‘All Zoomed Out’: Finding the balance in a virtual workplace
We’re essentially a year into a world of video calls and virtual meetings. In the golden days of 2019, you’d stick your head above the parapet of your desk’s boundaries and ask a question of Dave, two chairs down. You might walk and talk through a problem on the way to a well-known sandwich shop, or sit down in a meeting room and thrash out a project plan. However, with a large portion of Businesses’ offices fully or partially closed, we rejoice for the power of the internet and replace those face-to-face encounters with their virtual equivalents.
Whilst this transition has undoubtedly allowed Businesses to survive during one of the most challenging and unexpected set of circumstances for decades, there is another side to this virally-coated coin. Increasingly a common complaint amongst a new army of home workers; eye strain and migraines are becoming ever growing health concerns, which will challenge the Health and Safety policies of many businesses in the months and years to come. Ensuring you have completed the correct risk assessments and followed government guidance relating to Display Screen Equipment is essential.
There are a number of ways for both employees and employers to break up their day and subsequently introduce screen-free time. Leading by example is often the most effective: blocking out an hour for lunch on a reoccurring daily basis, and encouraging your team to do the same, for instance. Whilst this may seem obvious; with limited visibility, employees can be nervous to be seen ‘away’ or ‘inactive’ for fear of being perceived as bunking off work, especially during a period of economic uncertainty such as the one we are in currently. Subconsciously it is likely your staff are feeling more anxious about their employment: with an unemployment rate of 5% forecast to reach 7.7% in April 2021 according to the Office for National Statistics, and record levels of redundancies in Q4 2020, this is perhaps not surprising.
There are also more proactive ways employers can support their employees (and help protect themselves from any future claims). Some companies have introduced a monthly meeting-free day, others are adopting competitive step-counting challenges to encourage exercise and time away from the desk-cum-kitchen-table. There are a plethora of ways to reassure and encourage a healthier work-life balance for your staff.
The main trend difference in Lockdown 3.0? Less is more. In March of 2020, the novelty of Lockdown led to a frenzy of virtual pub quizzes, virtual drinks after work with colleagues, virtual ‘coffee catch ups’ with Leadership Teams and Line Managers. However, studies show that during these video calls, the brain is working overtime to read facial cues, guess body language and not be distracted by one’s own face (‘have I got something in my teeth?’). Indeed, according to the Psychiatric Times’ article, A Neuropsychological Exploration of Zoom Fatigue, ‘there is robust evidence on how eye contact improves connection—faster responses, more memorization of faces, and increased likeability and attractiveness. These tools that make interactions organically rewarding are compromised over video’.