In recent months many of us have witnessed real changes in the way we work. Kate Beales reflects on our lockdown learnings and offers some advice on how we can make the very best of our virtual working environments.

 Most of us experience ‘Zoom fatigue’ when working for prolonged periods on virtual platforms. But it doesn’t take much to improve our virtual meeting habits to make working online less exhausting for everyone.

  • As one client put it, “I miss the time I used to spend walking from one meeting to the next.” Many virtual meetings are scheduled back-to-back, with no time to re-set in between. Try to take a moment to stand, stretch and walk around the room before starting the next call
  • In face-to-face meetings, it’s quite normal to move; we look around, shift our position, reach for the water jug. In a virtual meeting we tend to remain very still, focused on the faces directly in front of us – and holding this stillness can be tiring

Where appropriate, encourage everyone to move more freely during your meetings. Make it acceptable to stretch or stand up. Try using interactive whiteboards so that participants can engage in sensory activity and take their eyes away from each other’s faces for a while.

  • The smaller-than-lifesize images of people’s faces, coupled with the time lag on virtual platforms makes it much harder for us to read expressions and interpret emotional intention online. Make it easy for your colleagues to understand your meaning by being clear and expressive. Focus on clear diction and enunciation and make sure your facial expression matches the emotion behind your words.
  • To compensate for the audio challenges online, we may unconsciously speak louder than usual. This can lead to a sore throat or losing your voice. Check that you are not speaking too loudly and take regular sips of water throughout your meetings to help protect your voice.
  • The need to sit still on camera may also lead to tension in the upper body. Try to sit so that your back is supported by the back of your chair. Sit upright with a relaxed posture so there is no tension in your shoulders. Take gentle, deep breaths – in through the nose for 5, out through the lips for 10 – great for relaxation, especially in moments of stress.
  • Consider slowing down the speed at which you speak. This can help your colleagues’ understanding but also gives you a greater sense of authority. It’s particularly important of course, if your team contains people for whom English is not their first language.
  • Think carefully about the duration of your virtual meetings. Looking at a computer screen for 90 minutes can be really tiring and it’s often difficult to maintain focus and interest. Could you organise shorter meetings of 30 minutes’ duration and focus on one issue rather than trying to deal with three issues in 90 minutes? Short virtual meetings tend to have more energy and drive towards results.

Kate Beales

Kate Beales is a Senior Facilitator at VisionWorks.

For more information on how we can help you improve your presence in the virtual world, please take a look at our dedicated Virtual Presence training programme, or contact us.

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