How has the pandemic changed the way we ’see’ our co-workers and how Zoom creates a window into peoples’ homes – we share a very insightful view from Jacques Foul, a social media strategist working in Brussels.
I recently had a Zoom call with a friend who had a moose head hanging behind him on his wall like a trophy. Of course, I was intrigued and started asking him about his hunting skills (and ethics) before he reassured me that the head was just a fake. Mooseheads are trendy decorative items on Etsy, I should have known better.
Zooming into our personal lives
This little episode made me think about how the onslaught of virtual meetings during the pandemic has changed the way we all interact with each other. While back-to-back video calls often dominate my days and don’t leave much time to do anything else, they also bring something very new and interesting to my interactions with colleagues.
Webcams capture our faces, expressions, and energy (when we remember to unmute ourselves). They also capture the places we live in – some people sit in their living rooms, some in their kitchen, attics or have built their own home office. To some extent, when colleagues invite us to virtual meetings, they also invite us into their homes which naturally sparks conversations about hobbies, passions, or favorite artwork. The little window on the screen has literally become a window into people’s lives.
Thanks to Zoom calls, I have met some of my colleagues’ parents, wives, and children which wouldn’t have been possible without being invited for dinner. I have seen what records or books they like, what the postman brings during a call or whether they have pets. While participating in too many of these virtual meetings can have negative consequences on your psyche, I believe we are still able to benefit from them by learning more about each other on a personal level.
Removing office distractions
“Where do you go when you want to get something done?” This question was posed by Jason Fried, the founder of the project management tool Basecamp, during a Ted Talk lecture in 2012. For me, the obvious answer is: at home or at least in an isolated area with no distractions. But working from home of course also has its downsides. I have shared a lot about some of the negative aspects of this shift in our daily lives in my recent article about mental health. Yet, after months of missing going to the office, there is one thing that I now take more seriously.
As much as I love having conversations with people around the office, the pandemic made me realise how much time I spent on casual conversations throughout the day. Don’t get me wrong, I love catching up with colleagues, sharing weekend discoveries, and learning about their experiences.
Yet, I think that I wasn’t setting any boundaries to help me focus just on work. I let distractions creep in and thought in the back of my head that being busy was a sign that I was progressing in my work. But I realised that doing a lot doesn’t mean getting a lot more done.
I believe that many people have this issue of feeling distracted at work and many companies nowadays sport an open office layout which supposedly makes it easier for people to coordinate on projects. Though there are many solutions to help tackle this layout issue, I want to be able to come into the office, get things done, and still find time to have a casual chat. This is a good reminder that I need to set clear rules when I work, inside and outside the office to minimise distractions and be as productive as possible.
In the end, work is not just about work. What has changed for me are the relationships I develop. And despite being stuck at home for months, I have found much joy in meeting my colleagues’ family or discussing their questionable interior design choices.
Thanks for reading! If you’re looking for new songs to listen to while you write, work or chill, check out my updated writing playlist here – I’m sure you’ll find some gold in sound waves form.