Like many of you, my team and I have been using Zoom and Google Hangouts as our go-to for calls with clients and vendors.
While we really value the opportunity to interact face-to-face with our clients, prospects, and freelancers, we definitely try to balance out all that screen time with audio-only calls -- especially when it's just our internal team on the line. That's because, whether we feel comfortable on video calls or not, Zoom fatigue is a real thing.
With an in-person conversation, you can rely on body language and other cues to pick up the slack when your attention starts to wane. But engaging with a Zoom meeting requires a level of focus that can be downright exhausting (particularly for women). Add to that the simple fact that people seem to feel more self-conscious on Zoom than they do in real life or on a voice call, which can also make for a less productive meeting.
Even if you're going back to the office, you may still be doing more video calls than you ever did before March 2020. Use these strategies to limit Zoom calls and make the on-screen chats you do have a lot more productive.
Set an Agenda
Just like in-person meetings, Zoom meetings can feel like a time-suck when there's no specific purpose and no clear objectives. Even if it's a quick meeting or catch-up, setting an agenda to ensure the meeting stays focused and on point is vital. If you're running the meeting, email an agenda to the group beforehand so everyone knows what will be discussed.
If you're not in charge of the meeting, request an agenda, or create one for yourself to stay on track. If you manage other people who'll be attending the meeting, ask them to prepare any talking points or questions they want to ask ahead of time.
An Organized Calendar
Having back-to-back Zoom meetings all day is too much for anyone, even seasoned Zoom pros.
When scheduling a Zoom meeting, build in extra time after the meeting so you can take a break, process what was discussed, and schedule any follow-ups or action items. Once or twice a day, take a real break -- don't just get on your phone and scroll through your social-media feed. Move around the house, go outside for a walk, or do something relaxing for at least 15 minutes to really let yourself decompress.
Make sure you're allocating yourself a set lunch break -- even if it's short! Your brain will feel more refreshed and ready to work if you give yourself enough off-screen time to recharge.
Don't forget to schedule time to work on projects -- you can even block time off in your calendar to do this, so well-meaning co-workers don't accidentally overschedule your calendar. And don't feel guilty if you need to decline a Zoom call in order to meet a deadline.
Incorporate a Meeting-Free Day
At my company, Masthead Media, we try to do "no-meeting Mondays" so we're fresh and completely prepared for the week ahead. You could also try having this day on Wednesday instead (as teams as Asana and Facebook do) so you get a break in the middle of the week, when you need it most.
Even having "video optional" meetings or changing video calls to voice calls can be helpful -- based on experience, almost everyone will welcome the break! Remind people that email, Slack messages, or regular phone calls are often good substitutes for Zoom meetings.
Tempting as it might be to try to get more work done, avoid working on other activities during your Zoom meetings. Responding to an email and being on a Zoom call means you're not fully present for either task. You could miss important points made during the video call that could impact your work, and equally, you might make mistakes in the extra task you're trying to complete.
To stay focused, open your Zoom meeting in a new browser window, and maximize the screen so you're not tempted to open another tab. I personally make it a habit to close my other tabs when on Zoom meetings, and quickly reopen them later with a Chrome extension called One Tab.
Turn your phone on silent and put it in another room so notifications sounds don't distract you (turn off any on your laptop too).
Getting Ready for the Day
While we've all been happy to wear our sweats and loungewear all day long, research shows that dressing up can make you feel more focused and prepared for a video meeting. You don't need to put on a suit, tailored dress, or even an on-trend outfit, just add a few smarter pieces or accessories to your daily wardrobe to give yourself that mood boost.
Wearing different attire to work creates mental boundaries in your head, making it easier to concentrate at work and relax once you're off the clock. This is crucial if you're going to be working remotely (at least part of the time) for the foreseeable future.