird aspects, too. For one, my anxieties about expectations in this remote circumstance. If I haven’t responded to an email or Slack in an “appropriate” amount of time, is that being tracked? Will there be a passive-aggressive email sent to the whole team about responsiveness? I’ve been on top of things, but it just feels like the stakes are higher, and I can imagine myself starting to overcompensate.

It took a few days to find a rhythm and flow for being productive, and figure out how to keep work and leisure separate within one space. I’ve had to keep my laptop out of the bedroom altogether — things got to the point where I’d wake up, roll over, shoot off some morning check-in emails, and then go right back to sleep for another 30 minutes. And without a change of location after the close of the business day, it became easy to keep working well into the evening.

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The Only Black Guy In the Office
LEVEL
Writer for

Do you know him? Is it you? The trials and tribulations of a Black man navigating corporate life.