Exactly one year ago this week, our team started working from home. It’s still on our shared Google calendar as “GPS working from home this week”. We quickly realized that what we thought would be a short time away from the office would actually be the foreseeable future. As a result, we had to change not only our business model, but also the way we worked with each other and with our clients.
Over the past year, some of us eagerly embraced Zoom and WebEx, encouraging everyone in our organization to turn their cameras on to maintain our shared sense of community and purpose. Then, we all started to feel the effects of Zoom fatigue as we realized 8 hours on camera feels very different than 8 hours in the office. We discovered what worked for us as a team and learned how to be open with each other about our needs so that we could protect the balance between our professional lives and mental well-being.
One year into the pandemic, what’s next?
As some prepare for a return to the office and others vow never to return, it’s clear that this wider range of communication tools will be used in perpetuity.
As we look forward, the versatile communicator will need to seamlessly shift between in-person and virtual presentations, often at a moment’s notice. When a client or employee wakes up with a sore throat, “out of an abundance of caution,” that high-stakes, in-person meeting will move to Zoom. Alternately, something previously scheduled as virtual could become an in-person event as the vaccine rollout continues
While we prefer face-to-face virtual conversations, they can be overwhelming and fatiguing. Part of being an effective leader involves knowing how to bring out the best in your audience and knowing the best medium to deliver your message. Do you always need to be on camera? Can you set one day a week without video?
With that in mind, here are a few times when you can skip video. These are not absolute rules; they are guidelines you can consider according to your office culture and your employees’ home environments.
When it’s a frequent 1:1 meeting.
If you are having multiple conversations with the same person, suggest a phone call instead. You already know that person’s facial expressions and understand their mannerisms.
When the meeting involves looking at slides or shared documents.
When the main focus of a meeting is a slide or document, allow participants to turn their cameras off while the presentation is on and then back on for wrap-up or debrief.
When you sense your team is tired.
If you and others have been on camera all day long, give each other a mental break and let them relax their eyes. When we are attuned to the needs of our team or clients, we can get a sense of whether or not video is needed.