Editor's Note: Zoom Overload

May 11, 2020
Managers must find ways to maximize virtual meetings while minimizing the mental exhaustion of employees
This article originally appeared in the May 2020 issue of Security Business magazine. When sharing, don’t forget to mention @SecBusinessMag!

My uncle is an executive for a major hospital network in Florida, and while he isn’t on the front lines caring for patients, he is one of the key cogs powering the efficiency of those hospitals every day. From strategies for securing more personal protective equipment, to handling a massive influx of patients, and everything in between, he plays an essential role.

I try to check in with him every week or so – only on weekends, for sure – to see how he is holding up. Like most essential workers, he is exhausted (in his case, mentally) at the end of every day after sitting through a minimum of six video-based conferences and/or meetings.

He says that the key for him getting through each day is to treat it much like he would when he goes into the office – he wakes up on time, he showers, he shaves (but thank goodness, he keeps the dress code sweatpants-casual). He takes breaks when possible and tries to keep his surroundings professional and quiet.

But there is a flip side to the coin to attending so many Zoom or Go-To Meetings. The meeting organizers have to make their messages digestible. There are lots of folks who already have this down to a science; however, with just about everyone now tasked with providing meetings virtually, there are quite a few newbies out there who are just now figuring out what works and what doesn’t when it comes to virtual meetings.

Essential workers in the security industry may not be as inundated with meetings and conferences as my uncle, but I am sure that between internal operations, customers and training, there is perhaps just as much call for screen time as for a top executive at a hospital.

Kate Zabriskie, president of Business Training Works Inc., a Maryland-based talent development firm, and frequent contributor to Security Business, submitted a full article with tips and tricks to making virtual meetings work. While the full article is posted online (www.securityinfowatch.com/21135713), here are the two pieces of advice I found most helpful:

Limit your time and use it wisely. No adult wants to sit for more than two hours at a time, and this is especially true in the virtual world. If you plan to move a six-hour meeting online and leave the agenda essential as is, think again. For meetings that are essentially information-sharing exercises, consider limiting yourself to one-hour blocks. For interactive conversations, as a rule of thumb, you should be able to get away with two hours at a time. Rarely, if ever, should you schedule more than four hours a day. And those four hours should include a generous break if possible. If you need more hours to accomplish everything you need to, consider running smaller meetings with fewer people, spreading a long meeting over several days, or sharing video recordings instead of bringing people together if they would accomplish the same result.

Accept that you are in a competition for attention. Nothing says multi-tasking opportunity like a web-based meeting. Even the most effective presenter competes with a participant’s inbox, other work, and in this age of quarantine, their sixth-grader’s math quiz. You will have to double or even triple your efforts to keep virtual attendees involved. Putting yourself on camera and asking participants to appear on camera is only the first step. Next, you have to think about ways to keep people’s eyes on the screen or handout and their hands busy about every two minutes. Two minutes? Yes! People want to be engaged. If they don’t engage with you, they will engage with something else.

Hopefully, the more meetings, trainings and conferences we participate in online will make all of us experts. While my uncle may not be able to avoid six hours worth of Zoom meetings every day, perhaps more streamlined, focused meetings will ease his mental exhaustion – something that pretty much everyone sitting at a desk in their basement or at their kitchen table needs as well. 

Paul Rothman is Editor-in-Chief of Security Business magazine (www.securitybusinessmag.com). Email him your comments or topic suggestions at [email protected].

(Image courtesy bigstockphoto.com)
It’s a new world for many people taking the plunge into the world of virtual meetings, and now is the time to get comfortable. Take the time now to leverage a few simple strategies that will get you on solid footing.