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I Don’t Believe in ‘Zoom Fatigue’

Rant alert!

Hands up who thinks they have ‘Zoom fatigue’? Do you? Really?

You’ve spent all day in back-to-back meetings. You’re tired, you can’t see that you’ve got anything done, and now all those meetings are over, you feel like you can actually start the ‘real’ work.

This isn’t a new thing. The problem of spending too much time in meetings has been around in organisations for years. We’ve just moved the issue online – and now we’re talking about it as if it’s a shocking phenomenon resulting from the pandemic.

Remote working V in-person working

When we all began working from home in March 2020, there was plenty of talk about the advantages. No more time lost in commuting. Lots more time spent with our families. And of course, the feeling that we could be so much more productive as a result.

Jump forward to today, and there’s a lot of talk about burn-out. I talk to people about their meeting habits and I’m surprised at how shocked they are that they’re in eight-ten back-to-back meetings every day. Virtually.

Somehow, despite all the talk of technology making our lives easier, they feel even harder. Do you know when this last happened? The Industrial Revolution. Our roles have turned into a production line of meeting after meeting – and not to get the work done. Nope, we’re talking about the work we need to do. Sometimes we even have a meeting to plan the meeting!

All around me the discussion rages on. Remote versus hybrid versus in-person working. Which one is the best? Frankly, I think this is the wrong focus. They’re missing the point.

It’s not about where we work. It’s about how we work.

Different roles have different location requirements. People have different needs, depending on their preferences and life. Just accept it – there is not only one right place to work.

How to take control of your meetings

So, what can you do to get rid of this, let’s call it ‘meeting fatigue’? First – re-assess your boundaries. Decide how you want to work. What should your day look like? And then, communicate and be prepared to defend your boundaries.

  • Decide what percentage of your time you can spend in meetings and still get your job done. And stick to it.
  • It’s your responsibility to make the meeting effective, whether you’re a participant or the organiser. Take responsibility. If nothing is accomplished, what can you do to change things, instead of just accepting this and then moaning about it?
  • When you do make suggestions to make the meeting better, be prepared to back them up. If the other attendees don’t take your ideas seriously, vote with your feet and stop going.
  • You’re in charge of your calendar. Don’t accept invites for back-to-back meetings. Simple.
  • Suggest shorter meetings that help keep everyone focused. It’s amazing what can be achieved in 20 minutes. Why are meetings normally one hour? Is it just habit?
  • Consider whether you’re the right person. If you’re not, could you delegate it to someone who it might be more relevant for or interested?
  • Don’t organise or attend meetings that could have been emails!
  • If you need to know the outcome, find another way to get the updates.
  • Watch the clock. Be punctual to arrive and finish on time too. There’s nothing worse than a day where you arrive late at each meeting because your last one ran over.

So, is Zoom fatigue real?

I’ve not said anything shockingly innovative here. It’s not new. You’re probably reading this and thinking it’s obvious. So, why aren’t you doing all these things?

Zoom fatigue, also called virtual fatigue, is described online as tiredness and burnout associated with overuse of videoconferencing. But, like I said, I don’t believe it’s all down to being on screen.

What’s the real reason people are switching their cameras off?

They’re bored!

Bored of meetings for the sake of meetings. Not learning anything new or making any effective contributions. And it’s far easier to zone out and work on something else when no one can see your face.

So please, stop hiding behind this ‘new pandemic phenomenon’. Take responsibility for your meetings. Make them interesting, useful and relevant. Or cancel them and stop wasting everyone’s time.

Rant over.

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