A funny thing happened on a Zoom call
By Ali Pugh, July 2020
By Ali Pugh, July 2020
It’s been called the ‘Zoom Boom’. Before lockdown, there were approximately 10 million daily users on Zoom. By March, for 200 million of us each day it had become our office, our church, our classroom and our local pub. People are using Zoom to get married, to meet new arrivals, to celebrate birthdays, to observe Ramadan and more poignantly to say final words to loved ones. So ingrained in everyday life is Zoom, that when it went down one May weekend, it even affected the daily Downing Street press conference.
By the law of averages, not all of these 200m daily interactions are going to be smooth sailing. A welcome by-product of Zoom meetings is that I’ve got to know colleagues’ partners, children and pets as they – often unexpectedly – gatecrash internal meetings!
Feeling this could be a rich seam, we decided to search for the more unwilling stars of Zoom.
Since lockdown began, at Jigsaw, we have been running a community, comprising both consumers and SMEs. As well as covering topics such as how brands have fared in lockdown, how people have been impacted emotionally and financially, and their hopes and fears for the new normal, we also wanted to explore more light-hearted topics.
So we asked our business owners for their funny Zoom stories. They tended to fall into four main categories:
They do this in everyday life, so it’s no surprise that families are showing people up in digital life too. The primary source of amusement, perhaps unsurprisingly, was children. A 12-year-old boy sang Bohemian Rhapsody at the top of his lungs utterly unaware that anyone was listening. Another slightly less cultured young lad was caught picking his nose on camera! And of course, this category would not be complete with unexpected nakedness – someone’s husband walked in front of the camera in his underwear while his wife was doing an online morning workout.
These took the form of a visitor in the room and on Zoom. A dragonfly entering the home office of a participant caused a major panic in the middle of a call! Another business owner had a family member randomly show up on Zoom in the middle of a business meeting. Should have used Houseparty – at least you can lock the room!
The backbone of the British sense of humour is still causing mirth in lockdown – we know we are in trouble when we stop laughing at someone falling over. Here we had stories of a person demonstrating how to wash your hands properly – unfortunately as he was washing his hands, the soap slipped between his fingers, hit him on the head and he fell over on his back. So he may be safe from COVID-19, but less so from himself! Then there’s the danger I fear; someone being so relaxed they leaned back and fell off their chair.
Technology, on the whole, has been made lockdown bearable and workable for most. The telecoms companies have kept us all up and running and in touch with colleagues and loved ones. Imagine if this had happened in the late 90s with dial-up internet and no Netflix – it would be quite a different experience! And the connections have been pretty reliable. But obviously, tech is only as good as the person operating it – and user error is alive and well in lockdown.
We had stories of people accidentally muting themselves – one I can very much recognise. I think the most spoken phrase on Jigsaw Teams meetings during lockdown is ‘you’re on mute’!
There was a tale of a business owner who managed to replace her face with a potato during a staff meeting on Zoom, and was unable to change it back – so spent the whole meeting like that!
And finally, although Zoom allows users to touch up their appearance, it can’t do anything about lockdown hair. On one call, there were four male members of staff wearing sports caps – either hiding DIY haircuts or just bad hair!
It’s comforting to know that our sense of humour has yet to fail, thanks to our family, friends and colleagues keeping us laughing in lockdown!