Six minutes before a scheduled phone call with representatives from a multinational company, a public relations person asked if I would mind using a video conference app, instead.
"The guys would like to share some slides," he said.
"Ah," I replied. "Sure."
It was April; the country was in its third week of Covid-19 lockdown. Deterred by long lines at Moore Wilson's and crowded trails on Mount Victoria, I hadn't left my Wellington apartment for days.
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For weeks, I hadn't applied make-up or styled my hair. That afternoon, I was likely wearing something that resembled pyjamas. Aside from the odd meeting on Google Hangout, all my interviews had been over the phone. My husband had commandeered the study, so my laptop and papers were strewn across the dining table.
I cleared a drying rack and yoga mats from behind me before dashing upstairs to apply lipstick and pull a brush through my hair. Of course, I hadn't ironed anything, so draped a jacket over my shoulders.
Right on time, several polished faces with American smiles appeared on my screen. One in particular was tuning in from a home office that looked positively palatial; complete with gilded mirrors and a stone fireplace reminiscent of a medieval castle. I attempted to block our coat stand with my messy bun.
But after asking others about their post-Covid, awkward videotelephony experiences, I realised I'd got off lightly.
In 2017, American academic and an expert on Korean relations, Professor Robert Kelly, became famous not for his take on the impeachment of South Korean President Park Geun-hye, but for his children's comedic interruption of a TV interview.
Appearing live on BBC World News from his home office in Busan, wearing a suit and tie, Kelly was a picture of professionalism. Suddenly, his young daughter, dressed in bright yellow, burst into the room. She was followed seconds later by her baby brother in a rolling chair.
The interview paused while Kelly's wife, with impressive speed and athleticism, dragged the kids from the room. Naturally, the clip went viral.
"For two weeks, we were the most famous family on earth," Kelly told The Guardian .
Three years later, working from home is the new normal as countries try to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
"BBC Dad" is now referred to as the original for "interrupting a work-from-home parent's video call" . The family even appeared on BBC again , in March, this time to share tips for dealing with cooped-up children while working remotely.
"It's very, very difficult," he said, as he tried to keep his daughter still beside him. "They've got nothing to do, they're climbing the walls.
"There are only so many games you can play and puzzles you can do before they just, kind of, run around."
Remote working in New Zealand really kicked off in March, with the nationwide lockdown in response to rapidly growing case numbers, but most of the rest of the world had been logging into Zoom months earlier.
Analysis from economics consultancy, Infometrics found close to a third of the country's workforce was able to operate from home during lockdown. (Many businesses reported employees were just as – if not more – productive while working remotely.)
Even after restrictions were eased in May and businesses were able to reopen, many people continued working from home. Meanwhile, global technology giants including Facebook and Twitter announced they planned to embrace remote work, permanently.
Since the invention of the personal computer, people have been predicting the death of offices. Before the pandemic struck, remote and flexible work was gaining traction among white-collar workers. But lockdowns have acted as a catalyst and the experiment hasn't been without mishaps and even danger.
In April, Zoom peaked at over 300 million daily meeting participants – up from ten million in December 2019. Every day, it seems, there's a new compilation of the best and most embarrassing Zoom fails. YouTube is full of them.
One friend, who asked to remain anonymous, was participating in a group study session on Zoom when her boyfriend appeared behind her wearing only his underwear.
"One of the girls was sharing her screen, so it didn't look at a glance like I was on a video call," she tells me. "My boyfriend walked behind me, in his Jockeys, and helped himself to the fridge. The girl presenting just stopped. I tried to cover my camera with my hand. He apologised and went back to bed."
Lecturers have been put in the awkward position of wondering whether they're allowed to tell students to stop smoking during virtual classes. Some have sent reminders, saying it's not appropriate to dial in from bed.
One Wellington school asked students to dress in full uniform for online lessons. If they weren't properly dressed, they were booted from the Zoom call.
Rex Widerstrom, a radio station manager in Auckland, says he's sat in "countless" Zoom meetings this year. He's also been forced to interview prospective employees through a screen.
"The thing I find difficult – indeed highly disconcerting – in one-to-one or small group situations is where to look," he says.
"If you're in a room, you don't stare at the person the whole time. You look down at your notes, make notes, glance out the window, and it all seems perfectly natural and not at all rude. But when they're in a window, on a screen, and you or they look away, what's going on? Do they have their phone in their lap? Are they texting their partner about dinner? Tweeting what a terrible interview this is?"
Widerstom says he ends up "staring fixatedly at their face", thinking: "God, I must look like a stalker."
On a more serious note, young people in particular have been warned of the significant privacy and security risks posed by Zoom-like services, potentially exposing them to fraud, grooming and identity theft.
A report produced by the Department of Education in Victoria, Australia, said the rapid shift to online learning at the start of the pandemic led schools to use "non-supported" digital platforms in ways that undermined children's privacy and safety online .
The most prevalent of these was Zoom, it said. There were risks from Zoom's overseas hosting, data analytics, the ability to ''hijack'' webcams and meetings, and collect health information without consent.
In New Zealand, cyber safety organisation Netsafe has published information on how to mitigate some of the risks.
This year, the organisation has received 94 public queries involving Zoom calls; up from 14 in 2019, a spokeswoman said.
Most related to making calls private, the unwanted sharing of explicit content, how to address inappropriate behaviour, scammers and questions around age limits.
It's not just children who are at risk. In April, British Ministry of Defence staff were told the use of Zoom was being suspended with immediate effect while "security implications" were investigated. However, the United Kingdom Cabinet still used the service. And in New Zealand, Parliament used Zoom to facilitate Cabinet and other meetings throughout lockdown.
Even local government bodies took to Zoom, though some had a rough start. In a Dunedin City Council Meeting in May, councillor David Benson-Pope provided an entertaining cameo when he appeared wearing no pants (he later clarified he was wearing short shorts) and wielding a feather duster. For 30 seconds, as several councillors and senior managers looked on during an adjournment, Benson-Pope quietly dusted his study.
Beyond work and education, Zoom has been used to host weddings, pub quizzes, happy hours and pilates classes. For those in countries with more Covid than New Zealand, it will be used to host many holiday season gatherings, too.
Slowly but surely, we're figuring out what is and isn't appropriate Zoom etiquette. Some organisations have even come up with their own codes of conduct for virtual meetings. The University of Otago, for example, recommends attendees turn on their video if possible and find a plain background.
If you want to maintain total privacy? Try a virtual background , the guidelines suggest. "There are also some other fun video filters and studio effects you can try if you wish to spice up your meetings."
The final tip seems obvious but clearly, still needs to be said: "Be aware you are on camera."
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