The pandemic has indelibly shaped the way we do business, and we may never go back to the way we functioned before it. As Michael Dell recently reasoned in an op-ed, we need to stop thinking about the future through the lens of a post-Covid world. This is no longer the new normal—it is now our everyday normal.
At the same time, adapting to this evolving workplace remains a challenge. Collaboration platform technologies like Microsoft Teams, Slack and Zoom have moved from simple conferencing tools to taking on a central way in how teams operate.
And while helping provide much needed solutions during the move to remote and hybrid work, endless videoconferencing calls have contributed to persistent technology fatigue, which can make us less productive, negatively affect our mental health and in turn, impact our ability to win new customers. According to a study from Virtira Consulting, nearly half (49%) of professionals working remotely reported a “high degree of exhaustion” due to the prevalence of video calls.
Those who spent the pandemic working from home can probably relate. Not only are we increasingly reliant upon technology tools to perform our daily work, but also to go about our home lives as well, with the emergence of activities like remote schooling, virtual exercise classes and FaceTime chats with family and friends. All of these increases in screen time contribute are only contributing to this technology burn out.
If we accept that these tools are now part of our normal life and hybrid work is here to stay, how can we avoid overburdening our employees, partners and potential customers with technology and help them recover from ever-present fatigue?
Here are four strategies I recommend for combatting technology fatigue.
- Where possible, remove or limit videoconferencing calls.
Much of the research around “Zoom fatigue,” as it’s commonly known, has focused on the negative impact of too many videoconferencing calls. According to Stanford University research, the reasons for this include the intensity of close-up eye contact, lack of mobility and the higher cognitive load required for constant non-verbal communication. To ensure we’re being mindful of these stressors, we should cancel calls that can be covered off through other forms of communication, limit call topics to only items on the agenda and exhibit understanding for our colleagues or customers who prefer to take them off camera.
- Use the full extent of collaboration tools.
While collaboration platforms can be a source of technology fatigue, they may also be part of the solution. Many offer more advanced features like enabling multiple users to simultaneously edit a document and virtual whiteboarding that allow for deeper collaboration among specific teams and topics. Instead of another call where participants stare blankly at a gallery of faces, employing a virtual breakout room can offer a more immersive and engaging experience, evocative of brainstorming in a room together.
- Take advantage of mobility tools.
With the growth of a distributed workforce, many companies have adopted new mobility tools to help their workforce stay connected. Thankfully, these mobility tools are also enabling people to connect in more flexible ways. For example, having a mobile device makes it easier to go out for lunch or run an errand knowing you’re only a call away. By offering people time to disconnect and the ability to work from the office, at home or from the road, mobile devices can provide much needed freedom.
- Employ asynchronous collaboration approaches.
The office environment often constrained us to collaborating only when our team members were also in the office. Thankfully, new tools are redefining with whom and when we can work together, no longer confining us to particular geographic areas or time zones. Asynchronous collaboration, such as posting a whiteboard message with a question and inviting others to leave comments on their own time, allows for greater flexibility than scheduled calls, and in this way, can encourage more participation.
What might the future hold for workplace technology?
Over the next few years, I’m sure we’ll see even more innovative tools emerge to help us stay more connected to the workplace while also providing the break from screens and video calls that we so desperately need. For example, AI is being used to filter out background noise and provide automated meeting notes to help make calls more efficient. It’s also possible that we could one day use a metaverse-like environment with avatars to take workplace collaboration to a fully virtual state, eliminating some of the ways that conferencing calls can drain us of energy.
Like the pandemic, technology fatigue is here to stay for the foreseeable future, but we are finding ways to make it more manageable while also demonstrating to our customers how we stand out from the competition. By doing so, we’ll create more productive and energized teams, develop work environments that are highly sought after and become the people that our customers can’t wait to engage with.