The Missing Features to Demand of Our Videochat Software for a More Inclusive Workplace

Max Brawer
7 min readApr 12, 2020

Author’s note: I wrote this post and sent it to many PMs as possible. Since then, a number of these features did crop up in Meet and Teams, but we have a long way to go. A startup https://www.zoomonlex.com/ reached out with some excellent software for more inclusive meetings and I recommend you try their extension.

In the last month of quarantine, many office workers have been thrust into a world where all meetings are over videochat, and some non-office workers are learning to use “VC” for the first time as everything from Passover seder to workout classes go online. This grand test of Zoom and Meet and all apps in between has affirmed and furthered for me everything that is wrong with American meeting culture and all of the relatively simple ways we could improve it with a touch of code. Product teams, these are our demands:

Automatic Shutoff

Yes, please: sell us this feature. One of the most pervasive and should-be-easiest to resolve issues of meetings: 40–50% of them start or end late, causing a chain reaction of ongoing lateness. Personally, I now habitually join meetings at the :01 or :02 mark just to avoid sitting and waiting for others who I assume will be late, and if you ever have a chat with someone at a giant company you’ll likely notice they spend at least 2 or 3 minutes getting “the knock” and then traveling to a new conference room.

Back when we met in IRL offices, getting “kicked out” (a common, negative framing even though your time was up) begets hard feelings and rudeness. Plus, these bad behaviors likely correlate with seniority, creating tension between the higher-ups who feel everything must run late and their teams and creating an inclusivity gap with lower levels of the company.

But in elementary school, we had a very simple system for this: a bell rang ten minutes before the next class, and the laws of physics were properly observed as humans were given the time to appear in a new place. So why is this so hard for the adult world to replicate? Why are we asking people to sit meet up 2–5 times in a row with no break? The quarantine has outed a…

--

--

Max Brawer

People Tech & Analytics leader @ Level, formerly Twitch, BuzzFeed, Google, Nielsen | Try his apps @ sheetswizard.com