Chris Van Schaick on dealing with conference calls as a home worker

Chris van Shaick © 2009 Stéphane Rocher Photography

Chris van Shaick © 2009 Stéphane Rocher Photography - Credit: Archant

The trend for video conferencing is inflicting all sorts of sartorial demands on the slovenly home worker - but thankfully only from the waist up

Has your dog ever taken part in a conference call? I wouldn’t be the least surprised if the answer’s yes. Our cocker spaniel Scrumpy has contributed to plenty of discussions of corporate strategy and key performance indicators in her time.

I’ve had my office at home for a few years now. Since the old dog was a puppy, in fact. My professional gravitas only ever gets compromised between the hours of 11.45am and 12.15pm. That’s when the postman arrives, Scrumpy goes mad and everybody on the lunchtime conference call can hear where I really am.

It works the other way too. Not long ago, I was delivering a web-based training session - a webinar as I’m afraid they call it - to some medium sized fromages from a FTSE 100 company. I was in a proper HQ. But they were all at home, or in far flung offices. As one of their number made an extremely business-like point, I heard the familiar background sound - from her end - of plaintive woofing.

Come to think of it, just as digital technology and remote access working is changing the nature of the business meeting; it could also put an end to Take Your Dog to Work Day. Nowadays Barney the Labrador can radically reduce his own carbon footprint by “joining on the phone” rather than getting in the car and going to Reading. Dog and bone conferencing, perhaps we should call it.

It’s a funny phrase – working from home. We never say we’re working from the office - so why from home? Perhaps it was a bit of 1990s sophistry to make us all sound a bit less like skivers.

Since I’ve been working from home, I think I’ve done a fairly good job of dissembling. I’ve usually been able to preserve the illusion that I’m conducting my business from The Shard, The Gherkin, The Cheese Grater, The Breadmaker; or any of those other steel and glass commercial palaces you see from the train on the way into Waterloo. By the way, if you can’t place The Breadmaker, don’t worry – I made it up. But it doesn’t sound much less plausible than the others, does it?

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I am beginning to worry, though. Back in the Noughties it was fine to conduct your phone conference breakfast meeting in a shabby dressing gown with 48 hours of stubble on your chin and a piece of toast at your elbow. But the trade up from audio to video - and the expectation of being seen as well as heard - is making me nervous.

I’m not sure I want clients and partners to see that Mission Control at Chris van Schaick Limited contains woodworking tools, heaps of jumpers and a legendary collection of football annuals.

I heard of a colleague recently who now sits at home and conducts his phone meetings in a fetching combination of collar and tie above the waist plus tracky bottoms and trainers below. Now that’s what I call 21st century working from home.

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