There was a time at the beginning of the pandemic when everyone was working at home, and everyone was a little more understanding. But now that businesses are beginning to put workers back in the office and companies are sorting out the differences between remote workers, office workers, and hybrid workers, a new set of challenges are coming up.
As a remote worker, you don’t get the advantage of casual conversation or popping into someone’s office to say hi. While that may seem like a benefit to productivity, we actually miss out on key information simply because we’re not around. And trying to maintain those relationships and keep the lines of communication open can leave you feeling like you’re constantly on video conferences instead of getting work done. So, where do you draw the line, and how can you make it work?
Zoom Fatigue is Real–Don’t Treat Video Calls as a 1:1 Substitute for In-Person Interaction
The easiest solution to connecting with others while working at home seems like it would be to hop on a video call and have a real conversation. In reality, video calls take a lot more conscious effort than in-person interaction, and if you use them frequently, you’ll find yourself feeling exhausted with the idea of another video call.
Video conferencing can be draining because:
A lack of non-verbal cues means you’re working harder to communicate.
You’re putting more effort into pre-call prep.
You’re stuck in front of your computer with unnaturally restricted movement.
You’re always a little self-conscious about how you look on camera.
It’s intense–there are no visual breaks; if you break camera contact to look at your notes for a few seconds, it gets noticed in 4K resolution.
Instead of relying on video calls to stay in touch, embrace all that technology has to offer. Use collaboration tools like Slack which include casual messaging features. Use it to send a quick question when you have feedback, questions, concerns, changes, or updates. Get in the habit of using it often.
If that’s not an option, use SMS messaging on your cell phone and connect it to your desktop. This works with Windows 11 and an Android device using Microsoft’s “Your Phone” app. And if you’re using an iPhone and a Mac, the great thing about Apple is that all their devices are designed to work together.
There is a time and place for synchronous communications like video calls and asynchronous communications like message threads. Use both wisely. Consider all the tools at your disposal. Deloitte, a company known for its insights, has taken a deep dive into how remote working works, and they offer these suggestions:
Use facilitation tools like MS Teams or Miro for brainstorming, decision making, voting, etc.
Integrate tools with whiteboards, templates, and interactive lessons to enhance meetings like Conceptboard, Workplace or Slack.
Use collaboration tools like Asana instead of just relying on email threads to share documents and project updates.
Find tools for virtual team building Team Mood or Dr. Clue.
Be Intentional About Being Human
In the office, there is a good mix of productive, task-oriented communication and socialization. And it turns out that both are important. When you take away the water cooler talks, your working relationships begin to suffer from a lack of emotional connection.
Build stronger bonds with your colleagues or clients in the office by being intentional about sharing appropriate personal updates. You could start a Slack channel dedicated to sharing updates on your pets. Your pet-loving colleagues will enjoy the bonding, and anyone else can opt-out of participating.
Try to share photos or videos and keep everyone up to date with what is going on in your life outside of the project you are working on. And if the mix of interactions isn’t hitting the mark, try using the Slack integration: Donut. It randomly pairs up two employees and asks each an icebreaker question. It’s up to the two people to connect to provide their answers. A week later, Donut will check in with each employee for an update to see how things went. It provides a little tracking for accountability and makes the sometimes awkward introduction a lot easier.
The Takeaway on Bridging the Gap When You Work Remotely
It’s all about being intentional. Most of us underestimate how much is said without words. When you work in an office, it is easier to build and maintain relationships, share information, and feel included. We’re social by nature, and casual conversations in passing with bits of relevant information, non-verbal cues from body language, and visual confirmation of work progress all come naturally in the office environment.
When you work from home, you need to find ways to be more intentional with communication, resources, and relationships. The right tools and a different approach to staying in touch can help. Video conferencing has its place, but it’s not the only tool at our disposal. If Zoom fatigue has you feeling disconnected from your colleague in the office, it’s time to take a different approach.