• Westwood International

What's the true root of Zoom fatigue? And how can you make connecting with your team less draining?

Time magazine referred to the COVID-19 pandemic as "the world's largest work-from-home experiment," and it's not looking like this "experiment" is ending anytime soon. With an incredible 42 percent of the U.S. labor force now working from home full-time, most everyone has become very familiar with video conferencing and Zoom calls.

Initially, logging on to Zoom felt fun! Adding interesting backgrounds, seeing everyone at once, having happy hours, etc. it was our primary communication platform, and we didn't see Zoom fatigue coming at us full speed. But once it hit, it hit hard. What was once a fun way to connect with office mates also became our only way to communicate with and see our loved ones. We celebrated birthdays, weddings, baby showers, fantasy draft picks, and even funerals, all in virtual conference rooms. Zoom has become less associated with fatigue and more with burnout at this point.

So what can you do for your team to help reduce Zoom fatigue and make calls more productive and engaging? Here are a few tips we're getting the most positive feedback on:

Manage when meetings happen.

If you notice that your team (and even you) are going from one call to the next, all day long, it can be a huge energy suck because each of those calls can feel like a separate performance. It can also take away from productivity. If you're on calls all day, when will the actual work get done? Be aware of your team's schedules and be conscious of Zoom overload.

Manage the Zoom room.

Assign presenters, minimize unorganized brainstorming, launch polls — incorporate variety. Have team members write ideas down before the call and share in the chat or on Slack, so the conversations aren't dominated by the more outspoken team members leaving the introverts listening in the background not being heard.

The chat function is also crucial when hosting calls with a large number of attendees. It ensures everyone is seen and heard but helps eliminate unproductive situations where people are fighting for airtime. Chats can also be saved and shared with the group after the call for reference.

Share recordings and be sensitive to everyone's time.

Help reduce anxiety around missing something or needing to take notes on everything that is discussed by sending Zoom attendees a recording of the call.

Also, try to remember to be considerate of everyone's time. If a topic only requires 15 minutes to discuss, make the call for 15 minutes and stick to an agenda. Just because google calendars and Zoom scheduling default to 1-hour meetings doesn't mean all calls should be that long!

Know when to send an email.

With the option of just hopping on a call and chatting through ideas, we forget how helpful and efficient a simple bulleted email can be. You don't always have to default to Zoom.

Often people find it less overwhelming to read, process, understand and save a message as a reference than sitting on a call that ends with everyone wondering what the point was or what their deliverables need to be.

Allow time for cameras to be off.

Yes, it is nice to see everyone's face, so you know they are present, and you can see how they are visibly responding to the things you are saying, but this can create anxiety for some participants and can be a distraction. If everyone on the call is looking at themselves or Hank's dog playing in the background, they might miss the call's point. Also, feeling like you are in performance mode on calls all day is draining. Giving folks a break and allowing videos to be off can reduce anxiety and allow the attendees to be more focused on the message of the call vs. the floating heads on their screen.

Consider setting up an intranet site.

Here your team can manage projects and progress, get daily updates, and communicate easily on an alternative platform to Zoom. Let your team catch everyone up on plans and current organizational events in a different virtual space that can be accessed when it is convenient for your employees.

If you HAVE to be on longer calls, relax, check in with your team on a more personal level and make it fun.

Before calls start, try to choose a time at least once a week to do a personal check-in for team members. Make space for them to talk openly about how they have been and what's going on in their lives. You can even make it more focused by asking them to answer one thing they are grateful for and one thing they might need help with. (Or something along those lines). People may be going through rough patches so recognize that. Talk about it. This is a time to be a bit more gentle with ourselves and others, so be real.

It is also ok to make the calls fun!! One client had their Zoom attendees bring a recipe and draw the ingredients to share with the group. Some hosted scavenger hunts for items in their home like their favorite t-shirt, funny coffee mug, or red Swingline stapler. This gets participants up and about while adding an element of fun and personality to the call.

If you are hosting the call, STAND UP!

Our clients who stand share that they are better able to engage participants with more energy and movement than sitting and flipping through a slide deck. It also makes it more evident that you are running the meeting by creating an air of confidence and leadership through body language. Standing and moving again keeps you more alert and keeps the participant's focus on you.

So how will you step up your Zoom game?

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