Calling Time On Video Calls

For the past couple of years, my work has been mostly online but broken up with regular trips to London for proper, real-life, face to face meetings.  In March, COVID-19 came along and changed all that – and not for the better.  As the country went into lockdown, I found that not only was I working longer hours but, my time in front of the screen had tripled.  Whilst we’re always talking about the dangers of excess screen time for children, we don’t seem to apply this to ourselves and, as a result, a few weeks into working 100% remotely, I hit a wall twice in a row.  As somebody who practices – and preaches – self-care, I realised that something was very wrong. 

Screening out the noise

Determined to find out what was going on, I sat down with my diary and discovered, to my dismay, that I had afforded myself little to no time for self-care whilst I was supporting everybody else around me.  They say that you can’t pour from an empty cup and I realised that this was certainly the case – but it was more than that and, so, I booked a session with a great coach, Peter Soers, who helped me to stop feeling so overwhelmed by guiding me through ways of streamlining and cutting out excess work.  One of the things I learned here is just how exhausting – physically and mentally – online calls can be.  During these calls, we have to focus intently in order to hear what people are saying and to read micro-expressions which are evident when face to face in real life.  In addition, we often have to switch from person to person during multi-person calls.  All of this can sap our energy in the worst way and I found myself constantly stressed and exhausted.  It also occurred to me that, if this was the case for myself, a seasoned online communicator, then what must it be like for those who aren’t used to working remotely at all?

With that in mind, I set out to write the guide to Zoom meetings that I wish I’d had when setting out lockdown working.  With the pandemic settling in for the long haul, despite some easing of restrictions, I hope this will help you to stay focussed and stress-free whilst working from home: 

  • Set a strict number of hours per day (and per week) for video calls – and stick to it
  • Insist on T&P (tea and pee) breaks every 45 – 60 minutes as you would if you were all sitting together in a boardroom
  • If a meeting is set to be a long one, insist on a proper lunch break (not the kind with a sandwich in one hand and a pen in the other)
  • Use traditional telephone communication where possible
  • Keep a bottle of water handy and be sure to stay hydrated
  • Switch video off occasionally for a break (other attendees will thank you, I promise)
  • Make sure that your workspace is well aired and clutter-free
  • Take a short walk or at least step outside for a breath of fresh air after each call
  • Make a schedule and stick to it to avoid Zoom burnout
  • Reclaim your weekends by making them Zoom meetings free – leaving you free to focus on hobbies and happy time

The past six months or so have been incredibly tough in many ways and too many of us are filling our time with work and forgetting to switch off – quite literally.  Like many, I’ve found myself logging onto Zoom meetings at nine o’clock in the evening when I should have been winding down for the night.  Treat working from home just the same as working from the office in that you have a start time, regular breaks and a set finish time to help you burn bright rather than burning out. 

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