Laborious Labor Day

Today is Labor Day here in the U.S.  I must confess that Labor Day is one of those holidays that has always confused me, mainly for its contradictory nature.

I mean on Mother’s Day, we celebrate mothers and gift them with the present of doing nothing all day (not that many mothers get away with actually using the gift).  Father’s Day is the same way. We encourage fathers to do “their own thing” on their special day. The effects of most holidays coincide with the original purpose behind said holiday.

But not so Labor Day.

“Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.

Now, one would think from this description that workers should have the day off to relax and reap the rewards of the labor they’ve given to their employers and to society as a whole. And indeed, there are some who do have the day off. However, many of the hardest working folks do not. On this day of celebrating their contribution to the world as we know it and to the workforce in general, they are instead forced to work.

Retail workers bear the brunt, just as they do at Thanksgiving and Christmas, given all of the sales that crop up on Labor Day. But they’re by no means the only ones. Food service, convenience store workers, gas station attendants, paramedics, all manner of hospital employees to name a few.  And yes, some of these good folks are essential personnel and life is much better and much safer (for the rest of us) with them in their respective jobs, even on holidays, and we’re thankful for it. Others not so much. Retail, food service, convenience stores, grocery stores. There’s no reason to not let these people enjoy a much deserved paid day off except… except… that it cuts into bloated profits. And we can’t have that now, can we?

So when all is said and done, Labor Day has been turned into a perverse contradiction of its original meaning and rather than truly celebrating the worker, it has devolved into just another way to take advantage of those who cannot afford to lose their jobs by protesting a holiday shift.

Such is America.

click on the photo to see more info on the history of Labor Day



Zoom Zoom

Question of the day: Are Zoom training sessions better or worse than in-person training sessions? Personally, I thought in-person training sessions were the worst, but Zoom is making its way to the top of the list. The future I imagined that we were heading towards slightly resembled that of The Jetsons. Flying cars, fully-automated homes, and living in condos above the clouds. Instead, we have Zoom training.

When the Covid pandemic hit, social distancing came about, and this complicated a lot of things for a lot of people and a lot of businesses. Some businesses thrived in these trying times, and unfortunately, many of them were forced to close their doors forever. It came down to “adapt, evolve, overcome” for those who stayed in the game, and one of the ways businesses stayed in the game, such as it is – cause it’s not really a fun game if we’re being honest, unless you’re Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos – was by transitioning to remote work and with remote work came the world of Zoom.

Ah, Zoom calls. Where individuals can attend work meetings, educational courses, job interviews, and more, all from the comfort of their home. Since only your upper half is in view, you can do all these things without having to put on pants, pick out shoes, or match your socks. Just like everything else in the world, there are pros and cons to everything, Zoom included. One benefit that I found is that you can mute Hank from accounting when he starts telling one of his “blonde” jokes. I’ve even had the pleasure of seeing someone go to answer their door, only to have their Labrador Retriever expertly steal the sandwich they left by their computer. To make this even funnier, the stealthy pooch was gone by the time their owner returned, and I got the privilege of seeing them legitimately search for their lunch for nearly 2 minutes before they realized that Rover pulled the old dine and dash on them. None of us told on Rover, by the way, and I feel proud about that. Snitches get stitches, or so they say, and we had Rover’s back.

It goes without saying that there are a few perks to Zoom World, but I will admit, the streaming delays that last just long enough to make you think your system is glitching, the actual glitches – you know, the ones you don’t notice right away like when you’ve been talking for 10 minutes into a frozen screen, and people constantly repeating themselves because someone wasn’t listening, or someone was muted, or people were talking over each other, can be exceedingly frustrating.

The monotony of a 70-page training deck and a Zoom trainer that sounds straight out of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off as they read each slide word for word is made all the worse when you remember that the in-person meetings always had donuts to make up for the torture that is workplace training. Pajama pants or no pajama pants, I like a good donut.

