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4 things you can do to overcome Zoom overload

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Remember what it was like back in March, when we all started working from home? There was a distinct change in the air—a sense of freedom and excitement about the novelty of being able to work from home. It was common to hear friends and colleagues share thoughts like, “Isn’t it wonderful that we have the technology to meet from the comfort of home? It’s so convenient!”

We entered a whole new world where online drinking parties, coffee catch-ups, and Friday-afternoon games became part of our weekly routine.

The honeymoon period lasted for a few months. Then, something happened. There was a noticeable shift. We were certainly still enjoying working from home, and that’s been a huge positive change, especially in corporate Japan where it hasn’t been attempted before on such a grand scale. In the past, people often felt guilty about working from home because it was frowned upon and definitely not the culture of many firms.

While there were many positives that came from working from home, a new beast reared its head—Zoom fatigue or death by Zoom. We realized that spending countless hours in online meetings and catch-ups was taking a toll. For example, intensely staring at people on screen, not being given a chance to speak, and suddenly having seemingly low-pressure activities like video calls becoming “a thing” led to annoyance and other negative impacts on our wellbeing.

In fact, speaking to someone via video is unnatural; it demands your complete and undivided attention to pick up nonverbal cues like facial expressions, body language, or voice changes to the same degree as face-to-face interactions.

To make the working-from-home day a little more tolerable, here are four suggestions to save yourself from Zoom doom.

  1. Make the use of video optional. There is nothing wrong with using audio-only. Remember, the telephone was the dominant form of remote communication for most of the last century. It’s more relaxing and sometimes more intimate to talk on the phone.
  2. Have your camera set on an angle rather than straight on so you’re not always staring into the camera. This will also help you avoid always looking directly at yourself on the screen. This is a more natural way of interacting because when we have conversations in person, we rarely ever stare at someone for the duration of our meeting (unless you’re some sort of psychopath) and we don’t constantly see ourselves. Mix it up by moving your camera to a different position.
  3. Schedule shorter meetings. Try having a 20-minute meeting instead of a 30-minute one or a 45-minute meeting instead of a 60-minute one. Many people have told me that having back-to-back meetings with barely any time to go to the bathroom or grab a cup of coffee in between really adds to their Zoom fatigue.
  4. Ask yourself and your team: “Is this format working? If not, what do we need to change?”

Working from home has provided many of us with various new and unexpected benefits. Organizations now need to adapt and change what working from home looks like. After all, it’s working from home, not at home working.

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