Zoom: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Video conferencing has been an option for several years now, but since the pandemic, more people are using video conferencing than ever before. While Skype had its day, the standout video conferencing platform now is Zoom. Zoom is being used by individuals, church groups, entertainment companies, government agencies, and above all, by employees and company executives. Whether you’re a freelancer, work at home project manager, or CEO, chances are that you’re using Zoom to communicate with colleagues, bosses and/or employees. Zoom is so prolific that you almost have to wonder what we would have done without it during this pandemic. In fact, this video conferencing software now has nearly 13 million monthly active users.

The Work at Home Experience With Zoom

Less than a year ago, many people would have given up a lot for the chance to work from home. The fantasy, idyllic work from home scenario included putting your feet on your outdoor deck as you type on your laptop, your toddler playing happily next to you. In reality, the work at home experience more closely resembled being able to happily work in your coffee-stained pajamas in your unmade bed while fielding phone calls from your boss who suspected you were playing hooky. The work at home experience with Zoom falls somewhere in the middle between those two scenarios.

With Zoom video conferencing, you need to look at least presentable from the waist up. Whether or not you want to wear pajama bottoms is optional, but the top half should be semi-professional at a minimum—that is, if you want to continue to have a job after the pandemic. (Think of the teacher who somehow thought it was okay to teach class with no shirt on. The only lesson here is how not to Zoom.) That means showers at least every other day, clean hair, a stain-free shirt and a bright shiny smile to go with it all.

The other aspect of having Zoom available is that you, too, need to be available. There can be no more missed calls from the boss. If the assumption is that you’re working when you’re supposed to be working, then you’re sitting at your computer, where you have Zoom installed. If you miss a spontaneous Zoom call from the boss, they have to wonder where you are and what you’re doing during business hours. Zoom is both a huge convenience and a huge damper on some of the best benefits of being able to work at home. You’ll still be able to sneak in a load of laundry or a long lunch break, but an afternoon foray to the beach on Friday might be tricky, thanks to Zoom.

Pros and Cons of a Zoom Virtual Meeting

Zoom’s virtual meeting capabilities are hard to beat. The service has a free tier, so it’s available for lite needs. But it also offers robust extras that are difficult to pass up. Calls can be recorded to the host’s local computer or to the cloud and then downloaded. Inviting people to attend a virtual meeting is simple. You just copy a form template that has all the information the participants need and then email it to them. Even better, you can edit the form to make it easier for your participant. For instance, when the form says the meeting starts at 11 a.m. Pacific Time, the host can edit that to say, 11 a.m. San Diego time, or wherever the participant resides. 

Zoom went through a rough patch where security was breached. Somehow, uninvited participants were entering Zoom virtual meetings and “Zoombombing” themselves into the video conferences. But Zoom has since resolved those issues using passcodes and waiting rooms where participants have to stay until “admitted” to the virtual meeting. Security is another benefit to Zoom virtual meetings.

There are really very few cons of a Zoom virtual meeting. Naturally, if the internet connection is disrupted, then the meeting might end prematurely. And with so many people online during the pandemic, brown outs and blackout are more frequent, but that’s not specific to Zoom. 

How do You Know When It’s Appropriate to Zoom?

Just like using email or text, there are times when it’s appropriate to Zoom and times when it’s not only unnecessary—it’s inappropriate. So how do you know the difference? Here’s a little guide:

When It’s Appropriate to Zoom:
  • Status meetings with a group
  • Client interviews
  • Employee/employer interviews
  • Departmental meetings
  • Employee reviews
When It’s Not Appropriate to Zoom:
  • After normal business hours
  • Checkup calls
  • Replying to an email
  • RSVPing to a meeting invitation 

Zoom is a very powerful work tool, but it can be incredibly invasive. This is especially true when your employees or colleagues don’t have a dedicated office space. You certainly don’t want to intrude on a colleague or employee when they’re office/bedroom is being used by family members after normal work hours, for example. 

How to Zoom Well

When you are ready to have a Zoom meeting, make sure you avoid certain behaviors. Your goal is to appear confident and poised, not nervous or inexperienced. 

Don’t be Late

Make sure you log in a little early to the meeting so you’re not the last to arrive. This also allows for unexpected Zoom updates, which can take several minutes.

Don’t Wiggle Around

Don’t shift around a lot in your seat or bounce up and down. This will draw attention to your nervousness instead of to your comments.

Don’t Self-Deprecate

Even if Zoom is new to you, don’t apologize and make jokes about how you aren’t tech-savvy. Just ask questions if you need help and follow the instructions to get your Zoom meeting features set up.

Are People Suffering From Zoom Exhaustion?

Zoom exhaustion might happen when a boss or colleague infringes on personal space and time with Zoom. It can also happen if you’re using Zoom, not only for work-related things, but also to connect with friends and family. So you end up being on Zoom all afternoon in a work meeting, then you’re on Zoom at night with your best friend or family member. In cases like that, it can feel like you’re definitely suffering from Zoom exhaustion. 

One way to get around this is to resort to emails or cell phones for non-Zoom purposes. It’s not necessary to video conference every time you want to get some recipe from your mom or to ask your spouse to pick up something from the store on the way home. And, it may not be necessary to Zoom with your boss every single day just so they can feel better that you’re actually working when you said you would. If you feel like you’re always videoconferencing, then maybe you are. Try to use other methods to stay in touch.

Opt Out of the Video Feature

Most of the downsides of Zoom have to do with the video feature. When you eliminate this feature, a lot of the complications drop away. Without video, a Zoom call feels like an ordinary phone call. You can even multitask during the call if you like, and the other person won’t know. Without video enabled, you don’t need to get ready an hour before your meeting. You can be sitting there at your desk in your nightgown, with hair in disarray, and still sound as professional as you always are. Without video, you can infuse your voice with confidence and energy, even when you aren’t enjoying the conversation or when you’re tired from being up with the baby all night. Remember, opting out of video is always an option, eve when it’s not stated outright. Just let the host know that you’ll be disabling your camera because you’d rather not engage with video. 

Zoom is likely to stay for a long time, so it pays to get accustomed to using it. But that doesn’t mean you should be forced into using it in ways that you’re not comfortable with. Learn to set boundaries with bosses, colleagues and employees. Make a set of rules regarding your willingness to use Zoom. For instance, you could say that you will only Zoom between one and three during the day. All other times have to be emails or texts. Or, you could just refrain from using the video feature at all.  When you set your own parameters around using Zoom, others will have no choice but to accept them. In the meantime, you can figure out how to time that laundry so the dryer doesn’t buzz during a Zoom call!

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