As we find ourselves adapting to the new world we now inhabit and many of us are forced to work remotely, for the majority, this is still a very new situation. As ‘Skype’ and ‘Zoom’ have now become household verbs, and videoconferencing is a big part of our new norm, many of us are even experiencing Zoom fatigue – here at SBC Group whilst we realise these circumstances can be challenging (especially as many of us are also dealing with homeschool or other issues) we wanted to look at how we could use it more effectively.
There are obvious disadvantages of having to communicate via a computer or smartphone, human interaction cannot be fully replicated through video calls, however, there are also major advantages. In this short article we will seek to set out how to optimise the use of technology in the most efficient way.
To start off with, it is important to note that there is a considerable difference between using Skype (or any other videoconferencing package, Zoom, Google Hangout, Microsoft Teams etc. We will for this article use ‘Skype’ as a verb to represent all tools of video calling) for one-off or occasional use, in comparison with it being the primary method of interaction with many, if not most, of our colleagues on a regular and on-going basis.
I myself have been using non face-to-face communicating for many years but appreciate that for most this will be a relatively new experience. Moving from face-to-face meetings, with occasional video calls and short phone meetings is completely different to ‘Skyping’ or Zooming’ back to back for 5-6 hours a day.
Below is a set of suggestions that I have found invaluable to sustaining effective work habits when the majority (if not all) of your communication is non face-to- face.
Finding the right pace
I think the most important lesson is to understand that the brain works much like an elastic band i.e. you can pull the elastic band and release it all day long but if you pull it to its maximum and hold it, it will snap relatively quickly. So, to the brain, which works best when it has a period to focus and relax, focus again and then relax. This is actually the way that many athletes train, putting one’s muscles under stress and then making sure to sleep and eat well to relax. Getting this cadence to work is the most important part of any workday.
Assuming that this is a marathon, not a sprint and most of us will be working remotely (where possible) for the next few months and will likely have social distancing measures for at least another 3 months. It is also very unlikely that we will ever go back to the amount of travelling, certainly overseas travelling, that we were used to. Getting this pace right is essential. Thus, it is essential that we should try not to do back-to-back video meetings throughout the entire day. First of all, the majority of us are now working from our homes so it is essential to put in breaks for meals and relaxing, rather than trying to do 8 hours straight, it would be much better to do 10 hours with 2, 1 hour breaks in between.
Video calls vs phone calls
Secondly not all meetings need to be on ‘Skype’. There are many meetings that can be done equally well over the phone. In fact, I am finding that some of my clients have been using video calls even when they would have normally been using a telephone.
For reasons that we will get into later in the article, video requires significantly more focus and attention than the telephone. It is also much easier just to wander around the room, make a coffee, and fiddle with something in one’s hands whilst on the phone rather than when on ‘Skype’ call. Again, we will get into the reasons for this later.
Summary at this point, try not to do more than 2 hours of back-to-back video calls and try and mix your days up between video calls, breaks, exercise and regular phone calls.
Limitations of video
It is important to note that as we said in the previous point ‘Skyping’ every day is very different to doing the odd Skype session here and there. Many people are still using an Iphone or Ipad as a tool to Skype whilst most people are using their desktop/laptop computer. If we just think about this, this can create significant disadvantages from face to face meetings.
Resolving these issues
There are a number of suggestions which if you are able to make will both ease the effectiveness and quality of your Skype communication.
Whilst we adapt to our new situations, we can also try and adapt our new ‘virtual’ meetings work life and use them as efficiently as possible by limiting the number of video calls and ensuring we take proper breaks and exercise. Look at different set-ups for video conferencing, moving cameras further away or investing in additional equipment and of course just making traditional phone calls – not every call or meeting needs to be over ‘Skype’.
Please let us know if there are any particular topics you would like as to address over the coming weeks.