Wednesday, April 22, 2020 / by Mark Palermo
The Bay Area has been in Shelter-In-Place (SIP) mode for a month now. Have we adequately adjusted? Have our daily habits changed? Have these changes made us better employees, parents, partners, individuals? Will we continue these habits in a post-SIP world or will we go back to business as usual?
This first in a series of 5 articles is about virtual meeting and contact.
I must admit, I am a big fan of virtual meetings. Most multi-national corporations have been using web conferencing for over a decade now, and while it has been available at the small business and consumer level for some years, it never reached universal mass appeal until SIP.
With any paradigm shift, adoption can creep at a slow pace. Innovators and early adopters are easy to convince but reaching the majority tends to take time. According to the Interaction Design Foundation, “As a product begins to have mass market appeal, the next class of adopter to arrive is the early majority. This class of adopter is reasonably risk averse and wants to be sure that its often more limited resources are spent wisely on products. They are, however, people with better than average social status and while not thought leaders in their own right, they will often be in contact with thought leaders and use the opinions of these thought leaders when making their adoption decisions.”
SIP accelerated the curve of video conferencing adoption. America was essentially forced into shifting the way we communicated with one another to justify and keep our jobs, maintain our friendships, family ties and more, especially as major religious holidays were approaching.
We had to individually escalate our level of proficiency and quickly learn to utilize video conferencing for meetings, seminars, family gatherings, happy hours, game nights, religious services, and much more. Aversion to change was easily overcome with quick tutorials on how to best utilize the dozens of video conferencing apps available. I prefer Zoom, but due to clients, family and friends spread out all over the country, I learned Houseparty, Whereby, Bluejeans, and Slack, and got reacquainted with old standbys like WebEx, GoToMeeting, Hangouts and FaceTime. And, rather than click a link supplied by the hosts to join conferences, which takes little aptitude, many of us had to learn how to subscribe and download a plethora of platforms in order to host our own meetings, and even serve as Tech Support when we hosted moms, dads and grandparents on family calls.
Adapting Post SIP
How will we adapt once offices are open to employees and social distancing regulations are lifted? I believe that will be gradual, so I see more flex scheduling. Since we are pros at it now, we’ll also see the continuation of video conferences in corporations, small businesses and working groups around the country. Until a coronavirus vaccine is readily available, there will be resistance and trepidation surrounding open-concept style offices filled with hundreds of employees. Workers will be assigned shifts and rotate a work/home schedule to continue a revised and safe version of social distancing. Video conferencing will be key to make this a long-term practice.
In our personal lives, we will start to design our homes around more video calls. Now that we know how effortless setting up a call is, we will have more of them. California, and the Bay Area in particular, has a lot of transplants from various regions of the country and world. Rather than engage in the limits that FaceTime and Hangouts offer, we will be conducting an increasing number of large family gatherings on our soon-to-be-acquired TVs and built-in home monitors. Technology companies are already mass producing these with built-in video apps and dedicated software. The high early-adoption pricing will decrease quickly due to higher demand. Having video monitors in our homes in the 2020’s will be as ubiquitous as landline phones in the 20th century.
This type of communication is simply the next chapter in the ongoing evolution. Throughout history, new technologies have changed the way we communicate. Centuries of letter writing gave way to nearly a century of the telegraph, which gave way to decades of landline telephones, which have given way to cell phones that now incorporate text, voice and video.
Now that video is swiftly becoming a primary tool of communication, we will look back at this time in history as the catalyst for establishing video contact as a daily form of uniting and bonding the human race. Until we can be in-person in the same physical space again with complete safety, we should all embrace daily video calls to keep us connected.