A guest blog by Jo Gibney.
I’d have thought, being more of an introvert than an extrovert, that I’d be thriving during lockdown. And yet, after almost four weeks (hello asthma!) of being home, three with my husband (who is also working from home), and two with the cat – I am not thriving. I have Zoom fatigue.
Something shifted, I think just before the UK officially went into lockdown. When we started talking about social distancing and self isolation. We collectively – and rightly – decided we needed to keep in touch. And suddenly everyone and their parents had a Zoom* account (*other video conferencing services available).
And so we chat, during working hours, and with our families at evenings and weekends. We’re all worried about one another, so we’re checking in more often. We’re having virtual coffees, virtual lunches (hello Gary Gower!), virtual dinners and pub quizzes, as well as meetings and catch ups, with our teams, managers and peers.
And there’s so much great content being produced. Free webinars, yoga, meditations – you name it, it’s probably on Zoom.
I’ve had some great moments. From a budgie landing on someone’s head, meeting new cats and dogs, colleagues’ kids floating past, and the time I had a meeting with someone on their cross trainer. We are well and truly bringing our whole selves to work. We can’t not!
I don’t think I’ve had as much interaction with people, ever! The biggest challenge I find with video calls is, they’re more intense, and harder to briefly zone out of. And personally, we’re using video calls to facilitate networking for our members, and record peer learning webcasts, and tech support really shouldn’t have a nap part way through a recording!
So here I am. I’ve got Zoom fatigue. I end some days feeling like I’ve been at a day long conference, yet I’ve never left the flat. And I know I’m not the only one. I believe that even the most extraverted extroverts are going to feel it at some point.
So seeing as this situation is likely to continue for a while, how can we deal with Zoom fatigue? I have three suggestions that could help.
1. Ban video chats for a day. I don’t mean on a weekend, I mean take a work day off from video calls. I did it last week, and it gave me the boost I needed. It’s no different to having a meeting-free day. But his is probably harder to protect. As we adjust and deal with the crises caused by lockdown, there will initially be an expectation that we’re available for calls whenever. After all, it’s not like you can go anywhere. So be bold and block out a day where you can do deep work, and say no to video calls.
2. Be clear with your boundaries. Because we’re all stuck indoors, and with some of our colleagues juggling caring responsibilities and working unusual hours, there’s a risk you could get drawn into working longer hours. Plan your working from home day and set a time where you say no more work (or at least no more video calls). The buzz of energy from a later call definitely impacts how well I can relax in the evenings. Maybe have a ‘no Zoom after 6pm’ rule. Or perhaps you need this rule in your personal life, so why not have a night in, free from video chats?
3. Pace yourself. On a Lucidity Network Zoom (!) the other day, I was reminded that this is a marathon not a sprint. We’re in this for the long haul, and if we overdo things now, we’re going to burn our quickly. So, like face-to-face meetings, question why you’ve been invited, ask for an agenda, and understand what expectations there are of you as part of the call. Don’t say yes to every video call just because you can, or because you want to catch up with colleagues. Instead, be mindful about which calls you say yes to. And if you want to catch up with your colleagues, instead set up a short virtual coffee, or go old school with a phone call, where you can just chat, rather than extend an existing meeting
I don’t want to give the impression that I hate Zoom. Not at all! It is being used in some great ways, and it helps us have a visual connection to others. Lucidity Network weekly lunches with Lucy and her dog Gary are a great example of social and unpressured calls that you can go to if you feel like chatting and decline if you need some quiet time.
But like everything, it needs to be in moderation. Currently the sheer volume of connection is overwhelming, particularly as many of us are still adjusting to life indoors.
I know I that by following these suggestions, I will settle into a more sensible routine, and my Zoom fatigue with reduce. Your thoughts are welcome.
Jo Gibney is Head of Business Development at the Association of Volunteer Managers, a membership organisation for anyone who works with volunteers across all sectors. She is also a bit of an introvert.