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Trends18 May 2020

Show yourself, but don’t talk – what is Silent Zoom?

Social trend

The Bigger Picture

Despite widely commented privacy issues, only in March Zoom noted a global increase in the number of users from 200 to over 300 million. The application was downloaded in the USA 14 times more often than in the similar period of 2019, 20 times more often in the UK, 22 times more often in France and 55 times more often in Italy. Microsoft Teams and Google Hangout also saw double-digit increases in new downloads. [Bloomberg]

The extended lockdown period, the need to stay at home and the search for focus at work can affect our behavior related to the need to maintain a relatively high level of concentration when it comes to professional duties.Unlike remote work and recurrent procrastination connected with it, being with colleagues and staying in a work-oriented environment motivates and increases efficiency. It’s harder to focus at home when working at home office. After several dozen almost the same days of auto-quarantine, being gathered on one, often small area with all household members, each of whom has their own daily challenges, needs and problems.

The routine use of videoconferencing platforms for contacts with colleagues, somewhat by accident, shapes the recently increasing phenomenon, the so-called Silent Zoom. One of them allows you to map the office routine and part of habits during everyday work in the home kitchen, on the sofa and in all other places, which during the pandemic we changed into a space for professional activities. For others, it is a stepping stone from the monotonous reality and connecting in a virtual world with people from the company who also work remotely every day. However, there are several unwritten rules.

Silent Zoom involves working remotely with a videoconferencing application running on your computer (mainly Zoom, hence the name of the phenomenon, but also Microsoft Teams or Google Hangout, etc.) and staying in a dedicated “silence room” where other employees can also be found. Staying in this room is associated with the obligation of turning on the webcam and muting the computer microphone. In the silence room during Silent Zoom there are no conversations – contact with individual employees takes place through separate channels. A screen that is a wall or a kind of virtual open space of focused friends’ faces devoted to work is to be support for us – to act disciplinarily and motivate to do the same. In a word, Silent Zoom is supposed to create the appearance of a normal day in the office, surrounded by colleagues.

In today’s turbulent reality, many of us with this opportunity regularly visit our offices to work from there. One do it for the so-called mind hygiene, others to experience peace from the bustle, others to feel at least for a moment like in the office before the pandemic. Others who are not allowed to take a break from the lockdown routine and whose companies use this practice (I know at least 2 Polish companies that use it) can go to the Silent Zoom room, where, fear of social shame (in this case, the situation in which others will notice that we are not working, and e.g. we are playing with a smartphone or have turned on the video), will increase concentration a bit and make work slightly more effective. Also, by feeling that others are also working and the world, though shivering because of the subversive activity of the coronavirus, still remains in place.

The chart below shows how our online mode changed during the pandemic. We’re still working together through Slack, but the vast majority of meetings and conversations have moved to video conferencing platforms. All the largest providers of this type of solution since the beginning of 2020 have recorded double-digit increases in the number of users, more on the “wider context” section at the top of the article.

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