The COVID-19 pandemic introduced millions of Americans to remote work. If you were one of them, you probably spent the past year setting up your home office, adjusting to a new routine, and sitting through countless video meetings every week.
In fact, so-called Zoom fatigue has become a common side effect of this pandemic. According to a recent Zippia survey, most people say they struggle to pay attention during virtual meetings. But contrary to popular belief, Zoom fatigue does not occur because we schedule too many meetings. Instead, it commonly stems from external factors in our homes that leave us prone to distractions, interruptions, and embarrassment.
Other members of our household are also adjusting to new routines. Our spouses are working from home, our kids are learning remotely, and you can be sure that our pets are excited about us being home all day. None of these people or animals really cares if we are in the middle of an important meeting: They will try to talk to us, sit on our laps, or bark at the mailman whenever they please.
With these potential disruptions looming over our heads, it is no wonder we feel preoccupied during virtual meetings and would rather avoid them altogether. But here is the harsh reality: If we did not have meetings, we would not have jobs — especially during this pandemic.
So we have learned to live with video meetings. Now, we need to learn to love them, and these three tips will help you do just that:
• Lift the curtain. Do not try to hide that you live in a noisy neighborhood, have three hyperactive dogs, and are currently doubling as a daycare provider in addition to your normal job. These are all realities that your co-workers are also inhabiting, and they are nothing to be embarrassed about. If you spend an entire remote meeting preoccupied with preventing these inevitable distractions, you will also prevent yourself from paying attention and contributing.
So instead of shooing your kids away and apologizing profusely when they walk into the room during a meeting, introduce them to your colleagues as part of your team. Do the same with your pets. Chances are that your co-workers will appreciate seeing your cute kids and furry friends for a few seconds — and they will feel more connected to you as a result.
• Set boundaries. Your pets might know “no boundaries” during your meetings, but you can create some ground rules for your family regarding when and how they can interact with you during the workday. Try creating a “do not disturb” schedule every week that identifies specific time windows when you are completely off-limits. Be strict about it. “Do not disturb” should mean: “Do not talk to me or even look at me unless the house is on fire or someone needs to go to the hospital.”
If your spouse is also working from home, make sure your “do not disturb” windows do not overlap. Also, try creating an FAQ poster or flowchart for your kids that can help them answer their own questions without parental involvement.
• Know when to step away. Sometimes, there is just no avoiding chaos. You will sit down for a virtual meeting, and suddenly, the doorbell will start ringing, the kids will start screaming, and your cat will start coughing up a hairball on your favorite rug. At this point, there is no use in trying to contribute to any work-related conversation. Do yourself and your colleagues a favor and excuse yourself from the meeting. Turn off your camera, mute your microphone, and come back once order is restored. Your meeting mates will understand — and they will actually thank you.
Virtual meeting platforms are invaluable tools during the COVID-19 pandemic, but they can also feel like albatrosses without the proper safeguards in place. Our homes might feel familiar and comfortable, but they are anything but predictable. If you want to learn to love video meetings, you must prepare for inevitable distractions and cope with them accordingly. Instead of letting them stress you out, welcome them with open arms.