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.

 

Hell on Earth

After a recent week’s worth of company training, I thought I would take a moment and give some feedback. Quite frankly, other than the bagels and donuts that so often accompany these events, work place training sessions are a complete waste of time.  I’m sorry, but it’s true. Games, role-playing, team answers to ridiculous questions, and worst of all … participation is expected.  As a raging introvert, I can think of few other anxiety-inducing events that top a rousing “role playing” or “group participation” session.

Seriously though, I’m hard pressed to say which type of training is the least annoying.

Death by PowerPoint:  This involves a computer and a screen. After the inevitable ten minutes of fumbling, the computer operator will have to go find someone to come “fix” the presentation, so the training can proceed.  All PowerPoint presentations follow the same path: the first slide is supposed to be amusing, but seldom is.  Then, the “class” starts where one person stands robotically reading each slide, point by painful point, sometimes with the help of a laser pointer.  When a break is called, people run to the smoking area even though they weren’t smokers when the class started.

The Professional Speaker:  Sometimes, you get the privilege of having a guest speaker.  This person usually brings their own computer presentation, fumbles with the computer for ten minutes, then goes to find someone to come fix the presentation.  The first slide is supposed to be funny…you get the idea.

New Age Co-Op:  These training sessions bring emotions into the classroom.  You start with trust exercises that involve throwing out your back when your trustworthy coworker gets a text at the same moment they’re supposed to catch you, and end with hugging your coworkers and telling them just what it is about them that is so gosh darned special.  Apparently, “You’re special because you’re sleeping with the boss” is not an acceptable comment; I got sent back to my office (which is where I wanted to be in the first place) and banned from participating next year.

Role-Playing:  This is an offshoot of the New Age Co-Op training.  When you role-play, you may have to play the part of a customer, or maybe a manager if you’re lucky.  You are placed in several unrealistic situations and expected to respond appropriately while your coworkers critique your performance.  Again, I am banned from participation for a year when, as a “customer,” I overturned three tables and dumped water on Joe from accounting after being told by the “waitress” that they didn’t have unsweetened ice-tea.  The people role-playing the police department were very talented… had uniforms, i.d., and everything.

Team Groups:  In this training process, you are split into groups and given tough questions to figure out, most often in a “Jeopardy” or “Family Feud” format, because nothing says “team building” quite like pitting coworkers against each other – especially when a $5.00 gas card is involved.  Your answers are presented by the “team leader” to the rest of the class.  I was in the restroom and came back to find I had been elected team leader in my absence.  My aforementioned ban was solidified when I stood up and told my best joke instead. No-one laughed. And I’m freakin’ hilarious.

Don’t get me wrong; training is a very important part of keeping workers up to date on changes and evolving processes within the company.  The bad part is that these training sessions could be accomplished in an email thereby saving money, time, and reputations.

Every worker in the world follows the exact same pattern when they have a workplace training session.

  • Try to call out sick
  • Charge the phone for Facebook browsing and Words with Friends
  • Pretend to be in the middle of a project and look very busy in the hopes you will be excused
  • Show up as late as you can and take the seat all the way in the back or position yourself nearest the snacks
  • Notify your friends to call you frequently so you can excuse yourself because “This is about that big client.”
  • Appear to be taking extensive notes when in reality you are drawing cartoons (my personal favorite)
  • Nod deeply and agree occasionally so the presenter thinks you are actively engaged

There are, however, a few things that will get you thrown out of work place training.  I have compiled a list of my the most effective ones:

  • Stand up and yell “hallelujah,” “preach,” and “amen” randomly throughout the session.
  • Raise your hand and ask questions about things completely unrelated to your job or the company, such as is the color orange called orange because it’s the color of oranges or are oranges called oranges because they’re orange, OR how do geese know which goose goes first when migrating.
  • Sneeze and cough repeatedly; more effective if you bring some type of slime from your kid’s collection and launch it across the room while coughing.
  • Write your boss’ name on your name tag and be disruptive.
  • Lean back in your chair and toss spitballs at the screen like the moody antagonist in an ’80s John Hughes flick.
  • Lick the donuts in front of everyone and put them back.
  • Answer your phone loudly and declare, “I don’t care how much money you have invested in this company, I can’t help you! I’m in training!”

In all honesty, work training can be a valuable tool if it is approached correctly.  Unfortunately, most companies don’t approach it correctly and the entire process is one that is universally hated.  Can I get an Amen?