But, on the plus side, the errant toddlers suddenly showing up in the background and the cats jumping on unsuspecting laps always make it worthwhile… bonus points if the owner of the unsuspecting lap was drinking a coffee at the time.


The People of Zoom

Ah, the world of Zoom. It is as mysterious as it is straightforward. An app I had never before used in my life has now become a word I use on a daily basis. And, as it goes in all aspects of life, Zoom features the good, the bad, and the… interesting.

I have to say, Zoom is a great platform for remote meetings, webinars, and training. It’s also become a useful and unexpected tool for keeping in touch with family and friends. We see people on the screen who we’ve just chatted with over the phone, who we used to see every day in the office, and who we wish we could catch up with over face-to-face coffee.

And for some reason, the remote platform of video-calls seems to accentuate all the quirks in our friends, colleagues, and acquaintances. In the closed environment of the office, where we used to spend seemingly countless hours, we got to know our co-workers as the ones who were loud-chewers, frequent break-takers, or early birds.

With Zoom, we get to know our co-workers in a more personal way from the comfort of our — and their — homes. Just as typing from behind a screen provides some level of anonymity, a meeting via Zoom seems to give the participants a certain level of comfort that allows eccentricities to shine.

There’s always the one who uses the quintessential Zoom feature of an artificial background. And companies (like Disney, Fox, and Nintendo to name a few) cater to these green screen loving individuals with custom Zoom backgrounds from iconic movies, video games, and TV shows. Now you know who in the office is a die-hard Game of Thrones, Bob’s Burgers, or Frozen fan.

There are the ones who fall asleep. The one who left their mic on and is snoring audibly to an unappreciative audience. The one who wakes up *gracefully*.

There are the foodies. The one who eats chips (again, with the mic on). The messy one. If you thought loud chewers in the office were annoying, try listening to it on surround-sound. Oh, and there’s no looking away from the view either when their camera is set six inches from their face. Lovely.

There’s the one who takes the floor and talks the whole meeting even though they’re not the scheduled presenter. The one who arrives with a 500-page PowerPoint, ready to share every last excruciating detail.

And then, there are the yellers. Just today, I had a Zoom meeting. Suddenly, one attendee turned away from their camera to yell at someone the rest of us couldn’t see. They yelled “I’M ON THE PHONE!” to the person who was apparently trying to talk to them, as well as our entire meeting. We’re all still sporting headaches from the ungodly volume of their voice.

Yelling on Zoom calls should be outlawed. And for that matter, being the loud talker on the remote session is not a desirable trait. One loud member, and everyone has to turn down the volume on the whole meeting.

But is it better to be silent than loud? There’s always that one person who keeps their mic and camera off, leaving the rest of us wondering if they’re even attending the meeting at all. Are they paying attention… or off playing golf? We may never know.

Maybe they’re too embarrassed to reveal that they — like many other people — didn’t bother to get dressed for work again. In the beginning, as we navigated the world of remote work, we kept up with our professional, business-casual digs. Now, we’re lucky to see brushed hair and shaved faces.

As time goes on, more and more People of Zoom decide that it’s adequate to show up in pajamas or gym clothes with bed head, sweaty clothes, and unruly facial hair. I mean, hey, they showed up, right? And at least we can’t smell them through our computers.

While the People of Zoom show their peculiarities in full swing, providing cringe-worthy views and disagreeable noises, the Pets of Zoom are something I always look forward to.

The true VIP of any meeting is the cat or dog that wanders into view. Feline friends who feel the need to sit directly on the keyboard or dangerously close to the camera are a wonderful distraction for observers, and in my book, furry friends are always welcome — in the office or the Zoom call. No matter what the call is about, a good doggo or floofy cat makes everything better. If Zoom were exclusively for watching pets, I might feel a bit differently about the whole thing.

During this pandemic, so many of us have turned to Zoom as a safe way to socialize and continue our lives and our work. It’s a great tool, and I am thankful for it. But I still have an aversion to office meetings.

Whether we hold them in the office or remotely over Zoom, meetings can — and should — be done via email. It saves time, energy, and patience.