Let me start by saying upfront that Zoom, Google Meet, MS Teams (and their competitors) are essential platforms for vitual/remote work enablement and I use them regularly. Without them, business would be so much less productive. I suppose we would be on voice conference calls, but it is not the same - without video and chat features.
Initially, back when the lockdown was only going to be for a few weeks, I even found them novel. You could join from your desk, and dress more casually. Some people even hoped we could avoid the worst of office politics.
Yet the longer the lockdown lasts the more irritating the experience becomes.
Partly it is my expectations. What was appreciated as a technical miracle only a few weeks ago, is now an inconvenience. I can't log on. The page freezes. Or the microphone doesn't work.
But the biggest problem is the time black hole being created. Not only are the meetings long (literally) time slow down (figuratively) when in them .
It is too easy for too many people to speak for too long. Either less gets done in the time allotted, or the meeting runs long. I look at all the faces on the screen, think about the hourly cost of them being there and wonder if there is not some way to minimize these sessions.
Of course, the same thing exists in the real world, but there are more checks and balances in place. People start to fidget, sending a signal to the speaker to wrap up. The meeting Chair can bring about a break with the raising of a finger. Others can jump in and talk over.
But in a virtual platform, we're often muted, and the Chair is isolated and forced to make assumptions about those in the cyber room.
I confess that the absence of distractions makes this all the worse. In physical meetings you can at least entertain yourself by looking around the room or whispering to colleagues. In virtual meetings whoever has the floor has all your attention: their face fills your screen, their voice fills your ears (particularly if you’re wearing headphones).
These platforms are here to stay, even if some of us start getting back into offices.
But are there alternatives? What are you doing?
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