Heads up team leaders! Before you schedule the next conference call, stop to ask yourself if it’s the best way to complete the task at hand. Are the benefits going to outweigh the exhaustion your team will feel toward the end of the hour, day or week.
“Zoom (or any other video chat tool) tires us out,” says Terri Kurtzberg PhD, author of Virtual Teams: Mastering Communication and Collaboration in the Digital Age and an associate professor of management and global business at Rutgers Business School in New Brunswick, NJ. Her areas of expertise include virtual teams, electronic communications, negotiation strategies and tactics, and organizational creativity. In other words, she’s done enough research and conducted enough studies to know.
“Virtual teams have many of the same challenges and problems that traditional teams do, but they tend to experience them to a greater extent (more often, more intensely, more quickly in the process, and more deeply rooted/difficult to eradicate.) Coupled with the changes in conversation, comprehension, and decision making that can result from virtual interaction, these teams have a lot to contend with in order to successfully operate,” she says.
Kurtzberg is not alone in her thinking. Becky Supiano, in the Journal of Higher Education writes, “What is it, exactly, that’s so depleting about interacting with a grid of faces on video chat? Heavy users and experts in psychology and communication point to a number of factors: The body language and other cues that we expect but can’t access; the way we monitor our own appearance; the stimulation of staring into faces at close range; the inability to take a break, move, or change our surroundings”
“That’s not natural to us,” writes to Manju Jiang of the BBC. “If we are with several people online at the same time, we are simultaneously processing visual cues from all of those people in a way we never have to do around a conference table.”
And when that extraneous data that we haven’t had to process in the physical world, suddenly over-stimulates us. “Each data point pushes us just a little bit farther away from the human-to-human connection that we all crave and appreciate,” says Steven Hickman, Psy.D., executive director of the Center for Mindful Self-Compassion.
Needless to say, while we strove to become more connected, we have become more disconnected, and less productive according to some experts.
It it doesn’t have to be that way. We asked experts for advice, what makes for a good video meeting?
1.) Make sure it’s necessary, could shared files with clear notes be a better option that avoids information overload? asks Hickman.
2.) If no, then determine the purpose of the call, says Hurtzberg. You’ll want to do this early on. “Spend some time to actually check into people’s wellbeing. It’s a way to reconnect us with the world, and to maintain trust and reduce fatigue and concern.”
3.) Keep introductions short (if they are needed), adds Kurtzman.
4.) Recap often, not just at the end. You will lose people’s attention regularly, so this is a chance to gather everyone back in.
5.) Decide if the team needs to hear from everyone or not, and tell them either way.
6.) Organize the input. When several people try to talk at once, it is stressful, ineffective and favors the loud over the thoughtful. One option might be to have a concurrent way for people to send text messages when they are ready to speak, so the discussion leader can make time for them. how to