Video meeting request after meeting request. As stay at home orders continue for most of the country, the last few months have felt like an infinite Zoom call in an effort to connect and communicate. But what happens when you need to relay information to your employees but most of them are experiencing Zoom fatigue?
Many have found that this fatigue is caused by having to focus on a gallery view of teammates, ensure your work area (and you) are “presentable,” and the expectation to be “on” during a lengthy call. While in person meetings also require focus and attention, there is an extra drain on individuals over a computer screen.
The need to share and disseminate information is still there, but the attention span of your employees is not. In an effort to streamline communication, let’s go over five alternative ways to communicate outside of a video meeting.
Hold Office Hours
Employees want to know that they have the support of their manager, especially when they have questions. Formal video meetings can be that place, but they are not the only option. Having a consistent time when your team can call, text, or email and guarantee a response is important. For example, if you host office hours every Tuesday from 10-11am, your team knows that for at least one hour a week they are guaranteed to reach you.
If you do host office hours, try to avoid scheduling other meetings during that timeframe and if something is unavoidable, let your team know. To ensure your team takes advantage of this time, share the hours on your internal email signature, general emails to your team, and any other centralized communication. When designing your hours, consider when your employees are available and may need to reach you. This should take into account various time zones and alternative schedules. If you are unsure of a time, survey your team.
Use Your Internal Messaging (IM) System
A quick question does not always mean a quick answer. But an internal messaging system can be a great way to disseminate straightforward information that does not require a lot of back and forth response and complex answers. If you want to know how to access a file, when a project is due, or contact information for a client, instant messaging can be a great tool.
This medium can also serve as a conversation primer. If you want to find out someone’s availability for a phone call for a more in-depth question.
When using IM, it is important to keep in mind that it can signify a sense of urgency. When someone IMs you with a question, task, or otherwise it usually means that there is a time constraint and an immediate response is requested. If that is not the intention of your request or conversation, consider using other means. The last thing you want is to send full details about a project and for the receiver to accidentally click off the chat and the information to be lost.
Also be mindful of the language you are using and your team’s availability. IMs tend to pop up on screen and can be seen by others if on a video call. This is still workplace communication and should be treated as such.
Send a Bulleted Email
If you were planning to have a meeting where you were strictly disseminating information (not asking for feedback or discussion), email can be your solution.But not just any message, an easy to follow bullet point email.
Think about the vital information that people need to know and share it in a digestible format. You can even use “TL;DR” (too long; didn’t read) at the top with a two sentence or less summary. Examples of areas where this may be more appropriate are:
- Providing straightforward information
- Distributing content during off hours and with colleagues in different time zones
- Documenting and following up with information
Have a Phone Conversation
While we might have technology that puts us past the “old fashioned” phone line, calls can be very efficient. Without needing the capability to share a screen or break into small group functions; a call can connect the dots.
Rather than feeling the need to clean your workspace for fear of people seeing a messy room on video, a call can get straight to the point. Phone conversations give you the space to address urgent issues and ask for feedback without being tied to a laptop. These can be scheduled for 15-30 minutes or be one-off sessions. Just make sure your employees do not feel tied to their devices for the “just in case” calls.
Use a Project Management System
Having a conversation with your team about where they are on projects can be valuable and should be part of your communication plan. But not every move requires a scheduled video conversation. Project management tools (such as Asana and Trello) that allow teammates to show and share their progress provide a visual representation of where the project stands.
This includes how long a task is in a phase, what might be held up, and who is responsible for each component. This information is valuable on its own, while also allowing future video meetings to be more strategic conversations instead of “where are we with this” questioning.
While there is value on holding video meetings, they should not be used as the default for all communication. If overused they can cause added stress and burn out for your team. Try out some of the above methods and ask your employees what is working (and what is not). Communication plans can be a work in progress and evolve as the team and their needs change.