Not business as usual this month, as instead of preparing Easter Sales, our remote teams are facing an increasingly uphill struggle to keep the show on the road. The economy is currently experiencing a death by a thousand cuts and with the current predictions of recovery being that of an “I” shape, down and then straight down.
The month started with hashtag #CancelApril’sFoolDay, supplemented by #Cancel2020, reflecting the vibe on the virtual street. But we must continue pushing ahead and being extra supportive of our stressed remote teams that have to keep the embers of business going to rekindle the fire after the virus is defeated.
Work-from-home business gaffes keeps us entertained as Zoom and other remote tools lift the mood and give us good reasons to chuckle. Zoom Videoconferencing, embraced by millions newly re-planted home workersturned out the be a blessing in disguise. One of the new quicksand traps is the Private messaging function.
Last week we were on a prolonged business Zoom meeting (Zoom meetings are even less riveting than face-to-face ones) where the consultant hosting Zoom session was droning on endlessly. His shared slides were in such a small font we couldn’t even see the X and Y axis, so a few of us started sending each other jokes in comments in the Private Chat.
Alas, it was revealed after the session that the Host gets the transcript of all the Private chats on the session. Oops! For snarky side snipping best to use Signal.
The Mute function continues to be the gift that never stops giving. This time a guru from the UX team was making disparaging remarks about the new UX interface design presented on the main Zoom screen to his wife in the same room, thinking that he was on Mute. We enjoyed it so much that it took 10 minutes before anyone told the joker that his mike is actually ON.
In typical Silicon Valley style, anything great that ever comes out of San Jose sooner or later (usually sooner) turns to dust. Zoom video conferencing is no exception to that. After the stratospheric success of the first week of world-wide lockdown the wheels started coming off the product in no time at all. Turns out that Zoom, in addition to providing a recording of the sessions to the users, it also keeps the recordings of your sessions for themselves, as well as keeping chats and files shared, but also physical addresses of the participants.
Zoom also flogs your data to Facebook even if the Facebook App is not used on the device. It has no end-to-end encryption despite claims to the contrary. It can track if you are paying attention while on Zoom and not clicking away.
Users, as always are also a vulnerability, as shown by Boris Johnson who tweeted his Cobra cabinet meeting with showing nice and bold Zoom Meeting ID details in the top corner for world to see. At least the Ministry of Defence has banned it for meetings that need security clearance commenting that Zoom software is a disguised malware.
As doubts about Zoom’s integrity mount, both Skype and Google are back on the attack, trying to regain the initiative lost in the first 3 weeks. Google Hangout Meet has opened up Premium functionality for free till July 2020 (maybe optimistic but they assume we will be left out of our quarantine prison). Now you can use GSuite functions and run meeting for up to 250 people – for All Hands brand meetings (just don’t try to fire people over it).
It also allows to record all meetings, saving it in Google Drive which is admittedly handy. For those in events business, there is Live Stream for up to 100,000 users. There is also the ability to remotely control one of your team’s desktop if they are struggling, or to help a newbie to sort out their set up. Read here on what are the different Google Hangout formats and their respective integration
Skype was not far behind in the fightback, rushing in Meet Now, with no-account-needed option so now you can create and send invites for a meeting in 3 clicks. Even the main host does not need to have Skype account, a pretty bold move from usually data-obsessed Microsoft. Now you can use web client in Chrome or Edge, convenient and easy for newbies, as well as the ability to share screen and record your meeting or call. Watch out though as this is only for 30 days so not as generous as Zoom or Google Drive. For non-native speakers the subtitles feature is always a winner. There is also a neat little feature that gives you the option to blur your background, yay! No need to frantically clear the dirty dishes from the sink and laundry from the floor!
With 2 of us remotely “working parents” at home, 2 boys on Zoom home-schooling and Grandma on the iPad, our WiFi needed a step up after a number of arguments who gets to be on Zoom and why playing Fifa and watching Netflix has to be deprioritised before 5pm. Evenings are hard too as our boys chat on Houseparty while we are trying to get Zoom/Skype/GoogleSheets quiz tests with friends so queuing and scheduling needed to be implemented – just like my sister and I squabbling over the landline back when we were teenagers. For family sanity we bought the very easy to set up Amplifi HD Kit Home Mesh system which ramps up our set up (for now).
When your wi-fi is all set and team colleagues finally got the hang of switching between Skype and Zoom (no mean feat at different video conferencing platforms just do not play nicely together), the big question is how to keep your kids out of the room when you are on Company Meet Up. Manage it like you would with your Customer Service – prepare answers to typical questions in advance and stick it on the door as FAQs. Good luck!
Last but not least, working from home is above all a juggling act, particularly with overseeing of two teenage boys undergoing remote learning. As much as bread baking is the thing for quarantine times, currently we are just too busy, restructuring our companies and spending hours on the phone to the banks with not much time for cooking. One company that may solve my current lack of time problem is Miso Robotics.
Currently fundraising, Miso has developed Flippy, a small robotic arm that can do burgers, chips and be trained to do simple things around your kitchen. Hurry up guys, work from home market is awaiting!