About one year ago … with the onset of COVID-19 … it was recognized that this was a for real and profoundly serious pandemic. Organizations of many types and in many fields moved to operate the business in a remote fashion. Rather suddenly, people were told to work from home. These same people scrambled to find a workspace in their residences. Companies feverishly worked to provide them with the tools and access they would need to move forward with the goals and related tasks associated with the organization. One such tool was the likes of Zoom.
Many struggled to be productive and focused while working from home. Of course this was nothing like the more business-like and professional atmosphere of an office. Zoom seemed like a ‘cure-all’. We may be distanced and yet the likes of Zoom enabled us to connect with our co-workers and teams. It provided the real connection that was missing and that so many needed. With Zoom we could see faces, reactions, chat and above all have connection! Ah … maybe this could work.
Yet here we are … a year after being on this path. And, as it turns out, the positives afforded by Zoom in the early months of this ‘normal’ are clearly on the wane. And because we are still living in a distanced world it seems prudent to consider the advantages still afforded by maintaining remote meetings while we address the negatives that many are experiencing with its’ use and change where needed.
WHAT ARE THE ISSUES THAT HAVE CAUSED ZOOM FATIGUE?
Let’s explore some of what people are experiencing and complaining about.
- When in a remote meeting we lose the ability to ‘read’ the other participants by seeing their verbal and non-verbal ‘clues’. These are things that enable others to gage the overall and specific reactions. Without this it is often presumed that participants agree. This conclusion can lead us down a wrong path which is clearly not desired or an advantage for best outcomes.
- Natural conversation and discussions are not realistic and even possible. Participants are generally muted to eliminate background noises and distractions (a dog barking or telephone ringing). Rather
than being able to simply jump into a conversation it requires a more organized approach to offering input. Having people speaking over one another creating frustration and confusion.
- Virtual meetings seem to have overtaken other forms of communication … forms that would be more productive, appropriate and time efficient. Users complain that every communication is via the likes of Zoom when a brief follow-up email would provide the update to a project and the decisions made in that meeting. Perhaps what contributes to this is our desire to ‘see’ other human beings … our co-workers even if not necessary.
- Too many people are requested to attend a virtual meeting who have little reason to be there. Why does this happen? Is it presumed that because one is working remotely, they have a lot more time? Therefore, they are asked to be in a meeting for no real justification or need for their input? It’s a good question and situation to ponder.
- Meeting organizers are scheduling others to attend a remote meeting without concern for their availability at a specific time. Thus, people complain that they are expected to be in a meeting when
they have 1 or 2 others wanting their attendance at the same or overlapping time. As one person indicated … “You should have been looking at calendars before scheduling meetings before we added video … it’s just common sense, and professional” to do this now.
- Remaining focused and engaged in a virtual meeting is a challenge. The ability to do so is influenced by the length of the meeting as well as the various distractions that impact your ability to
pay attention. One may find themselves distracted by studying the rooms in which others are sitting during the call … often in their homes. Incoming emails or calls distract even if one can resist looking or responding. Turning off such things while in the meeting offers the likelihood of a shorter and more focused meeting.
- Remote meeting formats only intensify the things wrong with meetings in an organization. To the extent an organization calls meetings that appear to be unplanned and unstructured as it relates to agendas and topics the experience is too often very lengthy and time-wasted events. Carry this same approach into a virtual meeting format and it becomes even more-so. Thus, the issues are not with the likes of Zoom. Rather with a disorganized approach to having a meeting at all.
- Virtual meetings can and have caused productivity to plummet.
People are calling too many remote meetings when an email or text follow-up would suffice. Or meetings are delayed and extended because of technical connectivity issues and are imposing non-productive and wasted time of those involved.
HOW TO MINIMIZE THE NEGATIVES AND ACCENTUATE THE POSITIVES
The above are some of the key experiences that those attending remote meetings are having. These issues have given virtual meeting application a negative rap. And what can be done to resolve these real issues? Like all new innovations whether consciously chosen or imposed on us, we need to learn how to use them effectively. Zoom and its equivalents are no different. However, it will require that organizations seek and listen to those using it and the issues that are real to better define how to employ it to everyone’s best advantage. Zoom fatigue is not something a good night’s sleep will take care of. Yet Zoom is definitely something that can have a positive impact on lives and business success when it is used and applied to work realities.