Researchers at Stanford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab report that workers are experiencing heightened fatigue in their jobs as a result of “nonverbal overload” caused by video conferencing, a phenomenon dubbed “Zoom fatigue.” Even Zoom’s own CEO, Eric Yuan, admits to experiencing it himself.
As the president of a leading provider of cloud-enabled connectivity, communications and security services, I view issues related to the virtual collaboration and videoconference fatigue from two perspectives: that of the thousands of enterprise and public customers we serve (as well as their employees), and that of the 2,500 employees here at Windstream Enterprise. As a result—and with so much riding on a company’s ability to deliver superior employee experiences to attract and retain talent during the Great Resignation—our executive team is laser-focused on getting those experiences right, with the goal of keeping a workforce engaged and productive, minus the burnout that can lead to employee attrition.
Doing so starts with a well-informed, flexible hybrid work strategy that draws heavily on feedback from our employees. As an organization, it’s important to honor their preferences and priorities. It’s equally valuable to consistently revisit our strategy as often as necessary to reflect changing circumstances and employee sentiment. Ultimately it has to balance the needs of the business with the needs of the workforce. Those needs tend to shift often, and quickly.
To shake things up throughout my day-to-day, I occasionally will take virtual meetings from my backyard. It’s one of the small but impactful ways to switch up my routine and help me reset. Employers should give their employees similar latitude when they’re working remotely, by supporting them with versatile, mobile-enabled communications tools so they have options for where, when and how they work, without compromising the quality of the digital work experience. This mindset will positively address the 92% of employees who want more flexibility in when they work and the 76% that want more flexibility in where they work.
A full technology needs assessment (with employee input) can help guide decisions about the communications investments an organization makes. Be sure the platforms, apps and tools you choose are appealingly consumable and supported by readily accessible, easy-to-grasp training resources that empower people to use the tech tools at hand. With cyber threats on the rise in 2022, also be sure to prioritize network and data security with forward-looking, flexible and scalable solutions (like the emerging network and security frameworks SD-WAN and SASE). And when identifying and prioritizing new technology investments, seek out vendors that treat you like a true business partner. The quality of this support and guidance is as critical to your success as the quality of the product itself.
Keeping employees energized, focused and free of videoconference fatigue in this era of remote working goes far beyond just arming them with better technology. It takes a leader who’s willing to try new approaches, to show their humanity to the people around them through authenticity, vulnerability and empathy, and to take the necessary steps to adapt the organization’s culture, priorities and processes to day-to-day realities. Here are a few ideas to inspire you:
• Motivate leaders within your organization to find ways to break up the routine with varying meeting cadences and structures.
• Encourage employees to block off focus time for themselves.
• Prioritize frequent informal touch-bases between leaders and team members, looking for opportunities to safely hold them in-person to get people out from behind their computer screens.
• Offer flexibility regarding when and where people work.
• Find new ways to build trust and connection, perhaps through a wine-tasting happy hour hosted by a sommelier, for example.
As you go about finding an effective formula for relieving videoconference fatigue, be diligent about regularly measuring the employee experience and monitoring the impact of your tech investments. Keep close tabs on employee mental and physical well-being via quick surveys, check-ins, etc. Don’t forget to measure the customer experience, too, because that’s usually a direct function of the employee experience. And above all, be flexible and primed for change, because the next big shift in how, where, when and why people work could happen sooner than you think.