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It’s hard to imagine navigating the past year and continuing business operations without Zoom or other “pandemic technologies.” Tools like Zoom, however, are a double-edged sword for businesses. The surge in virtual meetings has resulted in widespread exhaustion, commonly known as “Zoom fatigue.”

According to a Stanford study, this fatigue is real and can be a consequence of four main factors: excessive eye contact, increased time staring at yourself, reduced mobility and overstimulation. These stressors can cause us to feel overloaded with a seemingly never-ending onslaught of calls and distractions. This can lead to reduced productivity and falling retention rates if not addressed as people become overwhelmed with their workload.

As business leaders, we need to recognize the true impact of so much digital interaction and set proper boundaries to ensure employees are given the ability to step away to recharge. With this in mind, how can leaders embrace digital tools for business optimization, while simultaneously combatting Zoom fatigue? I recommend the following: limit virtual meetings when possible, offer alternative options for attendees during meetings and add some fun!

To Zoom or Not to Zoom?
The number of virtual meeting requests most professionals receive is astronomical. While real estate professionals often find themselves working beyond the traditional eight hours, even with an extended workday, too many virtual meetings can wipe out all productivity. My personal record is 14 Zoom meetings in one day. I was a poster child for Zoom fatigue until I pulled myself out of my work to realize I needed to make changes for myself and my team.

Business and brokerage leaders should use Zoom judiciously. Be thoughtful when deciding if a meeting is necessary and know when an email may suffice for a given interaction. Furthermore, be strategic when determining who needs to be present. Not everybody needs to be at every meeting. Similarly, leaders should train agents to be able to confidently determine the best communication methods for interactions with both colleagues and clients.

Take a Step Back
If a video conference is required for a particular interaction, encourage agents to explore settings and view options that make them feel most comfortable. When appropriate, allow cameras to be turned off when they’re not speaking. This will help to avoid unnecessary distractions and may create a more pleasant environment for all participants.

With Zoom as a major part of our everyday routines, it’s easy to get distracted by too much stimulation—like sneaking a peek into each other’s homes or too much direct eye contact with other participants. Additionally, let’s face it, we’ve all taken a moment to glance at ourselves during a meeting to make sure we look our best. Over long periods of time, this can be detrimental. The sheer amount of time on camera can make it seem like people are always staring at you, leading to increased scrutiny of appearances. By switching off cameras or gallery mode, everyone will be able to focus more attentively on whoever is speaking.

Be Engaging
When a video conference is required, keep it concise and to the point. Once you move past the 45-minute mark, it becomes increasingly difficult to hold people’s attention. To help boost engagement, consider adding in fun aspects like weekly themes. For example, allow everyone to dress up or change their background in line with a chosen theme, such as favorite sports teams, superheroes or movies. This will help to create a more engaging environment, lighten the mood and allow the whole team to feel more connected.

Final Takeaway
If we can draw one conclusion from the pandemic, it’s that Zoom (and similar technologies) are here to stay. Leaders that effectively incorporate strategies to combat fatigue brought on by extended virtual interactions, will achieve a more productive, healthier and engaged workforce.

Fiona Petrie is the EVP and managing director of RE/MAX INTEGRA U.S.—the U.S. branch of the world’s largest real estate sub-franchisor. In her role, Petrie oversees all operations—including regional growth and expansion initiatives—of RE/MAX INTEGRA in the Midwest and New England regions, which is comprised of more than 500 brokerages and over 7,000 agents.  

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