An open letter to Zoom
From business casual mullets and wonky internet to slack memes and Zoom fatigue, Argyle’s Jessica Lawson and Robyn Welsh chat with colleagues across the country to uncover the perks and perils from the past year of WFH.

Whether it’s from the couch or the coffee table, the pandemic has changed how we all #WFH.

 

Oh Zoom, without you, it would feel quite odd writing this wearing a pair of new leggings UPS Canada graciously delivered to our doors – or even mentioning it at all. Don’t get us wrong; we’re big fans of our business-casual-mullet-reality. Still, with a year of working from home under our belts, we find ourselves pondering the differences between our pre-pandemic doppelgängers and our current selves.

To commemorate the 10th anniversary of Zoom’s existence, we reached out to our colleagues across the firm to uncover the peaks and perils of video conferencing and how it has impacted the workplace.

 

Behind the screens

“Zoom was a lifesaver for our team when we entered lockdown. I can’t imagine how we would have worked otherwise.” – Patrick Thoburn, VP Digital

“I think everyone is far more comfortable connecting and collaborating online. We’ve mastered the art of choosing whether something could be determined through a call, email, or Zoom – which shows how we’ve streamlined communication on the fly in the last year.” – Ashley Kenley, Senior Consultant, Corporate and Public Affairs 

“We’ve started to think before we zoom. The meetings are fewer and shorter, and in turn, more enjoyable.” – Krystyna Lloyd, Director

“This pandemic has proven that many jobs can be done virtually, which is a game-changer in the fight to create work opportunities for disabled people. It also means people can create a work environment that works for them without disturbing others.” – Taralyn Kerr, Senior Consultant, Digital

 

A glitch in the system

We ALL understand the struggle when your internet decides to travel back in time and shut down like your 2007 computer after an illegal sketchy music software download.

“Obviously, the biggest peril is when the internet cuts. But with that, the flexibility of being able to work from home is second to none. Knowing I don’t have to commute to the office, feels like I have about two hours back in my day – it’s wonderful!”- Ashley Kenley, Senior Consultant, Corporate and Public Affairs

“There is a whole different set of skills for those leading the meetings. It calls for multitasking and testing in advance, and sometimes more than once to try to incorporate variables and scenarios of what can go sideways.” – Mariel Higuerey, Regional Lead, IDS/Indigenous Engagement 

 

The opposite of “the Zoomies”

Fumbling our way through the dark on the audio-only phone and conference calls wasn’t easy. Our teammates agree the most significant challenge goes beyond the technical, understanding that video, while a surprisingly effective substitute for in-person collaboration, has its downsides.

“Zoom fatigue is real. We are increasingly organizing meetings by phone or camera-off instead, particularly one-on-ones where visual cues are less necessary to a free-flowing conversation. Meeting off-camera doesn’t have to mean you’re not paying attention or anti-social. My advice is, save your camera time for when you need it!” – Patrick Thoburn, VP Digital

“Virtual conferencing, while modern, doesn’t play to all people’s strengths. It’s a strange hybrid, both too personal and not personal enough. Constant “video on” is exhausting but not truly in-person experience. It requires additional mental energy as well. After a year of this, I think we’re all noticing there is an extra level of energy being snapped up by this method.” – Taralyn Kerr, Senior Consultant, Digital

 

A culture of memes and memories 

Missing Friday afternoon happy hours and casual watercooler chats have changed how we connect. Encouraging a “cameras-on” culture has gifted us glimpses into our coworkers’ lives that we would never have had before – with screaming kids, needy pets, and all those moments that humanize us.

“The chat function is where we play: the banter in the chat function is often the most interesting part of our meetings. It’s where we get all of our jokes, jabs, comments and questions in. While sometimes distracting for the presenter, it enhances engagement overall.” – Krystyna Lloyd, Director

“I have not noticed any lack of workplace culture and camaraderie. I feel closer to my coworkers than ever (due largely to informal Zoom chats and Slack). We’re all in the same boat right now, and that collective experience is bonding us all. My hope is that even as we eventually move past this pandemic, part of that closeness remains in work culture. There obviously should be boundaries between work and personal life but having coworkers we see as people we can genuinely relate to makes work that much more rewarding.” – Taralyn Kerr, Senior Consultant, Digital

“We are more intentional with our check-in time. We ensure there are personal moments and one-on-one settings and times for folks to connect. Also, the talk-and-walk option for small meetings has been a game-changer this spring.” – Darcy Vermeulen, Director

“We’ve invited one another into our homes, introduced our children, partners and pets. The personal has intersected with the professional, and I think that helps us feel more compassion for one another when we need it the most. “- Krystyna Lloyd, Director

We’ve seen it all, from the plant take-overs that transport us to the tropics to cats typing in the chat box. Video conferencing has connected us in meaningful and human ways like never before. And as we unlock solutions to break barriers, whether they be pandemic-related or geographic, the Argyle team welcomes opportunities to work with you.

Check out our services to see how we can support you and your organization virtually.

 

About the Authors

Jessica Lawson is a Consultant based out of Calgary, Alberta. With a passion for storytelling and social insights, Jess helps clients bring their narratives to life through research and the power of the pen.

Robyn Welsh is an Intern based out of Victoria, BC, who combines creative thinking, journalistic and marketing skills to create experiences for audiences. Robyn can be found in nature with a camera and friends or fingers-deep in polymer clay in her spare time.

 

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