Finding that silent time in which the world falls away and one can focus completely on work is the perfect moment of zen.
One would think working from home would allow for such moments to occur a lot and naturally. I suppose if you live alone, it might be possible. However, because I am sharing a space with a fiancé, four cats, and a future father-in-law, I am only able to reach such calm with the help of headphones white noise. Between the conference calls, the zoomies (the cats running around the house at top speed from room to room), and sharing an office, my moments of zen and silence are few and far between.
For most of the morning, I am monitoring the virtual library chat, keeping a keen ear out for the beep to let me know I have a message, while working on various other tasks. The headphones block out noise and keep me focused. They allow me to tune out the daily meetings my fiancé has and narrow my attention to my tasks at hand.
After chat, the headphones bring in music, which as a librarian is a rare treat. We are so used to working in silence, or with a low mummer of noise, that music is a rarity for us during work hours. I tend to find that music heightens my ability to immerse myself in my work. The world around me falls away and I can concentrate on my tasks.
However I miss it: I miss the murmurs, the questions, the interruptions (never truly an interruption, of course, for these queries are so much more important than what I was working on), and most of all, the people. Our students, professors, and staff who visit us in the library for help, and who always have a friendly smile on their faces, knowing we will do our best to help them.
But we aren’t there yet — we cannot assist you face-to-face at our desk among the books. But the library is still “open” online, and we librarians still have a smile and are ready to help you. Please, “interrupt” our day and make it a wonderful one. We love to help!
The new reality of working from home and social distancing relies on the use of video conference platforms to connect with co-workers and customers. Zoom has recently emerged as one of the leading remote meeting platforms where users can engage in online video conferences, chat, and mobile collaboration. Zoom was founded in 2011 by software engineer Eric Yuan. The company went public on the NASDAQ in April 2019.
There is no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has been a boon for Zoom. Many schools, colleges, and companies across the country began downloading and using the platform just as the virus began to force people to work from home. Since March, the software has been downloaded 40 million times worldwide, and since February, the stock price for Zoom has nearly doubled from approximately $76 per share to $159 per share. But, as with many companies that find sudden success, Zoom’s flaws have been becoming more apparent to consumers.
Criticism of Zoom has revolved around its security flaws and a new phenomenon called “Zoombombing.” Zoombombing occurs when a hacker, prankster, or wrongdoer enters a Zoom meeting uninvited (aka “crashing a meeting”) and begins interrupting the meeting by posting inappropriate content or hijacking the meeting from the host. Zoombombing has led to many customers having to terminate their videoconferences, cancel meetings, and worry if their cyber security systems have been breached. One of our librarians at Bay Shore was in a webinar this week that had to be terminated due to a Zoombomber posting illicit content and disrupting the meeting.
In addition to Zoombombing, the rapid increase in Zoom usage has led to scrutiny of the company’s privacy policies and potential security flaws. Inparticular, Mac iOS users are vulnerable to security problems as hackers have been able to access Zoom on their computer to turn on cameras and microphones as well as install malware on their computer systems. Zoom has also come under criticism for giving user data to Facebook without users’ knowledge or permission. Zoom has since stopped giving user data to Facebook, but these problems have already led to class action lawsuits against Zoom.
While the privacy challenges need to be addressed at the company-level, Zoombombing is a threat we, as users, can take steps to combat as we continue to use Zoom throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond:
• Use the latest software: Ensure your participants are using the latest version of Zoom. The latest version has upgraded security features to block users from randomly scanning and joining meetings.
• Password protect:When creating a meeting, make sure your meetings require a password for participants to enter. Zoom has made password protection a default setting on the latest version of the platform.
• Direct invitation: Invite participants directly via email with an invitation and meeting password. Do not publicly post Zoom meeting information via social media or other public channels.
• Close your meeting: Once all participants have arrived at the meeting, close the meeting to any newcomers to avoid crashers. Hosts can close the meeting by clicking on the “Participants” tab at the bottom of the screen and choosing the “Lock Meeting” option.
• Remove/disable unwanted participants: The meeting host can remove and block crashers who are Zoombombing. The host can also disable the chat feature, mute all participants, disable participants from sharing videos, and limit screen sharing options to “Host only”.
Working from home might seem like a fantastic thing: no commute, no fighting traffic, no struggling to get up early, and no need to switch from your PJs to real clothes. But it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.
Yes, it is exciting that you can sleep in a bit later, but I swear it makes getting up harder. My body is pre-programmed to wake up at 6:30 a.m. every day, but now, I wake up and hit snooze or wake up later and feel groggy as anything. I haven’t been late for my usual start time, but I’ve cut it closer than ever before and logged in at 7:29 a.m. (This is in contrast to my usual habit of arriving at the building at 7:15 a.m.!)
While staying in my PJs seemed like such a wonderful option, I decided on casual clothes instead (jeans and a t-shirt), because I wanted to stay in a work frame of mind. Being in my usual work clothes motivates me to stay productive, while I think that if I had stayed in my PJs, I would have wanted to get back in bed and go to sleep.
Commute and “Traffic” Jams
It might seem like I’d have an easy commute — a few steps out of the bedroom, up the stairs, down a hall and into the computer room — that takes what, maybe 3 minutes?
Well, that’s not the case when you have cats.
No one told my cats that I’d be working from home, and it turns out that they have their own ideas about my “walk to work.” First, there was trying to get up the stairs as Bowie, my wonder kitty and ever-present pal, decided it was time for a petting session on the landing of the stairs. It took two or three minutes until his majesty was satisfied enough to let me pass.
At the top of the stairs, I found Romeo, our lovely boy and belly rub king, who also flopped over and demanded pets before he let me pass. Finally, I was accosted by Auggie the ninja cat as I opened the door to try to get out of the room; she nearly knocked me over.
All-in-all, what I thought would take me just a few, quick steps, took me about five minutes.
Bringing the Library Home
Being able to log onto our chat reference service from home allowed me to provide reference and research support virtually, and to assist our students with their needs, just like I would have if I was in the library with them. Although I wouldn’t have been able to physically get them a book if they needed one or to grab a physical copy of the latest journal, this luckily didn’t come up in my questions.
I have also been able to work on this blog and to start reviewing books for our collection, some of the tasks I would normally work on library.
All in all, I believe my work from home experience has been a success so far — despite the fluffy traffic jams and a desire to stay in bed. I am thankful that, in this trying time, Touro College is looking out for its students and employees. Level heads will prevail and we will be back to normal before we even know it!
In the meantime, we have collected many resources for students, faculty, and staff to support them during this time: