Zoomed Out!

Zoomed Out!

Category : 2020

When Ozzie and Harriet were giving us our first taste of reality TV, everybody loved Lucy, and Alfred Hitchcock scared the daylights out of us every week, Zoom was what you ate, not what you did. In the era of classic television and sugar-saturated cereals like Sugar Smacks, Sugar Pops, and Frosty O’s, Zoom was a healthy alternative full of whole grain wheat and disgusting stuff your mother said was good for you.

Fast forward 65 years and a company that launched in 2011 as Saasbee is making Zoom a vital link between millions of people wanting to be productive and connected in a world of life by video. In the ever-changing dynamic of a COVID-19 marketplace, Zoom is also providing the medium for a new phenomenon that didn’t exist six weeks ago … Zoom fatigue.

When people look for ways to avoid a video conference, pass on potential business conversations because the meeting is by video, or tell friends gathered for an online chat that the conversation is their 10th hour on Zoom that day, the situation is worth consideration. While still only vaguely defined, Zoom fatigue is gaining legitimacy through articles in Psychology Today, National Geographic, and Harvard Business Review.

Video overload is driven by a long list of factors including –

Intensified Focus – Engaging with people in a video platform requires more focus than routine meetings in a conference room. If you look at your phone or read a document in an office meeting, no one notices. Look away in a video call-even to take notes, and all the faces in the Hollywood Squares grid see you and wonder what you’re doing. One writer states the brain stress of looking at a dozen faces at once is like trying to watch 12 television programs at the same time.

Loss of Connection – May people are feeling relationally estranged after weeks of separation. A quick survey on LinkedIn found the loss of energy from being in a room together and the absence of handshakes and hugs is a noteworthy loss. While video telephony provides a vehicle for communication, those mini-second delays create a truncated process, at best. As one LinkedIn responder noted, free-flowing in-person conversations aren’t normally punctuated with, “Sorry, go ahead.”

Lack of Leader Visibility – In a world of Zoom, Teams, and WebEx there are no unplanned leader interactions. A large part of an executive’s day is filled with valuable conversations that begin with, “Do you have a second?” and happen in a hallway or by the coffee machine. Now, every interaction is planned, scheduled, and intentional. While a virtual world enables business, it also eliminates those moments when a senior leader can stop by the cafeteria and informally interact with any group of employees grabbing a meal at the same time.

Absence of Boundaries – Many who joke about living at the office now do. Spouses, kids, and pets are now co-workers. Colleagues and bosses that don’t have a history of respecting personal boundaries may respect them less now. Requests to “jump on a call after supper” that might have been negotiated in the past are harder to resist when 14% of the population is looking for a job. People with kids at home want to show the team that even with managing schoolwork, they are in the game 100 percent. They may find it hard to draw a line and say, “I’m sorry, that time is already committed.”

If you ask Google how to overcome this new effect, you get about 900,000 responses. Here are several you can try-

Make breaks as intentional as your meetings. A day of video calls is not the same as a day of meetings. Life by video equates to more hours in a chair than normal and the chair is probably not the ergonomic wonder you have at the office. Moving between offices and conference rooms is gone. You biggest walk now is to the bathroom or the kitchen. Give you brain and your body a break. Every call doesn’t have to begin at the top or bottom of the hour. Schedule calls so you can pause your brain and stretch your muscles. Fully dress so you can get up and move during a call without being embarrassed. And if your pet walks into your office, letting him jump into your lap may be the moment of levity everyone needs.

Shut off the camera. Just because you can use video doesn’t mean you should. Most people aren’t used to looking at themselves during meetings. They are hyper-critical of their appearance (especially those needing a haircut or color) and they feel like they are on stage as much as on a call. If you don’t need to share a document or see the person, as the day wears on, cut the camera or use the phone.

Manage your mental diet. Unprecedented is a frequent description of the current environment and social media enables every well-informed expert and half-loaded nut case to offer equally convincing explanations about what’s going on. If you get a moment free at your desk, it’s tempting to scan a news outlet or social media platform only to rediscover that bad press spreads faster than good news-unless you are John Krasinski’s SGN program. If you are eating a lot of junk your body is feeling it. If you are loading your brain with negativity both your brain and your body are going to hurt. Intentionally engage with people or sources that are anchored in reality-while staying fueled by optimism.

The COVID-19 business environment isn’t temporary and wise leaders will find ways to manage themselves and their teams to get things done without zoning out. Leverage the technology without losing your mind.