Image of a laptop showing four different glasses of water in a Zoom call grid: one highlighted, one almost empty, one blurry and one broken.
Illustration by Wendy Fox

Over the past month I have developed strong preferences for the inconsequential functions of video conferencing software. I now have an opinion about how the “end meeting” button works in Zoom, know the keyboard shortcuts for Google Meet, and am convinced that using Webex is a test of personal fortitude.

For those of us that have transitioned from working in an office to working from home there has been an abrupt dislocation of space and habit. If your work involved being in an office, part of this new experience has probably been spending a lot more time looking at a grid of tiny faces on your computer.

There is an inequity to this experience. The experience of a homeowner with a separate study, big screen and an NBN connection is markedly different to someone perched on a temporary desk in a sharehouse kitchen. The parent with young children at home has a different experience to someone living alone. For some, a two-hour uninterrupted block of time is achievable, for some it’s challenging, for others impossible.

So how can we make our time together more equitable?

When people talk about being productive when working remotely, they often talk a lot about collaboration, and being able to work on things together. It can become a conversation about tools: which tool is most like “being there”, which tool best “facilitates collaboration”. But I think it’s important to point out that collaboration doesn’t have to mean working on something simultaneously. It doesn’t need a video call.

Collaboration is about finding ways to bring different perspectives and skills together and having a method to decide how to move forward. It’s a learned skill that requires practice, and part of that practice is trusting others to work in whatever way works for them, even if it doesn’t look like traditional work.

Maybe you really do need an hour on the phone from 9–10am for effective collaboration, but it’s equally likely to be three 15-minute blocks between 6pm and 10pm and then a 5-minute check-in the next morning at 8am.

Collaboration needs time together, but it also needs time apart.

— Dan Woods, General Manager (Canberra)

Read the rest of Issue #57 here.