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Has Zoom really changed the workplace?


“Zoom, I’d like to fly far away from here, where my mind can see fresh and clear …”

  • From the song “Zoom,” by the Commodores, 1977

When Ronald LaPread and Lionel Richie wrote those lyrics 45 years ago, they didn’t realize they were issuing a premonition about the mode of communication popularized by a 21st Century pandemic.

But many of us certainly would like to see our minds fresh and clear from all these Zoom meetings.

As we resume face-to-face meetings, we’re realizing the shortcomings of Zoom and other remote videoconferencing programs.

Despite some conveniences of Zoom meetings, nothing replaces being in person.

Recently, I’ve met a few people face-to-face I’ve known for two years via Zoom. And it’s amazing how different it can be.

People I thought were shy and withdrawn from their Zoom personality, turned out to be very outgoing. Some people who exhibited zero sense of humor on the video screen turned out to have a wry, dry wit in real life. A static photo, logo or a black screen with a name in white type can’t substitute for actually seeing people’s faces.

I have been tempted to show up at an in-person meeting sitting behind a black posterboard with my name on it. Or maybe I’ll start moving my lips silently until someone says, “You’re on mute.” I’m sure others have wished they could hit the real-life mute button when I start rambling at a live meeting.

I will miss seeing and hearing people’s animals and kids on the Zoom meetings, and I’m still trying to figure out how that one person had their image upside down, with their head dangling like a bat from the top of the screen.

By now, we all have some funny stories of things we’ve seen and heard on Zoom meetings. And we all have some embarrassing stories too. At one lunchtime meeting, when I forgot to hit mute, I subjected several attendees to the sights and sounds of my slurping a plate of spaghetti.

Despite the drawbacks, Zoom offers some advantages. Sometimes, there are meetings not relevant enough and/or practical to attend in person. But you can have Zoom on in the background while doing other work, and when the segment comes you need to attend, you can tune in.

One of the best uses of Zoom is the personal call. Far-flung family and friends can meet via Zoom for a fun event. Many were able to get groups together who haven’t been in the same “room” for years. We’ve heard of Zoom funerals, Zoom weddings and other events that could not have been shared during the pandemic.

Zoom Happy Hours were a thing for a while, and may still be, where friends get together after work and share a laugh and a beverage or two, virtually.

But for folks who endured Zoom-after-Zoom, back-to-back-to-back virtual meetings for months, the drudgery was anything but happy. Thanks to the portability of technology, some offset the routine by Zooming from an exotic place – on a beach or in the mountains. The most exotic I got was meeting from the patio at Tranquilbuzz Coffee House in Silver City, which was quite enjoyable that day.

I have periodic meetings with members of the New Mexico Local News Fund, journalists from throughout the state. I can’t imagine a better way for us to meet than by Zoom. Without it, we’d have to all take off a day or more from work, then drive to somewhere in New Mexico, probably get a hotel room, and the one hour would have turned into 24.

For other meetings, face-to-face is the only way.

Zoom is not a world-changer, but it is a tool. Like any tool, if it’s used the right way, it can make your work go better.

Used the wrong way, well, insert your most embarrassing Zoom story here.