Brought to you by:
While many people are finding the rapid transition to remote work difficult to navigate, working away from the office can have some serious benefits: no commute, more family time, and fewer distractions like chit-chat and an unrelenting meeting schedule.
At least, in theory.
Unfortunately for many office workers out there, companies have seemingly taken all their bad office habits and just moved them online. Working from home has not seemed to spare many from the plague of unnecessary meetings.
What’s a remote worker to do? Here’s how to fight back against overzealous Zoomers.
Zoom Fatigue Is Real
“Zoom fatigue”—that tired feeling you get after a long video meeting—has become a feeling many office workers are intimately familiar with. For many of us, these meetings aren’t anything new; we’re used to being in lots of meetings throughout the day. But once these meetings became virtual, they seem to be far more mentally and emotionally taxing.
Experts say that it’s simply harder to process verbal information over a video call than in person, where we can benefit from non-verbal communication cues. It could also come from the fact that we feel pressured to more actively show our engagement.
“At first, I thought Zoom meetings were better than in-person meetings” says Sunshine Watson, donor database manager at Valleywise Health Foundation. “Then I noticed that I was exhausted afterward, and dread days that involve them.”
Remote work has to function differently—simply jumping into a virtual meeting room won’t provide the same benefits as an in-person huddle.
“Be Mindful of the Tradeoffs”
David Heinemeier Hansson’s company, Basecamp, takes the art of virtual communication seriously. The team is primarily dispersed, with a few employees located at the company’s headquarters in Chicago.
“You can’t not communicate,” says Heinemeier Hansson. “Few things are as important to study, practice, and perfect as clear communication.”
In his eyes, what many companies get wrong about communicating with dispersed teams is the tendency to favor short form communication (email, Slack) and meetings (virtual or otherwise). Rather, internal communication at Basecamp is based on long-form writing. Every day, employees write-up an answer to one simple question: “What did you work on today?” Besides reducing tedious back-and-forth, Heinemeier Hansson says this forces people to be more thoughtful and clear with their communication.
“This routine is about loose accountability and strong reflection,” he says. “Writing up what you did every day is a great way to think back about what you accomplished and how you spent your time.”
Know When to Walk Away
When under intense pressure to ramp up production, Tesla founder Elon Musk sent out a now famous email empowering his employees with some productivity tips.
- Excessive meetings are the blight of big companies and almost always get worse over time. Please get rid of all large meetings, unless you’re certain they are providing value to the whole audience, in which case keep them very short.
- Also get rid of frequent meetings, unless you are dealing with an extremely urgent matter. Meeting frequency should drop rapidly once the urgent matter is resolved.
- Walk out of a meeting or drop off a call as soon as it is obvious you aren’t adding value. It is not rude to leave, it is rude to make someone stay and waste their time.
Meetings are such a deeply rooted aspect of office culture that these habits will be hard to break. But the more that employees feel empowered to say no and make efforts to protect their time, your company will be better for it.
The Perfect Time For Change
Change is always difficult but can also be a catalyst for long-overdue improvements. If your team finds continuous Zoom meetings draining, see what can be replaced by long-form writing exercises in a collaborative document. Switch a few video calls to old fashioned phone calls. Empower the team to excuse themselves from calls in which they are not vital contributors. Remember—employees will feel empowered to make changes when their managers set the example.
For more helpful articles like this, please visit Catalyst, Convene’s meeting, event, and workplace blog. Like what you read? Subscribe by email for new stories every week.