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Signing for more expressiveness in group video chat

Recently my kids have been exploring the differences between American Sign Language (ASL) and Japanese Sign Language (JSL). For them it is another way to explore their own bilingualism, and understand how language is tied to cultural context.

I recently read this short manga COVID-33 which describes a future world where talking outside is prohibited, and all must use signing to communicate. It is a beautiful mix of media with a powerful message about communication and symbols.

pages from the story COVID-33 by Yamamoto Miho

My workplace is fully distributed, with no central office. We are in multiple countries and spend a lot of time on Zoom in meetings. The courteous thing to do on Zoom when you are not speaking is to Mute yourself. However, this limits your expressiveness when reacting to what others are saying. All you have is just facial expressions and basic gestures such as 👍 or 👎.

Why limit ourselves to such a small vocabulary?

Before I joined the company they had already adopted the ASL sign for “Applause/Yay!” on camera, a tip they picked up from another colleague.


Inspired by my children’s experimentation and the COVID-33 manga, I proposed more signs that could be useful in our business context, increasing our expressiveness on camera. Here are a few basic signs we have gathered in an internal document on communicating with Zoom. Maybe you can introduce them into your own video group chats.

Good idea
I understand
Alcohol or Liquor

That last one is very important after a long day’s work! 🤣 Please share these with your colleagues and let’s demonstrate another way inclusiveness can benefit everybody.

Thank You
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