How to Decode Office Body Language While Working From Home

A sideways glance in a video chat. An email that drifts off into ellipses. And why did your boss even add you to this calendar invite anyway?

What does it all mean?

We were once fluent in the nonverbal cues of the physical office. Slumped shoulders or a downcast look were enough to know when the boss was disappointed or a colleague stressed. A cryptic email often only necessitated rotating our chairs 180 degrees to get clarification from the sender.

Besides, we had all day to figure it out, gleaning little hints from the walk to refill our coffee cups or the minutes spent mingling before meetings. Now our work interactions are boiled down to 15-minute peeks into each others’ lives on Zoom calls, or a volley of emails with no additional context. Trying to read body language through a screen has become another exhausting part of the workday.

“We feel like we have one hand tied behind our back,” says Traci Brown, a speaker and author on body language based in Boulder, Colo.


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