“Zoom Fatigue”: Intersection of Diversity & Virtual Platforms
By Mohammed Ahamed, CEO & Chief Diversity Officer at EDI Executive Search & Consulting Firm. Motto: Connecting Hearts & Minds...to change organizational culture
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Covid-19 has changed our world overnight. From education to industry, we all had to adapt and some argue that this new encounter is here to stay. With this sudden change comes a great deal of painful realities for a species that is inarguably wired and engineered for human interaction. In the world of equity, diversity and inclusion, we know and call this type of yearning for human connection “A Sense of Belonging.” This innate human disposition is a fundamental need and perhaps now more than ever before, we (organization, corporations, institutions and the professionals that work within these spaces) are learning the value of being one human family – inextricably connected by our shared universal values and appreciation of our visible and invisible differences.
Throughout this pandemic that necessitates social distancing and evidently so, the need for human connection has risen and the solution? Virtual interactions through platforms such as Skype, Zoom, Google Meet, FaceTime, What’s App etc. While there are many benefits to be derived from the use of these platforms, there is a growing concern amidst this extensive need for virtual meetings and a rising social phenomenon which is now coined “Zoom Fatigue.”
Essentially, we are missing ‘the human touch’ with these substitutes and nothing including holographic experience can bring us close to it. It is quite true that most, if not, all of us have or are currently experiencing this “Zoom Fatigue” to a degree.
It would be interesting to see the impact this will have on the human race as these innovations inadvertently erode some of the natural means of us living fully-engaged lives. One thing however, is certain- the age old saying that it takes a village couldn’t be truer in this environment. As part of leadership coaching, I have spent some time thinking about what this means for myself and the people I work with. Given that 'zooming' is the new modality for engagement, it is imperative that we examine this new phenomenon and understand how we can effectively utilize these platforms for personal, professional and organizational growth and effectiveness. Unfortunately, this is where we are, and they are arguably the best modality we have.
Steps You Can Take to Effectively Use Virtual Platforms
However, "where there is a will, there is always a way." Here are a few steps I have used in order to stay healthy, focused during webinars, training sessions and panel discussions in this new age of virtual integration. I have also shared this with my coachees and they are for both presenters and listeners/participants alike.
1. Environment: Creating the ambiance in my office space to allow the right energy. Anything from having plants to lighting can make a difference. If you don’t have an office, you just have to find what works best for you. Perhaps incorporate some of what you love about in-person experiences i.e. handshake etc. For instance, I put my hands on my chest as a sign of greeting and appreciation during sessions. Improvisation is key here. 2. Prepare & Organize: Turn off and/or silence all possible distractions- Cell phones, log out of my email, social media and close all tabs on my computer except if/when I am presenting (I open only what I need). 3. Take Notes: Write things down as opposed to typing. Also, commenting or asking pertinent and relevant questions in the chat to stay engaged. Note: Don’t just ask questions without a reason. It doesn't help and inadvertently contributes to the stressful virtual environment. 4. Comfort: I always have a water bottle or tea. I found drinking water/tea during sessions and also, making sublet movements helps me stay awake and refreshed.
5. Diversity: Who is there with you? Make your sessions meaningful by drawing on people’s perspectives and lived experiences. Have a dialogue instead of talking at them. Invite others to your meetings to contribute.
6. FUN & Engaging: Don’t be all informational – Engage with the persons in your meetings. Try to mimic an in-person experience as best as you can. Asking people to raise their hands, give a thumbs up or simply say yes if they can hear you will increase the level of participation. 7. Be Inclusive: Who is not at the meeting? Being mindful of who should be at the meeting but isn't there, helps organizers and participants rethink how the meetings are structured. Draw people into the conversation with engaging and intentional cues and probing. You cannot do this whimsically – You’ll have to put some thought into what is appropriate for your audience.
8. Be Equitable: Microaggressions and micro-invalidations happen in virtual meetings too. Don’t take up too much air-time and space. Allow others to participate meaningfully. Being mindful of cutting people off without appropriately asking to contribute is a behaviors that can be avoided. If you are facilitating, keep these things in mind. Nothing is worse than being being dismissed or marginalized on a virtual call. Also, giving credit to whom and where it is due etc. are some of the things I keep in mind during my sessions.
9. Be Healthy: Taking breaks in-between long sessions is imperative. Starts with making sure sessions are not scheduled too close to each other. And if you have a long session, then create room for breaks. 10. Be Innovative: When it gets too daunting to stay in the meeting, let the team/group know and mute yourself, close your video and stretch. Heck go to the next room and yell out "I’m tired of zoom" if that helps. Just make sure it is muted. Of course, if you are presenting, this is not as easy, so please prepare ahead and be creative. These are just a few things to consider!
Let’s all try to be well and stay well!
Mohammed (Mo) Ahamed is CEO of EDI and leads our firm's diversity practice. He is a global equity, diversity and inclusion practitioner and trainer who oversees EDI’s business strategy and operations. As EDI’s Chief Diversity Officer, his work centers curating inclusive strategies that drive individual and organizational innovation, performance and success. A dynamic keynote speaker and trainer with a zest for equity and commitment to inclusive excellence. He spends most of his time helping partner clients cultivate and sustain inclusive culture within their organizations. His passion, inclusive leadership style and approach to equity, diversity and inclusion are creating a paradigm shift in how leadership is perceived and practiced.
As a consultant in our Executive Search Practice, he works on every search at the firm to ensure all applications, processes and search assignments follow the EDI model(s) for inclusive excellence. A faculty in EDI’s Inclusive Leadership Institute™. He provides consultation and implicit bias and equity training to all our search committees. He also provides inclusive leadership coaching to C-Suite leadership to enhance accountability on these matters. Mohammed’s extensive experience and methodologies has earned him respect and appreciation from partner clients, organizations and the community.
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