If one thing’s for sure, we’ve all gotten a lot more used to hopping onto video calls and attending webinars in 2020. Beyond the general issues associated with meetings (a lack of pre-planning, going off topic etc), plenty of digital distractions have now been added into the mix. Plus, lots of people have had to learn to balance their work and personal lives while working from home long-term, leading to some unique and complex working situations.
Distractions aren’t always a bad thing, though – some of the unexpected things that have happened on video calls and webinars have also made them much more entertaining and relatable too. We’re all just human after all! So, here is a list of the biggest webinar and video call distractions our Sales & Marketing team discussed during one our team meetings…
Your dog won’t necessarily understand that sometimes you’re speaking on a video call or webinar and can’t pay them attention in the moment – they’re just happy you are home and available as a playmate or provider of treats! Similarly, your cat will probably find a video call the perfect time to jump onto the desk and repeatedly headbutt your laptop (I’m talking from personal experience here - see picture of my cat Leo above).
One memorable example of adorably rowdy pets from our webinars is when guest speaker Nick Elston (talking about how to support staff mental health and wellbeing during lockdown) had to balance answering audience questions with keeping his pet Shih Tzu amused with toys and treats. We then got a question about the best treats to distract dogs with while on video calls so it ended up being highly helpful and informative!
Kids kicking off!
Many of us have become familiar with navigating working from home while also looking after children this year. This has certainly caused some amusing and interesting situations when it comes to video calls and webinars! The classic example of this happened back in 2017 when, during a live TV interview, South Korean politics expert Professor Robert Kelly’s toddler and baby gate crashed by swanning into the room, to the world’s amusement and delight. At the time, Kelly considered this a career-ruining moment, but in 2020 this has become par for the course for many working parents and we’ve all learned to adapt to homeworking and more flexible circumstances.
Having teenagers in the house is a bit of a different kettle of fish when it comes to disruptions – less chance of them barging in and walking up to the camera, perhaps, but more risk of having to de-escalate an argument or battle with a bad Wi-Fi connection while multiple devices are on.
Another memorable myhrtoolkit webinar moment happened when our partner Emma del Torto, while delivering a webinar on managing redundancy during lockdown, had to break up an argument between her teenage kids who were standing right outside her door. She handled it with humour and aplomb, and quite a few webinar attendees could relate to the situation!
All the best laid video call/webinar plans can go awry when the tech decides it’s not going to work. My best/worst situation with technical difficulties occurred on the morning of a webinar I was hosting; my pesky housemates (read: my family) forgot to tell me that our router needed to be replaced that morning, so I logged on an hour before the webinar to find I had no Internet. Panic!
The next hour featured my brother sorting the new router (and swearing at it liberally) while I feverishly phoned colleagues and worked out a backup plan, just in case I couldn’t start the webinar in time. Thankfully, we sorted the router with minutes to spare. It felt like I’d just managed to slide under the closing door in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and grab my hat at the last second, but much less cool because it only involved connecting my laptop to the new router.
Zzzzzzzzzzz(oom) – video call fatigue
Been feeling tired out and distracted on video calls in general? You’re certainly not alone. Zoom fatigue is a very real phenomenon. According to BBC Worklife, video calls drain your energy because it makes it harder for us to process non-verbal cues, such as facial expressions and tone of voice. Delays and silence on video calls can also make us feel anxious about our tech working or even perceive others on the call as less focused or friendly. So it's no wonder that sometimes we're feeling distracted on video calls.
Doorbell and delivery dilemmas
It’s pretty much a subsection of sod’s law at this point that the post or a delivery will arrive while you’re on an important call or speaking during a team meeting, with the dreaded doorbell interruption. Sometimes you can leave it, but sometimes you’ll need to make a dash for the door.
It’s time for another example directly from me (what can I say? I’m a bit unlucky or, as I like to think, very inspiring in my abilities to face webinar-related adversities). While posing audience questions to the fantastic Alison Schreiber from The HR Dept during our webinar on tackling staff fears around returning to work, my doorbell rang. I apologised, assuming a package would just be left on the doorstep and the postie would be on their way. However, when it rang again and I remembered I was the only person home, I realised I should answer it. I managed to ask Alison a question, dash to the door and back while she answered, and get my headphones on as she asked if I was back. Result!
Which distractions made your list?
What’s been the biggest webinar/video call distraction for you in 2020? Is it something we’ve covered here or something different entirely? Send us a tweet @myhrtoolkit!
Written by Camille Brouard
Camille is a Senior Marketing Executive for myhrtoolkit who writes on topics including HR technology, workplace culture, leave management, diversity, and mental health at work.