At Worktank, we’re all about communicating, engaging and connecting. We’re really good at educating businesses on how they can use video solutions to do all three of these things effectively with their internal teams, external partners, clients and customers. But here’s the thing, it’s possible to do too much, particularly with regard to video meetings.
A new buzzword has emerged. It’s “Zoom Fatigue” and, thanks to this whole pandemic, it’s becoming an epidemic. If you and your team are totally zoomed out. Here’s why and how to fix it.
What is Zoom Fatigue?
When most companies went remote last March, we were all running on adrenaline and experiencing large swings in both anxiety and boredom. Zoom, Google Meet and Microsoft Teams were exciting, new tools that we all assumed would be temporary. Unfortunately, it’s almost a year later, and many offices, even families and friends, are still using video conferencing.
Not only has the novelty of these tools worn off, but being on a video call actually requires more attention and mental processing than traditional in-person meetings. First, there’s all that close-up eye contact, which is taxing. Then there’s the need to overly exaggerate your nonverbal cues, such as head nodding, smiling and giving the thumbs up, so your colleagues know you’re listening, interested and engaged. All of which also burn mental calories.
You’ve got your own mirror image to contend with, which science has shown is stressful. Especially when you’re staring at yourself for hours a day, while doing things like talking, listening, getting feedback and many other things we aren’t accustomed to watching ourselves do. And lest we forget all the other technical tasks that drain the brain during a video conference, such as dealing with spotty internet, screen freezes and the fear of your partner, child or pet walking into frame.
Video conferencing is the ultimate multitasking exercise, and the more challenging the mental task, the more glucose your body uses, which is why we feel Zoom Fatigue.
How to Cure Zoom Fatigue
Now that you know why we’re all so tired and drained from these seemingly endless video meetings, here are four things you can do to ease the suffering.
Cut Back on Meetings
It’s totally normal to go overboard on meetings when a team first transitions to remote. However, just because you can have an online meeting doesn’t mean you should. The general rule of thumb is that meetings should take up less than 14% of your time. That means, if you and your team are spending more than 5.5 hours in meetings during a standard 40-hour work week, it’s too much.
Consolidate and reduce the number of team meetings by creating and circulating an agenda ahead of time. Maintain a regular meeting schedule of once a week or twice a month. Discourage pop-up meetings in between by suggesting non-emergency items be tabled until the next scheduled meeting. And, if there’s nothing on the agenda when the next meeting rolls around, don’t be afraid to cancel it.
Keep in mind, if your team had good communication before going remote, they’ve probably already instinctively found new ways to maintain that communication on their own while working apart. And if the team isn’t communicating well, more meetings won’t help. You’ll need to identify the root cause and focus on more effective solutions.
Mix it Up with Other Media
We’ve all see the meme, “This meeting could’ve been an email”, and it’s funny because it’s true. It’s possible to skip the meeting and allow your team to review non-critical updates when it’s convenient for them, via email or a pre-recorded video message. This is much less disruptive than everyone putting their work on hold to join a meeting at a set time.
Even mixing in conference calls – remember those? – between video meetings is a welcome reprieve. Simply allowing you and your team to talk with the webcam off will give your brains a break, because staring into a camera and all those faces on the screen, including your own, requires mental multitasking that doesn’t exist on a voice call.
Allow for Breaks
Many companies seem to have forgotten the science-backed best practices we all had in place to keep in-person meetings more productive and less taxing. For example, not scheduling meetings back-to-back applies to online meetings, too, as does factoring in breaks during particularly long meetings for colleagues to stretch their legs, use the bathroom, or grab a drink. Not to mention that many meetings take an hour or longer, when 20-30 minutes would be sufficient.
Another tip? Encourage your team to switch from Gallery to Speaker view during presentations or other more one-sided, non-collaborative points in a meeting. This allows attendees to soften their gaze and remove some of that mental multitasking inherent in the “Brady Bunch” view. Maybe even allow attendees to turn off the webcam periodically during meetings to provide nonverbal breaks.
To avoid staring at ourselves and constantly critiquing the reflection, which research has shown is taxing and contributes to negative emotional consequences, attendees can use the “hide self-view” button. To access this option, simply right-click on your own photo in the Zoom video frame.
Create a No-Meeting Zone
We all have hours of the day, or even the week or the month, when we are more productive, and other periods when we feel like slowing down, maybe using the time to check emails and return phone calls. These down times are ideal for communication and meetings.
Rather than disrupting your team’s natural work cadence, determine when they are most productive, and declare this time a no-meeting zone. Large corporations, such as Intel and IBM, call it “quiet time”, or a meeting-free block of time for completing specific projects and tasks. For your team, it might mean the first or last week of the month is off-limits. Maybe it means no morning meetings, or no meetings on Mondays. Whenever you decide, stick to it, and make sure to only schedule meetings outside of this productive time.
More Tips for Successful Zoom Meetings
Navigating the world of online meetings is challenging, but Worktank can help. We’ve been working with global organizations and Fortune 500 companies to implement or improve their virtual meeting management strategy for more than 20 years. We not only provide video solutions and technical support, but can offer key insights into strategic communications, presenter training and much more. We’ll even let you know when a meeting can be an email or a pre-recorded video message.