7 Ways Zoom Makes Company Calls Feel Like 7th Grade

With the release of Zoom’s new feature, Immersive View, Zoom looks and feels more elementary than ever. While you may not hear the excuse that the dog ate the homework, people are still showing up late, passing notes, and raising their hands to speak. In many ways, Zoom is making professional workplaces reminiscent of childhood school spaces.

As Zoom’s stock hits a plateau, following a major drop months ago, it seems Zoom isn’t just failing to innovate in a meaningful way, but it isn’t making the grade when it comes to developing a professional-use tool. While other platforms, including social networks such as Clubhouse, are building innovative stages to fuel virtual collaboration, Zoom is virtually bringing us back to middle school.

1. It literally looks like a classroom  

The Immersive View background attempts to make it look as though everyone on the call is in a room together. Even if you don’t choose the classroom with participants seated in rows of desks, it’s still a bad look–and a poor use of developmental resources. The average person’s camera hits them from the shoulders up, so superimposing people so it looks like they’re sitting at a virtual table makes it look like they’re sitting on the floor.

Quick fix: Pass on the silly immersive view until Zoom can get the right tech to make it work.

2. Tardiness  

People frequently show up late to Zoom calls. And you can’t really blame them. Professionals often have packed schedules with back-to-back meetings. And when one meeting is scheduled to end at the same time another is scheduled to begin, there’s simply no way you can arrive at the meeting before its starting time–unless your previous meeting happens to end early,

Quick fix: Just as school schedules have built-in time between classes, give your staff time between Zoom calls by adopting Google Calendar’s “speedy meeting” approach.

3. Passing notes 

The art of passing notes has lost its touch. No longer do we need to pretend we’re taking notes while really having private conversations with classmates, now you can simply send a private message and have a complete, text-style conversation during your work meeting. Of course, just don’t make the grave mistake of sending what’s meant to be a private message to everyone.

Additionally, there’s the public chat function, which is the virtual equivalent to talking to classmates during class. On one hand, you have to respect the transparency, and on the other, you have to assume it’s not exactly appreciated by the person who is currently speaking.

Quick fix: Set some expectations (e.g., use the chat function to do things like clap/applause).

4. Awkward silence

Chances are people have questions, but the more participants there are on a call, the less likely people are to want to talk, ask questions, and interact. Professionals respect others’ time and may not want to broach a question that is very specific to them and their position. So rather than forcing others to sit through the answer to their question, they hold off.

Quick fix: Use a post-meetings survey where participants can ask questions directly to the host.

5. Raising your hand to speak 

If you didn’t realize that Zoom has a hand raise feature, you’re not alone. It’s not particularly popular–and for good reason. Raising your hand to speak will take you right back to your school days. And so in the absence of raising your hand, professionals are left waiting to pounce at the next split-second opportunity to jump in and speak. If you’re not the only one making such an attempt, you’ll likely end up in that awkward dance of “you go,” “no you go.”

Quick fix: Looking at Zoom directly on this one – do better.

6. People aren’t paying attention   

Teens and preteens aren’t exactly known for paying the best attention, and in reality, neither are adults. Even in an in-person meeting, we may be daydreaming about what we’re going to have for dinner, whether a bill was paid, or what items we forgot to add to our Amazon shopping cart. But in a Zoom meeting, we can literally browse recipes, pay a bill, and shop on Amazon.

Quick fix: Make calls more engaging by making them more collaborative and interactive.

7. Scrambling to leave at the end 

When the moment comes that the Zoom call is officially over, people scramble to exit the call, the way students dart towards the door when the bell rings. In a virtual environment, it’s the moment that you see faces falling off the screen. In an attempt to not be the last one left, as you view everyone who’s disengaged after saying bye and looking for the “leave meeting” button. 

Quick fix: The host can end the meeting for all.

Missing the Mark   

While innovative companies would enhance their technology to skip a grade–or the schoolhouse altogether, Zoom has ignored its growing number of UI issues and has focused instead on something no one really has a problem with: the fact that virtual calls are, well, virtual. Instead of leveraging the power of video conferencing, which puts technology quite literally at the fingertips of professionals, it seems to view its biggest opportunity as a threat.

In the process, it’s turning its misguided fears into reality by making virtual calls actually feel more virtual–not less. Zoom is missing the mark and failing to make progress in its failure to solve real problems. Between its uninspired innovations, lack of focus, and declining stocks, it will be no surprise if Zoom gets kept back after this year.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.