‘I love Zoom” isn’t a phrase you hear very often. After seven months of staring at co-workers in little boxes on the screens of laptops, tablets and phones, workers are experiencing “Zoom fatigue.”
The term shows up in Google searches about 500,000 times. “ ‘Zoom fatigue’ is taxing the brain,” according to April’s National Geographic magazine.
While this Friday might provide an opportunity for some Halloween eve reprieve and even a little costume fun, there are already some Zoom characters that need no dressing up.
We all know someone who has refused to turn the camera on during a Zoom call. If everyone else on the call is visible, they’re being rude, say the experts.
“I call this person the no-show,” said Adam “Smiley” Poswolsky, millennial workplace expert and author of “The Quarter-Life Breakthrough” (TarcherPerigee/Penguin Random House) and the forthcoming “Friendship in the Age of Loneliness: An Optimist’s Guide to Connection” (Running Press Adult, May 2021).
However, when juggling work and home, being on camera isn’t always easy. “Schedule the meeting for another time, or be ready to provide a good explanation,” he said.
There’s nothing more irritating than the person who constantly hijacks the meeting and steers it off-topic. Time is precious, so the challenge is to get discussions back on track.
“A meeting should be fair and equitable to all participants and end in an actionable result,” said Fred Dust, author of “Making Conversation: Seven Essential Elements of Meaningful Communication” (Harper Collins, Dec. 1).
Geraldine Woloch-Addamine, founder and CEO at Good4work, a team engagement software maker for remote teams, said it’s easier to go off-topic in a video meeting because the body language of the participants is harder to recognize. “The manager should thank the hijacker for their input, then call on someone else in the meeting,” she said.
The social butterfly
This is the chatty co-worker who wants in on every Zoom call and seems to be buddies with everyone.
“There’s real value in someone like this,” said Dust. “Right now, during the pandemic, we need to be more human and more social.” However, Dust recommended two simple rules to keep things in order.
“The first: At the beginning of the meeting, each participant gets 45 seconds to introduce an idea. The second: Each participant must add on to the idea of the person before them.”
If the social butterfly overtakes the meeting? “You might have to say something like, ‘Hey, John, we’ve heard a lot of great things from you. Let’s hear what the others have to say,’ ” said Poswolsky.
Meet the individual who won’t stop staring at themselves on the screen. They not only show up to the meeting dressed to the nines, but they keep adjusting their collar and hair and making faces at themselves. Worst yet, they may not be devoting their full attention.
“There is nothing more distracting to you than you. If you are looking at yourself, you are going to fix yourself,” said Dust. He does offer a solution that won’t embarrass anyone, however. “Have everyone use speaker view, where the only person you see is the one speaking.”
Poswolsky suggested sending a private message saying “the screen isn’t a mirror.” Woloch-Addamine has a gentler approach. “Maybe ask the person a question about the subject being discussed. It will change their thinking.”
“The ability to be funny on cue is a huge business asset,” wrote Geoffrey James, a contributing editor at Inc. magazine. That’s a sentiment with which most business experts agree.
“But it has to be one joke, not a stand-up act,” said Poswolsky. “It should be at the expense of yourself, not others in the meeting,” warned Dust. Woloch-Addamine suggested letting the joker “tell one joke at the beginning of the meeting, another at the end. That way they get recognized and give everyone a reason to laugh.”
We’re posting pictures of our homemade banana and sourdough breads and rosemary-and-onion focaccias — #stressbaking has almost 50,000 hits on Instagram.
At Halloween, you can show them off at your meetings. Otherwise, save them for Friday’s Zoom happy hour — and don’t make them on camera during a virtual meeting.
“While it might be understandable that there’s a need for some multitasking, that is rude,” said Poswolsky. “If you must bake or cook, consider skipping the meeting. If you can’t, turn the camera off.”
Dust is a little more empathetic, noting that you may have a legitimate excuse to cook while you Zoom, such as feeding your family. But, “if you are not going to commit your attention to the meeting, don’t join,” he said, adding that “if you are not critical to the meeting, don’t go.”
The chaos creator
For Halloween, just before you get on Zoom, get your family or neighbors to kick it up a notch. They might stick their faces in the camera or start a band practice. You might even put your dog dish up on your desk to encourage some pet-bomb interaction.
In everyday life, “I have a lot of sympathy for people in these kinds of settings,” said Poswolsky. “It might be helpful to have the participants share their surroundings before the meeting begins. It might make it less annoying.”
Dust believes that we all “need to decide between what’s human and what’s too much . . . We’ve never needed more patience and we’ve never been so impatient. Whenever possible, cut your co-workers a break.”
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