Working from home: Zoom realities

Working from home: 19 things you only know if you’ve just started using Zoom

Posted by for Life

Using Zoom? It’s time to get comfortable with the mute button. 

Nobody knows how to talk about Zoom. Not really, anyway. For example, are we Zooming when we’re logged in? Is Zoom a verb as well as a noun? Nobody knows.

Case in point? My mum, messaging me to ask if I’ll “still be able to zoom” later. Or my best friend, reminding me I shouldn’t be sad because I have “WiFi to Zoom people (is this the right usage of that?).”

To Zoom or not to Zoom is the question, I guess. Once we’ve all agreed on the terminology, though, there’s still a lot to take in.

We here at Stylist have been using Zoom for the past week or so as we get to grips with working from home. And, as you’ve no doubt gathered, we’ve learned a lot about the app in that time.

With that in mind, here’s the 19 things you’ll only know if you’ve embraced Zoom. 

Someone won’t have a webcam set up

Everyone else has a face to go with their (slightly tinny-sounding and distorted) voice, but there’s always one anonymous blank square. For a short while, I was that disembodied voice. Until…

Someone will be using their iPhone

Amid the sea of desktop users will be a lone iPhone Zoomer, identifiable by the fact their image is shown in selfie ‘Portrait’ mode. And, yes, I have also been this person. What of it?

And someone will still be in their PJs

You might not know it, as they’re dressed from the waist upwards… but trust us on this one.

You get to see inside people’s houses

Ah yes. Much like the contestants on Come Dine With Me, Zoom offers us the opportunity to see a snippet of our colleagues’ houses… and we’re loving it.

“You get to see a slight snippet of your colleagues’ houses which really helps you work out more about who they are and what they’re about,” says Stylist’s Shannon Peter.

“For example, Sarah Pyper sits on her sofa which has an old pub sign above it which I found out is because growing up she had a real obsession with pub signs. I LOVE THESE INSIGHTS!”

Which means you’re going to want to tidy at least one corner of your house

“It made me have a huge clear out of my husband’s office so I don’t have to go downstairs and sit awkwardly in front of my bookshelf every time I take a Zoom call,” admits Stylist’s Amy Davies-Adams.

But you will mainly end up staring at your own face

Worried about what you look like? Don’t be. Everyone is pretty much focused on themselves right now.

As Shannon puts it: “Perhaps it’s just my vanity, but I keep finding myself staring at myself and realising just how glum my face looks 99% of the time in meetings.”

And your face may well end up on social media, too

Nobody has set up a list of Zoom etiquette rules yet, but they need to: unexpected screengrabs may be funny, but they… well, they just aren’t fair if you aren’t prepared, damn it!

You can’t control what happens behind you

Or, as Stylist’s Alessia Armenise puts it, “you really have to trust your flatmates!”

Note: I learned this the hard way when my partner strode butt-naked out of the shower through the hallway behind me, forcing me to throw my hand up to my camera in a frenzied last-ditch censorship attempt. My boss really doesn’t need to see that…

Instagram angles be damned

Everyone is embracing a new way of doing things on Zoom.

The echoing can be intense…

In some video meetings, you’ll encounter a Zoomer whose volume is so obnoxiously high that you can hear yourself through her equipment. Myself and Lucy Partington learned this the hard way at last week’s WFH Friday drinks, when one other unnamed participant’s bellowing speakers meant we were all plunged into an eternal feedback loop. Hell. On. Earth.

… but it’s easily solved

The trick is to mute the person you think is causing problems for a few seconds. If the issue is resolved, inform the Zoomer of the situation and ask them to lower their speakers the fuck down. Or, y’know, just use headphones like everyone else.

You won’t be able to see everyone at once

Keep on swiping: you’ll get to everyone eventually. Unless, of course, you turn on your gallery view. If you do, you’ll be able to see up to 49 meeting participants at once, as opposed to the default 25, depending on your device.

Someone will forget to mute

Listen out for the heavy breathing or cereal slurping.

And someone will forget to unmute

We see your mouth moving, Hannah, but we can’t hear anything you’re saying…

You will end up having your own secret side-chat nine times out of 10

It sounds ridiculous, but you won’t believe how many people are WhatsApping fellow Zoomers about the bigger Zoom chat.

Turning up early isn’t always a good thing

My partner happily logged into their family Zoom conference half an hour early, only to find themselves trapped in a business meeting with their brother and his clients. Oh sure, they awkward-turtled their way outta there sharpish, but it was still embarrassing as hell. With this in mind, always check in before you log in.

The backgrounds are undeniably BRILLIANT, but they can be distracting

It’s hard enough to stay focused and make this feel like a normal face-to-face conversation, even before you factor in that two Zoomers are inexplicably floating in outer-space.

If you’re interested in hiding your piles of laundry and cluttered bookshelves, though, you can find out more about virtual backgrounds for desktop and mobile here.

It takes a village

We’re willing to bet that only one person in your office/family/friendship group knows how to use Zoom.

Speaking about her own Mother’s Day Zoom, Stylist’s Felicity Thistlethwaite says: “My parents managed to log on first with no issues at all. My sister, however, just couldn’t get to grips with it. I was on FaceTime trying to explain how to get it to work while the rest of my family waited patiently.

“She was sending pictures of her progress on WhatsApp… and then someone else started to ask really specific questions about how it all worked, too. Eventually, we all made it in!”

It really is making us all feel better about this coronavirus thing

All Zoom mishaps aside, there’s something to be said for seeing each other’s faces and having an actual chat in these difficult social-distancing times. Thank god for technology, eh?

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Lead image design: Alessia Armenise

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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.

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