If 2020 will be remembered for anything it will be for ‘Zoom’ and the way it moved our office lives online in one fell swoop. For those of us who had been teetering on the edge of distance working and moving into a digital landscape, Zoom was the killer app that made it happen. Our business life was reduced to being a thumbnail on a colleague’s laptop. Suddenly everybody started panicking over their Zoom image. Staff members were subjected to close facial inspection in a way that never happened in regular face to face office life. People were ‘Zoom-shamed’ and the meme that circulated online was ‘Zoom, it’s YOU but ugly’.
This has, of course, led to a boost in enquiries for cosmetic adjustments, known as ‘Tweakments‘ which can allow you to present a more acceptable face to colleagues and, indeed, for online job interviews.
Yes, there’s a growing awareness that it’s possible to have too much of a good thing – well, at least, too many video calls. As a result, the number and length of video-based meetings will likely decline somewhat over time, but they aren’t going to disappear. They are starting to evolve, however, thanks to the immense competition among the different platforms and the critical factor that programmers who are creating these tools have to use them extensively as well. (That isn’t always the case with other applications.)
In addition to lots of new views of participants and content, we’ve started to see extremely practical benefits such as real-time audio transcription of the meeting – making it significantly easier and faster to confirm your notes, double-check what was said, or catch up on a meeting you may have missed. The Zoom autosave and transcribe feature is extremely well crafted and you can download the transcript of your meeting minutes after the session closes.
As staff begin to return to work in dribs and drabs there will be the ‘shock of the new’ where your old workspace has changed quite dramatically into something quite unlike its pre-COVID form. You will see plastic barriers, higher cube walls, rearranged environments and more. Many will not want to return to embrace this ‘new normal’. Even more people may start to consider longer-term workplace alternatives – either permanent work-from-home arrangements (potentially even in other cities – as some have started to do) or a more nomadic type of work lifestyle, where people start working from a range of different locations including their homes, offices, coffee shops, and other places, just to bring a bit of variety to their everyday experience. This is the world of the ‘virtual office’ with everything except key tasks being relocated away from the business HQ. Your business phone line is answered in an office, your physical mail is received at an office, your courier can still be collected and delivered at a recognisable office suite but other workday functions can happen elsewhere at less cost and in more agreeable surroundings.
Software is developing quickly to meet these new challenges. Companies like Citrix are at the vanguard of change. Their vice president Tim Minahan puts it every well when he said “Work is no longer a place. It’s happening in kitchens and basements, in parks and on sidewalks and scaled back, socially distanced offices,” Software such as Citrix Workspace™. The secure, intelligent, and high-performing digital workspace organizes, guides and automates everyday tasks to boost productivity and create a sense of personal accomplishment that fuels engagement and innovation – all while ensuring privacy and security. If you combine this platform with a virtual office such as Hold Everything in central London you have a framework which is employee-friendly and future-proof.