Working from the comfort of your home was welcomed by many during corona times, but then the difficulties of working in a remote environment set in. Constant video conferencing, communication gaps, collaboration hitches, and loneliness seem to have hit the working population hard.
If you feel like you’re more exhausted after a long day of meetings over Zoom or a similar video conferencing tool versus when they happened in-person, you’re not alone.
Like many other phenomena associated with the COVID-19 led Pandemic, video meeting fatigue is real and more common than you think. HBR recently mentioned that “Zoom fatigue” has popped up more and more on social media, and Google searches for the phrase have steadily increased since early March.
So much so that companies are forced to put restrictions on the hours one spends attending video calls.
Citi, the third-largest bank in the United States, announced recently that it was eliminating videoconference meetings on Fridays for its 210,000 employees. The rule applies to internal company meetings only–customers, regulators, and others outside the company can still schedule Friday video meetings, which an Citi employee shall attend. But it will be cameras off for internal employees.
The CEO Jane Fraser sent a memo to all employees regarding this new policy.
The memo has listed out the reasons for a one-day break from Zoom meetings, which can be considered by other companies as well.
The Pandemic has blurred the lines between home and office. A pandemic weariness has set in, says the memo, and since a return to offices is still way off, it is time to take stock of the new working practices.
The recent social media notoriety that a Goldman Sachs internal survey by new analysts about the abusive 100-hours working week has set the whole corporate world thinking.
Jane Fraser’s memo came just one day later, and she addressed the issue of overwork and inhuman schedules. She wrote, “When our work regularly spills over into nights, very early mornings, and weekends, it can prevent us from recharging fully, and that isn’t good for you nor, ultimately, for Citi.”
The memo also encouraged employees to take time off for vacations. The advice was to stick to office hours for scheduling meetings and not carry it over to non-working hours.
Fraser also declared the Friday before Memorial Day this year a companywide holiday so all employees can “reset.”
The term “Zoom fatigue” could be affecting more than 300 million daily participants of Zoom. A Stanford research explains why Zoom meetings tire people out more than in-person ones do.
He says that the way camera meetings are held can be exhausting. The reason being we keep on staring at the camera for a long time. There is no relief for the eye from external stimuli.
It is very unnatural and the human mind is not equipped to handle this sort of conversing. It is said communication is 20 percent verbal and 80 percent about body language. When the body language clues are absent, the mind tries to overcompensate and looks for other clues.
You work harder to understand other people’s nonverbal communications and also put more effort into making your own nonverbal communications (a thumbs-up, for example) really clear so that others will pick up on them.
Another problem is the static way the interaction happens. There is not much movement away from the device. You need to be near the camera all the time. The small breaks the person takes during in-person meetings are absent here. You cannot get up to fetch water or take a breather by zoning out for some time.
Zoom meetings have become the one-all for any tasks to be carried out. It seems the video conferencing window has become the office cabin that one cannot wander away from.
Giving everyone one day a week when they don’t have to deal with it should make a big difference.
Before the Pandemic, there were many companies that had adopted a policy of no-meetings day once a week. People generally find meetings a drag, where little gets done is a general perception.
With multiple meetings in a day, it can be difficult to get much else done.
Keeping one day of the week meeting-free means people can catch up on some pending work. In this era of videoconferencing, it also gives them a day when they don’t have to stare at a camera the whole day and look chirpy.