How To Combat Zoom Fatigue
It’s 6:20 am. I scramble to ready myself for my first of many back-to-back virtual appointments for the day. This one is the most important, given that my client company’s COO and CEO called the meeting with the subject line, “Critical.”
Carefully sipping my scalding hot coffee, I impatiently stare at my computer monitor. I wish it would finish loading updates already and log in. The red digits on the clock read 6:29 am. My computer just came back online.
Accessing my calendar, the Zoom link takes me to the all-too-familiar meeting page. I click join. A few seconds elapse. Then I’m on live in the nick of time. In fact, I’m the only one on the video call! I enjoy a few minutes of calm before the other two execs join, and we launch into an intense discussion that sets the tone for the day.
Marathon virtual meetings have become a common practice during Covid. The time saved commuting has been supplanted with additional meetings, oftentimes double booked. We hope that something will end early so we can have a bio break and calm that monster making noise in our bellies.
The meetings themselves are often one dimensional. The larger the group, typically the more disengaged they become. I can see people multitasking while I’m presenting. What’s with all the audible Slack notifications? Why the hell are half the cameras off? She isn’t responding. Why isn’t she responding? It’s her turn to present. And we just lost a panelist. . . . I can’t hear you, you’re breaking up!
Love it or hate it, video conferencing is here to stay. We may as well embrace it and learn how to make the most of it. I’ve done the research and experimented in order to codify best practices that mitigate Zoom fatigue. There are three no-regrets moves you can make to ensure you’re not contributing to Zoom fatigue.
- Make the meeting memorable, use humor
Numerous studies conducted by recognizable institutions such as MIT, Stanford, and Wharton have proven the benefits of humor in the workplace. Additionally, the benefits of humor in the physical workspace apply to the virtual workplace, too. Notable callouts extracted from this Stanford Business School article:
● Laughter releases dopamine, aiding in memory retention
● Humor releases oxytocin, the gateway hormone that promotes bonding, enhances trust, and reduces inhibitions
● Humor is a source of competitive advantage
There is an art and science to using humor, particularly in this ultrasensitive, HR-driven environment. I’ll defer to an expert that I’ve known for ten years on the subject. Ray Engan is the founder of Leadership Through Laughter. He was a stand-up comedian as well as comedy writer for “The Tonight Show” and “Late Night with David Letterman.” Ray summarizes how he’s helped organizations this way: “It’s about using the skills of standup comedy, not the jokes, per se, but the ability to win over the room.”
Of course, we should stay clear of making coworkers the punchline of a joke. There is plenty of situational material we can draw upon from our daily lives that can lead to chuckles. We don’t have to search too far.
The use of humor increases retention and adds an additional dimension in order to combat Zoom fatigue head on.
2. Eliminate distractions, remain professional
If you wouldn’t do something in a physical meeting with coworkers, don’t do it on a video conference. Some frequent consistent violations include:
● Eating on camera
● Visibly multitasking during the meeting
● Arriving late/leaving before the allocated meeting time ends
● Playing with hair, face, nose, etc.
● Holding side conversations
● Not dressing the part (you’re in a business meeting, not on your way to the beach)
Backgrounds can also be distracting. I conducted an interview recently where the candidate’s background was his disheveled closet, with items strewn about. I’ve been on video calls where significant others are walking in the background, half naked. Other times roommates are also on their own calls, and we can hear everything because there’s a lack of noise discipline. And when it comes to virtual backgrounds, choose wisely. Using a bed sheet to cover background distractions can serve many well.
Along these lines, be mindful of how you appear to your coworkers on screen.
● Position your camera so you are not talking down to your audience
● Look into the camera when you speak — eye contact is more important than ever
● Sit up straight or stand if possible when presenting
Eliminating distractions keeps attention on you and reduces Zoom fatigue.
3. Embrace technology
Digital divide aside, technology should be leveraged to enhance the experience.
Internet is spotty? Invest in a WiFi booster. Walking clients or coworkers through a demo? Use Zoom’s annotation tools for a more dynamic experience. Want to encourage interaction? Utilize Zoom’s breakout rooms. Keep it interesting with Augmented Reality by accessing the Snap Camera app. Take it to the next level and use Virtual Reality via Spatial to bring attendee avatars into a virtual room to commingle. Anyone can use the Zoom chat feature to share links, probe others privately to give you a lead in, or to interject your own points.
Enhance your audio with a small investment in a microphone. If you’re sharing a space, noise- cancelling headphones are a must. Don’t forget meeting etiquette such as turning off your microphone when you aren’t speaking, and avoid talking over others.
Leveraging technology combats Zoom fatigue.
We are given the opportunity to work remotely. Let’s not squander it by contributing to Zoom fatigue. Utilizing technology, eliminating distractions, and integrating humor into meetings effectively makes for better video conference calls, and that leads to a better work environment. Take on the challenge of making every Zoom meeting better than the last. It’s in your power to do so!