We are in front of the camera more than ever.
Video conferencing has been a lifeline over the past year as we all moved to working remotely.
But 12 months on and people are increasingly talking about ‘Zoom fatigue’.
It is a generic term used to describe the exhaustion felt by constant online meetings, whether they are held on Zoom, Teams, Google Hangouts, or any other video conferencing platform.
And it makes a lot of sense because not only are we using these channels regularly for work, but they are also key to staying in contact with friends and family.
Many of us are also using them for our fitness classes. Some of you may have even used them to attend weddings, christenings and funerals.
It is easy to see how it can begin to feel overwhelming.
The problem is Zoom remains a crucial tool we are going to continue to depend upon as the office remains shut.
So, how can you help your teams cope with Zoom fatigue?
Let's begin by considering how often you and your leaders are currently using Zoom.
Many of us seem to have fallen into a strange world where, despite not being able to meet anyone or leave our homes, our calendars are filled with more meetings than ever.
If that is the case, your organisation may be holding Zoom meetings when there are better options.
Why not pick up the phone for one-to-ones? If it is something that is more complicated and needs detailed instruction, email could work well.
And there are also plenty of messaging tools you can use if the primary aim is to stay in touch or get quick updates.
Another great option we are seeing used increasingly often is video updates. And by this we mean pre-recorded video.
This approach offers leaders a great way of remaining visible without needing to call everyone into yet another Zoom meeting. And, our teams can watch them when it suits them – much better than attending an online meeting with a screaming child on your lap.
They are also easy to make. As the latest online course from our sister company Media First shows, you only need your smartphone and a bit of knowhow. Click here to view the course, and use code BCF20 for a 20% discount.
A trend that is becoming increasingly popular is for organisations to establish ‘meeting-free’ days.
Channel 4, for example, has just introduced a meeting ban for lunchtimes and Fridays. Facebook has “no meeting Wednesdays”. Google had a “meeting-free week” last year – although that was in the quiet period between Christmas and New Year.
Meeting-free days were being discussed before the pandemic – Asana, for example, introduced meeting-free Wednesdays in 2013 – but they have risen to prominence recently as organisations try to find ways to help prevent employees (and managers) becoming overwhelmed by too much screen time.
If you don’t feel it would be possible to introduce meeting-free days in your organisation, maybe you could go for a half-day block-out or a lunchtime meeting ban.
But if you want to push back on the meeting culture, you could have just one day a week where people can book meetings.
One of the weird bits of having all our meetings on video conferencing software is we get to watch ourselves speak and listen.
It can feel like we are talking in front of a mirror. And as well as being distracting, it can also add to feelings of being drained as we make sure we are constantly looking attentive.
If this is something your teams are struggling with, the good news is they do not have to put themselves through it.
They can log in to the meeting as normal and then click the ‘hide myself’ feature on Zoom (there does not appear to currently be a similar option on Teams). You will be hidden from your view, but the other people in the meeting will still be able to see you.
You can go further and encourage them to turn off their cameras altogether. They can then move around, stretch, or grab something to eat without the discomfort of knowing they are being watched.
Think back to when we were all in the office – sounds like a distant memory doesn’t it?
But if we recall the meetings we used to have in person, there were often plenty of opportunities for informal chats with our colleagues.
Sometimes this would happen as we walked between meetings. It would also tend to take place at the start while we waited for others to arrive and during the tea breaks.
These opportunities for informal chats do not occur so naturally in the world of remote meetings. And they are missed, particularly by those who are feeling isolated. And that, in turn, can add to feelings of low motivation and fatigue.
So, it is crucial to add some fun into Zoom meetings. Managers should build in breaks where people can just talk. Or organise meetings where the only thing on the agenda is to have fun.
They could organise a cocktail making session, for example, or a cookery class. Something our sister company Media First has done before.
We’ve all sat in face-to-face meetings that have felt like they were drifting on indefinitely.
That feeling is a lot more painful on video conferencing.
Online meetings need to be tight. You don’t want them to be going on beyond an hour. The upper limit should be an hour and a half, but the ideal is something closer to 45 minutes.
That allows the attendees to have a short break before they have to start logging in to their next meeting. No-one wants to be scrambling between meetings with seconds to spare.
The best way to achieve this is to ensure meetings always have an agenda and a purpose.
Smartphone video can also play a part here. Managers can record updates, thoughts and ideas ahead of the meeting and circulate that video with the agenda. Then the meeting can be used to discuss what was set out in that video.
If you do need to have a longer meeting, make sure everyone has a break after 45 minutes, so that they can move around, grab a drink and just get away from the camera for a few minutes.
Managers should avoid treating remote meetings as a direct replacement for face-to-face ones.
Look to make them interactive, through polls, quizzes and competitions – always a reliable way of injecting some energy into proceedings.
And share slides and screens to demonstrate and explain key points, particularly when demonstrating new software or a new service.
They should also consider letting other people host the meeting and share their screen.
How many times have you been in a virtual meeting and become distracted by an email that has just popped into your mailbox or a message on your phone?
It is human nature to be distracted and turn our attention to what has just come in. And that takes additional brainpower.
Managers should advise teams to turn off or silence these distractions ahead of online meetings. If they have dual monitors, for example, they should be encouraged to only keep the one on they are using for the meeting.
Managers should also encourage their teams to have some screen-free time.
Rather than using the time that would have previously been taken up by commuting to tackle some more work, urge them to get a little exercise or grab some fresh air.
Leaders need to set a good example. If they find themselves attending virtual meetings that are offering little benefit, they should begin to turn them down or suggest alternative ways of having the discussion.
An approach like this can also help to shift the culture away from constant meetings.
If you think you and your managers need more help, consider our Effective Video Communication Course. The training will show your teams how to make your video conferencing meetings more effective and can be tailored to help them overcome specific challenges and problems.
The BCF group has been helping organisations develop their talent, inspire their people and overcome obstacles and challenges for the past 25 years.
Keen to find out more about business coaching? Get in touch to see how our Institute of Leadership and Management business coaching courses and bespoke training options can help. Or, click here to learn more about becoming a business coach to others.
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Even before the coronavirus lockdowns, more workplace communication was taking place remotely through video conferencing software.
Whether your organisation uses Zoom or Teams, the flexibility offered by these formats means they are here to stay.
And that means the skills needed to communicate on them effectively have never been more important.
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