As remote work has become the norm, video meetings have been the standout collaboration tool for businesses. Adoption of Zoom, Google Meet and Microsoft Teams has skyrocketed and become fully integrated into the work experience — at a pace never seen before. It has truly instigated a fundamental change in our approach to work and how we interact with colleagues and customers.
The Transition To Remote Work
This shift has created both opportunities and challenges. The advantages of a reduced commute and the ability to control your own work environment have led to cost savings and a more flexible workforce. Managing a disparate workforce and the blurring of work and home life have been the clear downsides for many. Perhaps the biggest challenge, though, has been keeping this new remote workforce productive and collaborative without suffering videoconferencing fatigue — a genuine challenge for many.
"Zoom fatigue" is real and has been validated by behavioral analysts. Peer-reviewed research has also found that when people have too many video calls, they are less collaborative. Laura Dudley, a behavior analyst at Northeastern University, explains that most of the nonverbal cues we look out when having conversations in person (inflection, eye contact and body language) are not always possible via videoconferencing. Anecdotally, without time spent on commuting, we’ve found that more virtual meetings are scheduled every week, only exacerbating the Zoom fatigue challenge.
Skip As Many Meetings As You Attend
There are now many ways in which we can share and collaborate as a team that can reduce our videoconferencing schedule. Addressing Zoom fatigue can be as simple as skipping as many meetings as you attend.
That is not to say that you should just not attend, but rather, you should secure notes from colleagues or record and watch meetings at a time that is more convenient. Colleagues’ notes or updates can often be lacking, especially when people are finding remote collaboration more mentally challenging with Zoom fatigue. But by empowering staff to utilize collaboration apps that help with transcriptions and that allow the sharing of highly accurate notes in real time, you can help your workforce find the right balance between what meetings to attend and which ones to skip.
Take Control Of Your Environment
Employers are trying to tackle the interaction and innovation challenges that can result from remote working. This includes the questions of how to get the balance right between office and remote working and what that is likely to look like in the future. We can do a lot, however, by taking control of our environment and workday.
That could include scheduling breaks between video calls, blocking out time in your schedule to have some downtime away from your screen or simply shortening meetings if you do have to attend them. A truism for any meeting, but especially virtual meetings, is to avoid multitasking. Research has shown that switching between tasks can cost you as much as 40% of your productive time. Multitasking forces you to pay a mental price each time you interrupt one task and jump to another.
Change The Record
We’re spoiled for choice when it comes to the multitude of channels we can use to communicate with. We have a host of instant communication tools such as Slack and WhatsApp, as well as email, calls and text messages.
Given the wealth of options available, it is inevitable that colleagues will have their own preferences, and a good approach to breaking the repetitiveness of relying on just one channel is to ask them to pick their favorite communication tool. One channel adopted by the majority of employees may not be a fit for everyone, and by asking this basic question, you show a great degree of awareness for your colleagues. In addition, breaking up the channels of communication you use may just save you (and your tired eyes) from hours of screen time.
I’m not saying we should go back to writing letters or sending smoke signals to interact, but injecting some variety into your communication can only help you and your colleagues.
Tech Innovations Will Drive Changes To Remote Working
A survey by the BBC found that 50 of the biggest U.K. employers have no plans to return all staff to the office full time in the near future, and it has been well publicized that Google employees will work from home until at least summer 2021. When the pandemic subsides, working from home will remain popular with professionals. Companies will now have to become more flexible with staff schedules and availability for meetings. PwC’s June survey of U.S. executives and office workers shows that "most office workers (83%) want to work from home at least one day a week, and half of employers (55%) anticipate that most of their workers will do so long after Covid-19 is not a concern."
Clearly, all the signs point to a permanent move toward some form of remote working. A key part of this profound shift is that companies are rethinking workplace benefits — both the fun kind and the ones that help employees do their job most effectively. This issue matters, and a survey from Glassdoor found that over half of workers deem such perks as a “top consideration” before accepting a role.
Therefore, companies need to be extremely open and flexible to newer technological offerings that can improve how people do their jobs. Take some time to assess the pain points of meetings and daily tasks for your employees, and research the tools that might alleviate those problems. Ask your employees for their input when choosing these tools — or even ask them to be a part of the trial process. While the business meeting is a staple of how every company operates, it doesn’t mean the experience has to remain the same, and your employees likely have strong opinions on what the future should hold.