Director, LiveTime Learning Ltd
Eighteen months ago, most people hadn’t heard of Zoom and wouldn’t dream of undertaking a Pilates lesson using the camera function on their laptop.
If you were to randomly search the internet for the benefits of video conferences, the answers would be as follows:
1. Saves time and money
2. No travel
3. Brings remote and office-based workers together
4. More personal and engaging than phone conferencing alone
5. Cuts carbon emissions
6. Increases efficiency and productivity
7. Improves relationships
Given that we specialize in virtual training I would whole-heartedly agree with points one to five (obvs), and pretty much 6, but 7? Improve relationships? Really?
Virtual training works very well for skills-based training and can also be a surprisingly effective for some softer areas, such as wellness or personal resilience development. You can set a scene, cover some theory or tips then get people into breakouts for discussing practical and personal applications and feelings.
My concern, however, is the fact that company decision makers feel the need to use virtual for everything work-related (come on, sometimes just a phone call is fine) AND for down-time too.
I am 100% on board for inductions to be (part) virtual – from experience we know this can work really well. Likewise for a colleague’s leaving presentation; these moments need to be marked – just keep them short.
But department ‘Happy Hours’ and ‘in-home scavenger hunts’ with colleagues? For me, it’s a no.
Virtual coffee breaks are bad enough (but can work, provided that a lot of people don’t turn up leaving a cozy number) but after a week of Zoom calls the Friday 5pm ‘get together’ over Zoom could tip people over edge. Ditto a company presentation and then going into breakout rooms in groups to ‘chat with’ colleagues or people you may not know, all in the name of building team spirit? Hmm. I don’t think so.
It works in the virtual classroom because breakouts are structured with a focused outcome. It could probably work in speed-dating for the same reason but not at work. Once people are on their own time, just let them relax. They are probably exhausted anyway. An over-reaching effort to build a “team feel” is worse than no effort at all.
It reminds me of an ad agency where I once worked. The directors decided that, rather than people heading to the (very local) pub of a Friday evening for a swift end-of-the-week-half, they would serve bottles of wine in the conference room ‘so that everyone could attend and there would be no stigma about buying a round’. The intention was good, but in practice it flopped. It’s like vegan cheese; sometimes you just have to accept that you cannot replace the original item and it is better to go without than try and recreate something that is by its nature, impossible to recreate.
Then again, you may love them! Could my views be because I’m probably a touch more introvert than extrovert? I’d be interested to hear if you agree/disagree with me. What have been your best and worst Zoom moments in lockdown?