In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, video meetings have become the norm for many people, and the vast majority of workshops and other training opportunities listed on our webpage are now on-line. Pre-covid, many accounting and legal firms would host after-hours events at their offices or other venues; these are now the exception rather than the rule. It may be cheaper and easier to offer on-line training, but while there are advantages, there are also penalties.

Technology such as Zoom, Teams, Jitsi and the like (anyone remember Skype?!) has allowed us to stay connected and conduct our business in a safe and efficient way, and of course it allows a number of people to participate from centres other than that in which the host is based. However, there are some dangers associated with relying solely on video meetings and training. In this article, we’ll explore the risks of “Zooming in and missing out” and discuss some concerns and how we might be missing opportunities for networking when we take the easy option of sitting at our desk in our pajamas to attend meetings.

Firstly, video meetings can be exhausting. Studies have shown that virtual meetings require more focus and mental energy than in-person meetings. When we’re on a video call, we’re forced to pay attention to multiple things at once: the speaker, the chat box, and our own appearance. we may be doing other tasks such as clearing emails and not engaging fully in what is going on. We’re also less likely to take breaks, stretch our legs, or grab a cup of coffee (and we may have a glass of wine just out of camera shot!). These factors can lead to fatigue and burnout.

Video meetings can be isolating. When we’re working remotely, we miss out on the spontaneous interactions and conversations that happen in the office or in a physical seminar or workshop. In the business sense, we’re also more likely to feel disconnected from our colleagues and the company culture. This can lead to feelings of loneliness, disengagement, and can lead to depression.

Another risk of relying solely on video meetings is the potential for miscommunication. When we’re not in the same room as our colleagues, we may miss non-verbal cues like body language and facial expressions. This can make it difficult to interpret tone and intent, leading to misunderstandings and conflicts.

It is often the easy path to take, but on-line meetings and seminars limit our opportunities for networking. When we’re sitting at our desks in our pj’s, we’re missing the opportunity to engage in the casual conversations and networking opportunities that happen during in-person meetings. On-line sessions are usually a one at a time experience and we are missing the opportunity for the spontaneous discussions that may occur in a small group over a sandwich or cake and the opportunity to learn from others in the sector who may have had similar difficulties and experiences to our own. In the work sense, we may also be less likely to participate in after-work events or social activities, which can limit our exposure to new ideas and opportunities.

To ensure that we do not suffer from the negative effects of video meetings, there are a few things we can do:

  1. Limit the number of video meetings: Try to limit the number of video meetings you have in a day or week. This can help reduce the mental and emotional strain that can come with too many virtual interactions.
  2. Set boundaries: Just because you’re working from home doesn’t mean you have to be available 24/7. Set boundaries around your workday and stick to them. This can help prevent burnout and help you maintain a healthy work-life balance.
  3. Take breaks: Taking breaks is important for reducing fatigue and staying energized. Schedule breaks into your day and make sure you step away from your computer during those times.
  4. Stay engaged: It’s easy to get distracted during virtual meetings, but staying engaged can help reduce feelings of isolation and disconnection. Participate in discussions, ask questions, and show interest in what others have to say.
  5. Use video selectively: Not every meeting needs to be a video call. If it’s a simple update or check-in, consider using email or phone instead. Reserve video meetings for more complex discussions or brainstorming sessions.
  6. Practice good posture: Sitting in front of a computer for extended periods of time can take a toll on our bodies. Make sure you’re sitting in a comfortable and supportive chair and practice good posture to reduce strain on your neck, back, and shoulders.
  7. Stay connected: Virtual meetings can be isolating, so it’s important to stay connected with colleagues and friends outside of work. Schedule virtual coffee breaks or happy hours, or simply check in with someone to see how they’re doing.
  8. Encourage your organisation to offer in-person seminars and workshops on topics of interest to your sector, and
  9. Support in-person activities, for your benefit, and to encourage the host body.

By being aware of the potential pitfalls, we can reduce the negative effects of on-line meetings and ensure that we’re taking care of our mental, emotional, and physical well-being.

In conclusion, while video meetings have been a valuable tool for staying connected during the pandemic, we should be aware of the dangers of relying solely on this technology. By taking breaks, staying engaged, and participating in networking events, we can ensure that we’re not missing out on important opportunities for professional growth and development.

Some more reading:

The Surprising Science Behind Remote Meetings

Workers think less creatively in Zoom meetings, study finds

What is video call fatigue?