Yesterday I was on awith my boss when disaster struck.
My oldest son — seven years old, burdened with a gas tank that never hits empty — literally ripped our gate from the brick wall it was attached to, after swinging on it vigorously for 10 minutes straight.
My four-year-old, blasting through the front door into my study, gleefully regaled the news in full view of my boss. Smiling like a buffoon, waving at the screen.
“DADDY, DADDY! HE BROKE IT! HE BROKE IT!” He screamed. Pleased to not be the one in trouble for once.
“Uh, should I ring you back?” asked my boss.
“Yeah,” I replied, through gritted, enraged teeth, “you might need to give me a minute.”
We’re weeks deep into ainspired lockdown and for those of us lucky enough to work from home, the way we’ve been communicating has changed. No more “how was your weekend” by loudly boiling kettles. No more “how about that sports team” by the water cooler.
We’re all on Zoom now and I absolutely love it.
Yesterday the New York Times technology section published a dos and dont’s of Zoom article and promoted it with a (since deleted) tweet stating something to the effect of “we love your kids and pets but please keep them off Zoom.”
It was a well-intentioned article and a well-intentioned tweet, but Twitter reacted as expected: They did not like it and ratioed it into oblivion.
Partly because the internet is notorious for its love of cats and dogs (and partly because the tone was smug and elitist), but mostly because, in these strange times, chaos reigns and attempting to police the way we communicate on Zoom when everyone’s just doing the best they can is insensitive at best.
And, personally? I have absolutely been loving the dogs. And the cats. Even the kids. More pets please. More kids. More chaos.
In the weeks since working from home I have seen some things. Weird things. I’ve seen people turn up to Zoom meetings beneath duvet covers built into a childlike fort. I’ve seen colleagues Zooming from the comfort of their childhood bedrooms, replete with high school photos and decades old toys. I’ve been on extensive house tours. I’ve been introduced to babies, toddlers, husbands and wives I never thought I’d meet. I saw someone’s mom trying to moonwalk.
I saw a cat on a leash.
And it’s been wonderful. Absolutely wonderful. It’s been one of the few shining lights in an increasingly dark period and I’ve learned to lean into it.
Right now there’s a vulnerability and authenticity to the video meetings we’re having on Zoom. They go beyond the surface-level conversations we’re used to having in workplace settings. We’re asking each other how we’re doing and we actually care about the answer. The catch-ups I’m having with co-workers are less about editorial plans and upcoming projects and more about how we’re dealing with the stress of isolation in a period of complete uncertainty.
In that context a dog, or a cat, or a toddler screaming for their parent’s attention is a welcome distraction.
I’ve learned more about my colleagues in the last two weeks than I have in the last two years of working in an office setting and I love it. It sounds twee and needlessly earnest, but I hope that when the dust has settled and things go back to a relative state of normality, that we can take this spirit of authenticity and apply it to more traditional workplace settings.
Oh, and you’ll be pleased to hear that I fixed the gate. Thanks for asking.