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Beware the Corona leadership grenades

Is Zoom Fatigue real?

The natural defence is to say that Zoom isn’t giving us the usual <social interactions> which our old way of working did, it’s very fair but very false.

The way the brain takes in virtual meetings has three major flaws:

1. Social Cues

We can’t pick up social cues as we can in person.

Our natural way is seeing micro expressions on faces, taking onboard instinct cues and simple emotions like the happiness or anger brewing in the people who we are speaking to (more about the gains of social interactions here).

The video is flat, not 3D and we lose 70% of human communication which comes from our micro facial expressions and body language. Our automatic habit of understanding one another is disrupted.

We assume we can pick up the same cues but it doesn’t work that way; It’s unnatural no matter how HD the camera is (if we have it on which is a whole other psychological challenge as to why people keep cameras off).

2. Focus power.

We also have to concentrate harder in virtual meetings than in person which zaps our brain processing power and energy.

We aren’t machines; We run out of focus power quite quickly in these scenarios.

3. Processing power.

Now for the worst of the worst.

It takes 20 minutes for the brain to process a phone call. That’s after the call. Imagine how long it takes to process a video call where it’s not just audio but lots of people and lots of things that you can normally process in a microsecond which you can’t understand or fathom. That is why zoom fatigue is very real.

How to deal?

1. I know a global corporation that has a zero meetings day for all staff on the same day every week. It’s a great idea, not just because it gives the gift of time but because it also gives us psychological permission to breathe in the mind.

Psychological permission is vital for all of us and manifests itself in so many different ways such as believing our voice is being listened to, being appreciated, respected and feeling that we can speak up.

The brain reacts on a psychological and neurological level when we are given permission to have time. It matters a lot.

2. Learning to say no but that’s not easy when you look at the final biggest Corona era work issue: leadership.

The Leader's job is contingent on giving out plans, ideas and processes and then following up and seeing the completion results. Starting again, improving and hopefully throwing in a bit of praise where needed. Rinse and repeat.

I’ve been running my own businesses for 15 years in different guises and I am as guilty as the next person of throwing out what I call a ‘Leadership Grenade’.

You know what I mean…

Boss is in a creative mood, they are firing out ideas (grenades).

Boss is in a foul mood, they are firing our criticism (grenades).

Boss is taking credit for my idea, they are firing our instructions using my idea (grenades).

I try my best to be the first one, sometimes I’m the second and never the last one. My point is, all leaders do it, no matter how well they lead or not.

Corona has thrown a spanner in the works.

  • The Leader is now not in real meetings rooms.
  • The Leader is now not travelling to work.
  • The Leader is now not going out for lunch.
  • The Leader is rarely shooting the breeze with other leaders.
  • The Leader is not taking long breaks (they are all at it).

The Leader simply has time #eeeeeek

They are filling that time by lobbying more and more leadership grenades out. I can’t tell you how often this is the root cause of the stress in the Corona workplace. We all feel 10 times busier but we’re not sure why, it’s not on you.

While some of us are feeling fueled by the newly won time, others might feel paralysed by it; Trapped in their bubbles with fewer opportunities to stop and reflect. Isolation is exhausting because of a lack of chances to validate our feelings and experiences. We are longing to reconnect with our colleagues, exchange ideas and feelings, or simply allow ourselves a break.

Start by acknowledging these circumstances and the fact that everyone works differently. Establishing new habits is one hell of a task, especially when you’re on your own. Encouragement and patience is more important than ever, as our minds lack diffusion and distraction to cope with workloads and adjustments.

I’m hoping this article goes some way to helping and sharing out to leaders as a reminder that your words have impact and what your staff need to perform is motivation and someone who is jumping on the grenades to protect the team (not throwing the grenade at them!).

Part of our ‘Is Corona messing with our mental health and why’ series.

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