ZOOM AND GLOOM: Why Online Meetings are Hard and What You Can Do About it

ZOOM AND GLOOM: Why Online Meetings are Hard and What You Can Do About it title=
ZOOM AND GLOOM: Why Online Meetings are Hard and What You Can Do About it
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By Suzanne Grimmesey, MFT County of Santa Barbara, Department of Behavioral Health

People have shared some hilarious stories about their online meeting experiences during the pandemic; everything from participants showing up to “Zoom” in their pajamas and shaving during the meeting, to having a family member walk behind the screen, wearing, well, not much.

Those heads staring back at us for long periods of time can be a bit disconcerting.  And then there is the fatigue that sets in after hour three or four of Zooming.  There is no doubt that working from home during the pandemic has meant a lot of changes to routines. 

For the record, it is not just Zoom. This online meeting fatigue is just as likely with other video conferencing platforms, including Google Hangouts and Meet, Skype, Microsoft Teams, GoToMeeting, FaceTime, BlueJeans, Slack, Houseparty, and so on.

If you are one of those working remotely and participating in a plethora of online video meetings, you may wonder why these meetings seem more tiring than in-person meetings.  One reason may be the need to appear constantly in-tune and interested in what is being said. Continued and sustained eye contact is exhausting to say the least.

Also, with in-person meetings, we automatically rely on nonverbal cues such as body language, to make judgements regarding asking questions or providing input. Physical cues such as participants fidgeting and checking their smart phones, help us determine how information is being perceived and the level of attentiveness. With online meetings, we must rely mainly on verbal information to interpret people’s emotions. Paying more attention to these consumes a lot of energy and that gets tiring.

Another reason may be the lack of the usual in-person meeting rituals, such as greetings, handshakes, fetching coffee and water, and general chit chat among meeting participants.  Missing out on these rituals that serve to put people at ease and help build rapport, all make for a less comfortable, more exhausting day “at the office.”  So, what can you do?

  1. Consider whether the online meeting needs to happen at all. In some cases, shared document platforms with detailed comments can reduce the need to meet.
  2. Consider working to limit the number of Zoom meetings in a day, including giving yourself a break in between meetings. You should also consider forgoing the online meeting and instead use email and messaging to get the work done.
  3. Make sure there is an agenda for every one of your video meetings. This way, everyone will know what is expected to be accomplished during the meeting, making the meeting more productive and hopefully shorter.
  4. You may also consider picking up the telephone for one-on-one conversations instead of scheduling an online meeting. By using the phone, we only have to concentrate on voices, and we can move about while talking, which gets us moving and can enhance the thinking process.
  5. Be sure to schedule “screen free” time into your days. By designating some video call-free time, you can reduce feelings of being overwhelmed.  Instead, choose some screen-free activities such as exercise or a enjoying a hobby.

Finally, let’s keep in mind some of the good things about Zooming and online meetings.  We don’t have to travel to and from a meeting; we don’t have to dress up from the waist down; we can sit on our favorite chair with a cuddly blanket and fuzzy slippers and no one will be the wiser; we have the choice to mute ourselves and stop video if needed, and for animal lovers, you can Zoom and pet your pet at the time. Sometimes, it really is the little things that matter!

Suzanne Grimmesey, MFT, is the County of Santa Barbara’s Chief Quality Care and Strategy Officer and is responsible for leadership of Quality Care and Strategy Management within the Department of Behavioral Wellness.

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a-1612904639 Feb 09, 2021 01:03 PM
ZOOM AND GLOOM: Why Online Meetings are Hard and What You Can Do About it

Sorry, but grown adults should be able to handle a little boredom in their zoom meetings. I do these every day and we get our work done and finish. The REAL concern should be about Zoom School. Just as I type this, we got an email from SBUSD saying they've requested to be allowed to re-open K-6 within the next 7 days. GREAT! Now how about Goleta? How about Jr High and High school? Why aren't we making every effort we can to get our kids back in school? While remote meetings may be boring for grown ups, zoom school is DEVASTATING to our kids!

mtndriver Feb 10, 2021 08:56 AM
ZOOM AND GLOOM: Why Online Meetings are Hard and What You Can Do About it

1:03 pm—I think they are finding that bigger kids (adolescents) are more likely to break the social distancing rules, engage in more risky behavior—surprise, surprise. I agree kids’ needs are more important than mine, but policies need to take everyone’s safety into account, and willingness to follow the guidelines is part of the assessment.

LCP112233 Feb 09, 2021 02:42 PM
ZOOM AND GLOOM: Why Online Meetings are Hard and What You Can Do About it

@1:03pm. I agree 100 percent. Being in an actual meeting isn't any less boring. I had to hide my yawns many many times. And my very young grandkids hardly get anything out of zoom school. They have to be re-taught by the parents every day. I believe it's due to the young ones short attention span.

a-1612906041 Feb 09, 2021 01:27 PM
ZOOM AND GLOOM: Why Online Meetings are Hard and What You Can Do About it

You do not represent all adults and the holier-than-thou attitude is not cute. Virtual work, virtual school, virtual life is tough on all humans, you are actually an exception. Great for you, but have some compassion for your neighbors. "Deal with it" is the perpetuated attitude that contributed to today's mental health crisis.

Mo-leta Feb 09, 2021 11:39 AM
ZOOM AND GLOOM: Why Online Meetings are Hard and What You Can Do About it

All good information. Perhaps an appreciation for the art of acting could get a nod here as 'being on'and and 'in the moment' are the first rules of being on stage to keep the audiences attention. Sending out a shout of thanks to all the actors and actresses, directors and stage techs who make magic happen on stage. Happy Valentine's Day too!

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