As 2020 unfolded, the COVID-19 shutdown pushed in-person business meetings off the calendar and replaced them with virtual meetings. Since then, the global experiment with forced digital communication — from 1:1 meetings and team get-togethers to fully remote conferences and virtual learning events — has continued unabated.
What’s more, indicators point to a sweeping and perhaps permanent reset to an increasingly work-from-home landscape. A recent Gartner CFO survey revealed that nearly three-fourths (74%) plan to permanently shift employees to remote work after the pandemic ends. (Forbes)
But interacting with team members exclusively via webcam can take a toll. (Psychology Today) The seemingly endless string of online workplace meetings, where a day can be packed with little more than clicking from one session to another, has left many workers “Zoomed out.” What they are experiencing is the phenomenon known as Zoom fatigue. (Stanford)
Zoom fatigue describes the feeling of being drained and burned out from the over-use of a digital platform. Researchers at Stanford describe it as a consequence of intense and excessive eye contact, the surreal experience of constantly watching oneself on video, immobilization as a result of being stuck at a desk in front of a screen, and excess mental energy expended to identify the social and body language cues that would ordinarily be picked up intuitively in a real-world setting.
It’s no wonder we’re experiencing Zoom fatigue. Insights reported in MIT’s Sloan Management Review suggest that only 50% of meeting time is effective, and the effectiveness of remote meetings is even lower. (MIT) Moreover, poorly run meetings have an overwhelmingly negative impact on participants’ well-being and stress levels, not to mention the drain on a team’s success, innovation, creativity, and motivation.
To overcome personal Zoom fatigue, researchers suggest that individuals take steps such as making the on-screen window smaller to minimize participants’ face size, increasing your space bubble by creating distance between yourself and the webcam, hiding the self-view video feed, and periodically turning off the camera to take a break from constantly watching others.
But what are the organizational steps business leaders can take to help medical and sales teams collaborate and gain knowledge effectively while avoiding Zoom fatigue during virtual learning events (VLEs)? Research shows that effective digital engagement, at least from the perspective of VLEs, can be driven by a combination of several methods, including, 1) contextual learning, 2) digital engagement tools, and 3) high-quality facilitation.
To help participants capture and retain information, contextual learning is a key first step. (CORD) The theory teaches that learners get the best from new information when they can relate it to their own experiences and frames of reference. It stands to reason that focusing on setting the proper context will increase the motivation and commitment participants give to the learning program. Frequent use of examples relevant to the participants’ world of experience stimulates the mind and sets the stage for meaningful discussions and high-quality engagement.
Alongside contextual learning, the establishment of a relatively simple agenda with clear outcomes, along with a liberal sprinkling of entertaining activities, is a sure-fire way to bolster engagement. True collaboration and engagement are greatly enhanced when leaders use digital tools to help manage conversations, record whiteboard commentary and scribing, and facilitate the capturing of ideas, impressions, and the sharing of experiences that go beyond just audio and video chatting.
In the end, perhaps the most important contributor to superior digital engagement is the quality of facilitation. (MIT) This is true not only for a single leader managing a main plenary session, but also for support facilitators who, using digital break-out group functionality, are able to build on core themes through small group activities.
Participant engagement is highest when facilitators are skilled in the use of the digital platform and its embedded tools and techniques. High-quality facilitation usually results in 80% of the discussion coming from the participants themselves, with the facilitator serving as a conduit for communication. In this setting, the facilitator leads the discussion by leveraging the experiences, knowledge, and energy of the group.
After a massive shift to remote working in 2020, we believe digital engagement is here to stay. The technology continues to develop, with new platforms offering increasing simplicity and functionality. Add in contextual learning, digital engagement tools, and high-quality facilitation, and effective digital interactions can become a reality.
Amplity is at the forefront of developing the industry’s most critical skills via timely, topical, high-quality remote training courses. Our interactive content includes visuals, voice-overs, quizzes, simulations, animations, avatars, virtual reality, video demonstration, practice scenarios, and opportunities for learners to apply what they have learned to real-life situations. Our global pool of over 140 facilitators have the background, experience, and skillsets to effectively design and deliver remote learning programs. To learn more, visit Amplity Virtual Learning Solutions.
Director of Client Solutions
David Barwick is an expert in capability development, including remote engagement skillsets, emotional intelligence, and leading remote teams. He has worked in the pharmaceutical industry for 25 years.
David and his team are currently responsible for the quality of the solutions Amplity Health provides for clients and their areas of focus include Outsourced Services, Digital and Learning, and Development.