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The backlash to video calling and the alternatives

Okay I wouldn’t call just one decision from the CEO of a major bank the indication of a backlash: Citigroup CEO ordains Zoom-free Fridays to ease ‘relentless’ pandemic workday. But come on, how many tales have you already heard of similar woes. Zoom fatigue has become a thing. And its not just about Zoom. Microsoft Teams (disclosure) has built features into their software to try and negate the ill effects of too much time spent on video calls. So what’s a business bod to do?

I would write more and collaborate asynchronously. I’ve written about this before (natch 😁), actually its a web story which hints at my point, see below. At the end there are some onward links, check out the one in particular, which supports the same arguments: Writing skills for remote asynchronous work and how you can master them.

The point is COVID-19 has made video calling explode. The point is also that we long for face to face interaction. So the assumption is that once things get back to normal πŸ€£πŸ˜‚ video calling will just go away.

It wont.

And its not just because things wont go back to normal. It’s also that the old normal was hopelessly useless in many ways too.

For instance, too many meetings – whether in person or virtually. Let me rephrase that, too many BAD meetings.

Lets not throw the baby out with the bathwater! Why not make use of the excellent virtual collaboration tools out there already and the good habits we’ve built up and make do until we absolutely MUST have a meeting.

This article just published argues strongly for Why collaboration is the next driver in enterprise software.

I’m in the space and know that with tools like Microsoft Teams, there is so much that can be done to plan, discuss, action and track all kinds of work without needing to jump on a call. Yet people instinctively reach for the meeting invite when a simple chat will do. And they often go on to invite others, wasting more than just two people’s time.

This article in The Economist nails it too: Why β€œasynchronous” working is the key to efficiency.

So what’s a business bod to do?

  1. Think before you meet. Some people equate action and effectiveness with real time conversation but that’s not always true. They are also the type to arrange a meeting out of instinct, a knee jerk reflex almost, without first thinking. I do believe it is ultimately more effective but only in the right context: resolve issues; finalise actions, etc. The context, most often, doesn’t call for it though.
  2. Write it down first. Even if you have to meet eventually, writing things down (or doodling if you’re not much of a writer) is such good practice. It allows you to structure your thinking, take emotion out of the equation and prepare for meetings that do have to happen. It might also obviate the need for meetings entirely, especially if you share what you write openly, which brings me to …
  3. Work out loud. Its not a new thing, there’s even a movement. Ever since I’ve been involved in the enterprise collaboration space which is a looooong time, working out loud has been a watchword for asynchronous work but I’m still trying to educate people on the practice. Find out about it, do it and share the benefits if you can and save our collective sanity as a result please πŸ™
  4. Say no to meetings. Especially if they lack a clear purpose and outline. Recurring meetings are a big culprit. I have seen countless activities in this space recently, of people pushing back and no Zoom Fridays is just one example. Most of all, as a corollary to point 1 above, think before you accept a meeting request – are you really needed, does it have a clear purpose and agenda, etc.
  5. Meet with intent. If you are pushed to the last resort and a meeting is the best way to resolve things or get the right actions nailed, then at the very least make it effective if you are driving it. Or ensure it is if others are. Insist on the right duration, clarity of purpose and outcome and the brief agenda necessary to attain it.

The meeting is dead, long live meetings!

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