Learning & Development

The Continuing Zoom Experience

The widespread shift to remote work has been a blessing for millions of wardrobe-conscious workers. Instead of worrying whether colleagues will notice an outfit worn twice in the same week, most virtual meeting attendees can get by as long as they have a not-too-wrinkled dress shirt laying nearby.

But even though virtual meetings don’t require participants to be as “there” as traditional, in-person meetings, there are many who argue that even the relatively laidback virtual meeting can be unnecessarily stressful.

Continued Zoom Fatigue

“Platforms such as Zoom were a blessing when Covid-19 lockdowns hit, allowing many people to work from home,” writes Bryan Lufkin in an article for BBC Worklife. “But, two and a half years into the pandemic, that same technology has become something of a curse, too. These days, millions of workers spend hours each day on video calls, exhausting themselves trying to decode colleagues’ body language or distracted by their own image on screen.”

Readers might reasonably ask how being on camera is any different—or at least any worse—than spending that same amount of time in an in-person meeting. But while active virtual meeting participation isn’t necessarily worse than in-person meetings, Lufkin argues it does carry the same pressure of presenteeism. The continued requirement that cameras be on reflects the default, Lufkin says. Why? Because, he writes, the expectation is “tied to long-standing, problematic norms linked to presenteeism that preceded the pandemic.” Historically, he says, employees have long felt the pressure to be “visible in front of the boss.”

The Pressure to Stay Visible

In office settings, being visible meant working long hours, chitchatting at the watercooler, casual conversations with colleagues in the hallway, etc. “Once remote work started, that pressure to be seen shifted to virtual meetings,” Lufkin says. “Staff felt they had to have cameras on so the bosses could see them and their commitment.”

For many organizations and managers, it doesn’t seem like a particularly intrusive request to ask virtual meeting participants to turn their cameras on; however, many employees find that this pressure can start to add up with the sheer number of virtual meetings they’re expected to attend. Simply taking a flexible approach to the use of cameras can go a long way toward removing a source of unnecessary stress.

Lin Grensing-Pophal is a Contributing Editor at HR Daily Advisor.