It’s not your imagination. Zoom fatigue is real — and it can kill your productivity.
Web conferencing technology, as I’ve written before, has been a boon for businesses during the pandemic. Video meetings help you connect with colleagues and clients in real-time so you can get work done. On the personal side, video chats and regular Zooms keep friends and family in touch (though for some that is wearing thin).
But web conferencing isn’t great for everything. You should use it sparingly as a replacement for what used to be office meetings — and especially those you once held by phone.
Zoom Isn’t the Cure for Bad Meetings
Anyone who has lived the office life can tell you how unproductive most meetings are. Think about all the time spent preparing, the time lost coming and going, and the frustration of listening to people talk about things that, while they may be important, should perhaps be shared in a less time-consuming way — like a memo.
Fast-forward to our pandemic office life: We’ve moved those useless, frustrating meetings online, and they still wreak havoc with the schedules of 80% of those attending.
Related: “Five Ways to Make Meetings Matter”
Let me speak plainly. In my 20 years of teaching lawyers how to reap the productivity benefits of upgrading to a digital workflow, this is the first time I have seen a technology deployed that actually decreases the productivity of most in attendance.
Face Time Is Important, But It’s Not Always the Most Important Thing
Just like in real life, most video meetings are a waste of time. Think about it: Do I need to see your face to understand how to format a brief or update a contract? Probably not. You usually don’t need to see someone to impart information well or make an assignment or delegate a task. We have plenty of means to do that quite well. And, while technology tools can fill in the gaps and miles, no online version of a meeting can replace the human-to-human experience anyway.
Requiring people to jump on a video conference to discuss something that could otherwise be done via email, memo or telephone is not productive. You should only hold a video meeting when it is going to enhance and improve efficiency.
Speaking of Being On-Camera
When you do meet by video, some tips: Be neat and clean. Always aim to represent your best version of your personal brand and, of course, if you are actually appearing before a judge, heed the requirements for court appearances. Otherwise, be you. Be you, working in your office, wherever that is. If wearing full makeup and accessories is part of your work routine, keep it up. If dapper is part of your brand, keep it up. If not, don’t waste time worrying about how you look onscreen for other people.
Let’s Flatten the Zoom Curve
Zoom is not the new black. Instead of complaining about your overwhelming “five Zooms in one day” schedule, do something to reduce the stress of it. As I often remind clients, you are the only person who can make the change.
You have options. You can turn off your camera or simply decline to meet via video and call in on the meeting phone number provided by the organizer. Then you don’t have to video in and block the screen or, worse, have to look like you are paying attention all the time. I am not saying you should multitask while trying to learn audibly. But when you aren’t always in view, you don’t feel constrained to stay still to avoid calling attention to yourself as you would in a live classroom or meeting.
Because here’s the thing: While you’re so busy looking the part, sitting in your little Zoom cell — grabbing a jacket, shushing the kids in the next room, selecting a virtual background, or hiding your messes from view — are you able to focus on what the speaker is saying as well as you do by phone? Nope. My favorite tools for productive work have always been simple things like pen and paper — and a telephone.
Use Video Less and Your Voice More
All the people you were requiring to meet via video will thank you for saving them the time and stress of trying to project perfectness — and for actually increasing everyone’s productiveness. That includes your own as you learn how to get more done via voice. Remember, the goal is to use the right people, processes and products.
(To learn how I fashion digital workflows for lawyers, check out my next MasterClass.)
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