So, here we are, four months down the road. And we have all become stars of the small screen. Some willingly, some, including myself, more reluctantly. All of our time has been spent video conferencing, making and receiving video calls, and working from home umbilically attached to our laptops. Yes, there are benefits; there are pleasures and pitfalls. I have written about all of these. But today, I really want to share a plea that we stop our emerging bad habits right now before it is too late. I am mostly concerned about excessive screen time, doing too much in the time available, presenteeism, blurring boundaries and forgetting we are at work.
We are at risk of spending too much time on screen. Any parent will tell you the trials and tribulations associated with managing children and young people’s screen time. But seriously, there are a lot of adults at serious risk of overdoing it themselves now. We are driving or commuting less, having less (if any) face-to-face meetings, and we are spending fewer hours out and about using coffee house wifi. We aren’t moving around enough, we are sitting down too much and we are storing up all sorts of posture problems. Get up, move around, limit your screen time.
We are at serious risk of fitting too much into the time available. The result of which means we are simply going from one video to another, or instantly switching from appearing online to beavering away on our keyboards. The other day I chaired a complex 90-minute ideas exchange meeting, with multiple attendees. As soon as it ended I was straight onto my PC and without any pause whatsoever carried on with writing something else and ploughing through emails. Efficient yes, productive no doubt, but healthy? Certainly not. If that had been a face to face meeting I would at least have enjoyed the benefit of the time it took to relocate, leave the building, travel home or to another meeting or sit on the train in glorious rest and reflection.
We have a terrible emerging trend of presenteeism. Yes, attend the meetings. Be on time. Be present, don’t become distracted, commit to the moment and don’t multi-task. But please, choose what, when and how you participate consciously. Don’t let the fear of missing out drive your decisions, less is sometimes more. No it always is.
Our home and work boundaries are blurred. And blurred boundaries are always a slippery slope. It can be difficult to find a dedicated workspace at home, but at least have one for video calls. And leave your laptop there. Plug it in and have it on a surface. Don’t hold it, because that will only encourage you to carry it around with you. Don’t and I mean never carry it into the less public places in your home. I am talking bedrooms and bathrooms. Those are not workspaces and they run the risk of showing your colleagues or clients too much about your private life. Close the lid of your laptop when it isn’t in use. If it has one use the lens cover. Only this morning I was watching footage of a Spanish councillor whose four-hour meeting overran and he decided to take a shower, mistakenly in full view of his colleagues. And you have most probably seen the infamous video of the woman who took her laptop to the toilet. If you need to go to the loo, leave the meeting and go to the loo, don’t take the meeting with you. You wouldn’t take real people you were meeting to the loo with you. These are the symptoms of presenteeism.
When you are on a video call/conference you are at work! Put clothes on, even if people cannot see your bottom half. I watched a guy this morning get up at the end of the meeting, thinking it was over and everyone had gone. There he was in his pants. Scratching. His colleagues unscrupulously rushing to screen grab the image in a flagrant disregard of GDPR. Then there was the Irish MEP who was in his parliamentary meeting in his shirt and underpants throughout his meeting, unaware his camera angle had changed. Not the first, nor the last, politician to be found with his trousers down. The councillor offered to resign, drilling home the idea that serious consequences await, disciplinary action is possible for online behaviours. Bad online meeting habits are coming soon to a tribunal near you!