Why bosses need to act now to reverse Zoom fatigue

| May 28, 2021

As online meeting technology becomes a ubiquitous part of our day-to-day work lives, a workplace expert is blaming ‘Zoom Fatigue’ on employers’ failure to set rules and procedures around its use.

Maureen Kyne from Maureen Kyne & Associates said video conferencing apps like Zoom have become the new office, meeting room and boardroom and how we interact and use the digital platforms requires a clearly-defined company policy.

Ms Kyne said while teleconferencing platforms such as Zoom had afforded workers and bosses new freedoms during COVID, their use also comes with serious consequences.

She believes the digital meeting solutions have forever changed office behaviour and the way we conduct meetings, collaborate, generate ideas, make decisions and even deliver outcomes – and warns that these changes are not necessarily for the better.

“We’ve inadvertently made ourselves busier than ever because of the ease of video conferencing so it’s no wonder we have Zoom fatigue,” she said.

“Like a new toy, we have overused it and we are now rapidly growing tired of the Zoom novelty and the consequences we’re seeing include bored, unmotivated, lethargic and burnt-out workers

“If you didn’t have back-to-back face-to-face meetings every single day of the week before COVID, why are you having this overload on Zoom now?”

“Zoom fatigue is real and bosses need to urgently find ways to reverse this phenomenon or they’ll end up with a workplace full of what I would describe as Zoombies!”

Ms Kyne said when the founder and CEO of Zoom admits tofeeling fatigue using the product that has made him millions then it’s a red flag to change our relationship with video conferencing.

Research out of Sweden in April also confirms Zoom fatigue is real and women suffer from it more than men because they have longer meetings and shorter breaks between meetings than men.

 Ms Kyne suggests five ways in which workplaces should modify and adapt their behaviour to combat online meeting fatigue:

Establish rules: Companies need to create some boundaries around the use of video conferencing so employees are not engaging with employees, canvassing ideas and making decisions solely on Zoom. Ms Kyne says limiting the number of virtual meetings a day and establishing guidelines around what is deemed a necessary video meeting will allow employees to have time away from the intensity of long back-to-back meetings. Educating managers on the benefits of encouraging short breaks in between meetings will also help refresh staff.

Provide training: In the rush to use video conferencing, companies have embraced the technology without understanding and capitalising on its offerings. Features such as chat rooms, and white boards and the ability to use these to collaborate in small teams are an alternative to the intense face-to-face, one camera draining video meeting most of us have become accustomed to.

Think before you Zoom: Ms Kyne believes workers need to be educated about the appropriateness of when to use video conferencing for hosting and running meetings – and stresses that not all communication requires a Zoom meeting. Instead of scheduling multiple video meetings, see if a client or colleague is open to sending comprehensive updates via e-mail, or even a quick debrief over the phone. And for those who insist on video conferencing, she says phone calls and text messages can often be just as effective.

Send out an agenda: Clearly define the purpose of the meeting from the start. Having a purpose will help decide if the meeting is warranted and an agenda will determine the length of the meeting.  Ask yourself, does this need to be two hours? Probably not.

Stand up meetings: Zoom has reduced our mobility and no doubt contributed to the COVID kilos. Ms Kyne wants to see a return to walk and talk meetings; having phone hook ups with colleagues when walking to get a coffee like we did pre COVID. She recommends daily stand up meetings becoming a daily ritual.  Schedule an hour meeting and ask everyone to stand up or go outside for the remaining 15 minutes of the meeting and you may find yourself achieving better results during the last 15 minutes of the meeting said Ms Kyne.

Ms Kyne said the Zoom workplace needs to change because it has made us physically and mentally lazy and scheduling back-to-back meetings doesn’t lead to better engagement, greater productivity or even a greater bottom line.

“We have the power to change this and reverse Zoom fatigue so the technology doesn’t dictate how we run our offices.

“Our reliance to run our businesses and boardroom using Zoom has interrupted our regular patterns of how we work.

She said there are many occasions when video conferencing is being used as a catch up or time out by staff so a purpose and agenda will make workers accountable and it puts lazy workers on notice.

“Always ask yourself what needs to be a meeting or what can be an email, a recorded message, or a deck that you send out. Eight back-to-back hours on a screen is not a life it’s a death sentence.”