- The Omicron variant is causing companies to delay their return-to-office plans.
- Zoom fatigue could be one challenge workers face, according to a Stanford professor.
- Nick Bloom said that his research into remote meetings shows that smaller ones are more effective.
Some companies, like Google, have delayed their office-return plans as a result of the Omicron variant. In the UK, from December 12, workers will be asked to work from home where possible.
During the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, companies went to great lengths to maintain morale and culture while colleagues were working from home.
Reports of Zoom parties, virtual yoga, and cook-a-longs became the norm — as did reports of workers complaining they’re burned out from back-to-back video calls. It’s a feeling that’s become known as
Nick Bloom, professor of economics at Stanford University, has been researching remote working for two decades. During the pandemic, he also co-founded The Survey of Working Attitudes and Arrangements, which monitors attitudes towards remote work.
Bloom said that Zoom fatigue could be one of the challenges that remote workers face if they go back to working from home full-time.
He said this is something that they will have to put up with, in the same way that they put up with taxes they don’t want to pay.
But there are lessons we can learn from the last two years of a pandemic about how employees react to video meetings, according to Bloom.
“Zoom works well one-on-one, it doesn’t work well for virtual cocktail parties where there are 30 people and just one person talking,” said Bloom, during an interview at Insider’s Global Trends Festival.
Bloom said that Zoom conversations with up to four people can be effective, and are even deemed by the average person to be slightly better, online according to his research.
He said this is because, while it’s not as personable as a physical meeting, you can still see each other’s facial expressions and can call without having to mute, he said.
“By the time you get into 10-person-plus meetings, there are little boxes. You can’t really see people, you all have to mute,” Bloom said.
If colleagues want to reach out to socialize, they should schedule multiple one-on-ones or one-on-twos, instead of a 20-person call, he added.
Minimizing the number of meetings you have scheduled is one tactic experts commonly suggest for fighting video call exhaustion. Turning your camera off and being aware of “loop-thinking” are others.
Of course, Zoom hasn’t been all negative. The pandemic has taught us that we can work from home effectively, said Bloom. Something that would not have been as easy ten years ago when homeworkers needed to rely on email and phone.
“Technology like Zoom has come of age, thankfully, just in time to save the economy during the pandemic,” Bloom said.