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How exactly have Zoom and Meet influenced corporate culture? How have they influenced anything at all? What impact has Zoom and Meet made on what we know as corporate culture?
If you’re here, I assume these are the questions that run through your mind. The beautiful thing about this is, there’s a good chance you already know the answer to these questions. Why? Because you’re already living in it. My intention with this article is to put these answers into context; to give it flesh, sinews, and form. Stay with me.
We’re about to paint a picture of the effect that Zoom and Meet have had on what we have known for so long to be “the norm” in our various places of work, or if you’d prefer, “corporate culture”.
John is your regular guy in his late 20s, working a 9-5. He’s trying every day to keep up with the tasks of the day. John wakes up as early as 5 am to get things done around the house; clean up a bit and all that. He leaves his house by 7 am. Gets through the line at the bus stop, while already measuring the traffic on the road with google maps and estimating how late he’ll be for work.
Our guy eventually gets to the office by 9:10 am and gets a reprimand from his team lead; the 2nd one this week. He’s missed the 5-minute task briefing for the day, so he just gets to his desk, hoping to ask one of the teammates later on what was said during the briefing. He gets to work.
John takes a 5-minute bathroom break and his team lead passes by his desk and sees it empty, then proceeds to send him a query for showing a nonchalant attitude to his job. This leaves him tired and annoyed. Then the pandemic hit…
If you were already working in a tech company that did a lot of video conferencing and had remote workers, then you were probably already familiar with Zoom and Google Meet. Now even if you never worked from home or had to use it (however unlikely that is), you probably already heard of at least one of these apps. However, for formality’s sake, what are Zoom and Google Meet? And how exactly have they affected our lives?
Let’s Talk Zoom
Zoom is a cloud-based video-communications app with which you can convene a virtual meeting, share live audio and video feed with others in the meeting, make presentations by sharing your screen, and a lot of other useful features. Zoom Inc. makes its app available on different platforms including Windows, Linux, Android, Mac, and iOS. This makes it available to nearly everyone with a smart device. One advantage of Zoom is that it is a free-to-use platform for the most part, and is quite easy to navigate.
How ’bout Meet?
Google Meet is, like Zoom, a cloud-based video-communications app for convening virtual meetings. They both have similar features such as video and audio feed live sharing, screen presentation, etc. Meet was released in 2017; 7 years after Zoom (2011), however, these two cloud-based apps peaked during the COVID-19 pandemic because when it became obvious that life wouldn’t return to “normal” anytime soon, people and companies needed to find a way to move forward without the regular human contact – Zoom and Meet provided just that. Let’s go back to our story.
Back to John’s Story
It’s 3 months into the lockdown and things are not looking up. The company John works for resumed activities 6 weeks ago. He’s been awake since around 8 am, but he’s spent the time catching up with news on Twitter and getting in touch with contacts with whom he’s doing private business. His alarm just went off by 8:50, reminding him he’s got a team meeting by 9 am sharp.
John gets up and gets to brushing his teeth and brewing his coffee while he opens the Meet link for the meeting and is the first to get there. He connects the PC to his AirPods and continues to make breakfast. The team lead arrives at 9:00 am sharp and sees he’s already available (although his camera and audio are turned off), then commends him for punctuality and asks that they wait about 5 minutes for the rest of the team.
Teammates arrive in 5 minutes or less and they start to give their presentation based on what was done the previous day. John quickly gets his looks in order, combs his hair, and puts a shirt on over his sleeping shorts. He adds a tie to it to make it look corporate enough, then turns on his video for his presentation. It’s a quick 3-minute presentation and he turns off his video afterward. He gets his task for the day and the meeting ends; his day has officially begun.
Now the difference between this and a corporate environment is glaring. John can work as he likes and take occasional breathers without a supervisor breathing down his neck. He works and gives occasional updates while being in an environment he’s comfortable with. The major update comes in the morning when he has his daily team briefing.
What can we learn from John’s Story?
1. Remote Work, the New Norm
Thanks to apps like zoom and meet, companies and human resource managers have figured out that something they’ve been very scared of for a long time is actually possible. They have realized that you don’t need to be in the office to work; all you need is your computer and a reliable internet connection.
While this has been trickling into the workplace market for a while, the presence of Zoom and Meet during the pandemic helped speed up the process. Post-lockdown, not all companies chose to let their staff come back to the office. Some of them asked their staff to work from home full time, while a lot of others created schedules that required staff to come to the office no more than twice a week.
Like it or not, this big change is here to stay and while it is going to be favorable for those who stay alone and work better in their comfort zone, it will cause problems for those who work better under supervision, and away from all the comfort, distractions and interruptions that exist at home.
2. Corporate Flexibility
Did we already mention that this new life created by Zoom and Meet means you get to save your monthly commute budget from your salary? Yeah, in our little illustration, John, who was usually late to work, happened to get to work first on Zoom/Meet because all he had to do was click, click, without even getting out of bed.
You would previously need to attend a team meeting dressed as formal as should be, but now all that’s needed is your upper body to be corporate for the camera to see (or even nothing at all, if your video is disabled). People can now have flexible working hours; take breaks/breathers whenever they want and combine work with their household chores. Nobody really cares now, as long as you get your job done for the day/week.
The downside to this, however, is that one way or another, it starts to feel like work is unending. People wake up really early to work to free up some hours during the day, then work late into the night to catch up for missed hours. This is in no way healthy because somehow, you need to draw a line between your corporate and domestic life.
3. The Era of Freelancing is Here
Because you now work from home, many people will find other jobs to do to make some extra buck. A whole lot of freelancers have risen and the numbers will continue to plummet. Contract jobs will become a norm and companies will surely jump in on the trend. Freelancers will take the spotlight.
4. Reduced Communication / Accountability
Remember the times in your office when you would request something from your colleague and they would say “I’ll confirm and get back to you”, then get back to you in a few minutes? Yeah, that’s one of the benefits of having the physical presence of others around. Now, once you hang up the Zoom call, be prepared to follow up with that person and keep asking for updates because there’s a very good chance their attention has been taken by something else at home while you waited for feedback. Believe it or not, being in an office helps you concentrate on the job at hand and see it through
The presence of Zoom and Meet came with a lot of benefits. However, these benefits are mostly double-edged swords; taking as much as they give. A lot of them benefit the people involved, but how about the establishment, the job, and the overall company culture? It’s going to be difficult grooming or even maintaining corporate culture when those who are supposed to uphold it aren’t even within physical reach of one another. New staff tends to make fewer connections from work except those with whom they work directly, making it hard to get integrated into the company.
Maybe eventually these problems will have solutions and things will get better, but this is the reality of today. We are in the early days of remote work made possible by video-conferencing and virtual meetings; the likes of which have been made possible by Zoom and Meet. But whether we realize it or not, corporate culture is suffering. Zoom and Meet have nearly as many negative effects on the culture as it has positives.
Do you agree with this? Then share this article with someone and see what they think. Elsewise, tell us what you think in the comments.