Following the widespread shift to remote work this spring, many organizations have used video communication as an important tool to keep newly dispersed teams connected and engaged. Now, Zoom fatigue — that exhausted feeling you get after a long day of back-to-back video meetings (regardless of platform) — has become one of the many unique challenges of living and working during a pandemic.
Kicking things off with a new client? Zoom meeting. Need to host a brainstorm session? That’s now a Zoom meeting, too. Team building activity? You guessed it — Zoom it is. Because our brains are wired to rely on nonverbal cues like glances, gestures, nods and facial expressions to communicate effectively and comfortably, the extra effort it takes to connect with others without these critical in-person cues can leave us feeling drained of energy and vitality. In addition, most of us weren’t used to having cameras trained on us for hours a day. The visual onslaught of being forced to stare directly at people’s faces for long periods of time, while also feeling as though we’re constantly performing for an audience, is exhausting.
But with remote work likely here to stay for the long haul, the need to connect teams through video technology isn’t going anywhere. As a result, Zoom fatigue could evolve into Zoom burnout if left unchecked. It’s critical for business leaders to address this issue now to support the psychological well-being, engagement and performance of their remote teams.
Here are three ways leaders can help reenergize teams experiencing Zoom fatigue:
Not everything needs to be a Zoom meeting. Conduct a cost/benefit analysis of your meetings to determine where you can ditch video in favor of phone calls or even emails to alleviate some of the psychological stress on your team.
What do you gain by choosing to host a meeting on video rather than a voice call? What do you lose? Try using this simple Zoom cost/benefit matrix to quickly evaluate the relative cost and benefit of each meeting and identify the next steps to take.
Not all Zoom meetings are created equal. Facilitating an engaging, energizing video call takes intentional planning and effort. For inspiration, think back to your own experiences: Which video meetings were engaging rather than draining, and what made the difference? Talk with your peers, colleagues and team members to gauge their experiences and find new ideas. How are others creating more engaging video meetings?
We’re all navigating this situation together, so let’s learn from one another. To get your wheels turning, here are a few best practices that are working well for many business leaders:
Priming ourselves with positive emotions improves performance, engagement and resilience while reducing stress, so inject a little levity into your Zoom interactions with virtual team building activities like icebreaker games, book clubs or virtual happy hours. Not only will these activities help your team feel more connected, but they will also enhance meeting participation and outcomes.
Send Pre-meeting Reading Materials and Agendas and Post-meeting Takeaways
Share resources with meeting participants ahead of time to limit the need to share your screen. This way, you will be able to catch critical nonverbal cues you might otherwise miss. In addition, sending meeting objectives and agendas beforehand, as well as wrap-up notes afterward, will help everyone stay on track to achieving the team’s goals.
Encourage Visual Communication Whenever Possible
Use “visual voting” by asking team members to raise their hands to indicate agreement on a plan of action, or consider visual “scaling,” where people hold up their fingers to rate the importance of an issue on a scale of one to five.
Balance Talking Time
The most effective and engaging meetings provide space for people to talk in equal measure, so avoid long monologues with one person at the mic whenever possible. Instead, conduct round robins, ask questions and give participants enough time to answer, and encourage multiple presenters.
Poll the Team on the Best Time of Day
If you feel like 5 p.m. Zoom meetings usually have low energy, you’re probably correct. Poll your team on their preferred time of day for video meetings. You won’t be able to accommodate everyone, but you might discover a time when your team is less likely to feel burned out.
Studies show that psychological safety, a sense of mutual respect and trust, is a crucial element of high-performance teams. Leverage this shared experience to connect and build a greater sense of psychological safety on your team. Instead of pretending Zoom fatigue doesn’t exist, give yourself and your team members the opportunity to feel it, talk about it and (hopefully) laugh about it together. Share what you’re experiencing, and invite others to do the same in a way that builds positive bonds while maintaining professionalism.
Here are a few question to kick off a conversation with your team:
- Who’s experiencing Zoom fatigue this week, and how are you dealing with it?
- What advice can you share with the team about creating balance in your day?
- What have been some bright spots of working from home? Have you learned or experienced something unique or beneficial?
- What is our team currently doing that makes your life working from home easier?
- What can we do more of as a team to make this experience better for all of us?
Phrasing the questions in solution-focused ways will help team members discuss Zoom fatigue organically while maintaining a positive and appropriate tone. If anyone expresses high levels of stress around the topic, follow up with him or her individually after the meeting.
In this unprecedented period of adaptation, many organizations that went entirely remote in one day are still figuring out how to navigate this new reality. Zoom fatigue is one of many unforeseen challenges, but it has also opened up an important dialogue about workplace communication and human connection that will have significant repercussions on the future of work. Seize this opportunity to improve and innovate your approach to remote work, and reconnect with your dispersed employees to continue supporting happy, high-performing teams.