The Coronavirus Pandemic has brought to fore new ways of conducting business in the government and private sector. With the transmissions occurring mainly through contact with respiratory droplets, health research established ways of minimising infections.
These include social distancing of maintaining a gap of at least six feet between two people. It is because of this that all meetings and congregations are now done online. This is where your laptop and the Zoom Meeting App comes in handy.
Whether you are using Zoom meeting, Skype or Google meeting App, for your video conferencing, you may be experiencing Zoom fatigue or Video Conferencing fatigue that is making you feel tired during the conference calls.
Why we should keep a social distance.
The science behind this is that the virus could not move in the respiratory droplets past six feet. Hence, the transmission is highly unlikely under the case. Secondly, the health research established the need for donning masks in public on in congested areas. This also prevents transmission through respiratory droplets from an infected person to a healthy person.
Protocols for managing the Coronavirus Pandemic have been issued on donning and doffing of masks. Further items that help to reduce the risk of transmission are the use of gloves and face shields. People have been advised to stay in their houses unless there is a compelling reason to get out or to travel. This has led some countries to impose radical lockdown measures with a view to reducing the rate of transmission.
With over 90% of the positive test cases being asymptomatic, one may never be sure whether someone within the environment is an asymptomatic patient.
A further advisory on cough etiquette and respiratory hygiene is recommended by the health experts. One is expected to cough or sneeze inside a folded elbow and immediately sanitize with an alcohol-based sanitizer approved by the standards agency.
Alternatively, wash hands with soap and running water for at least 20 seconds, the time which the protective proteins of the virus is broken down by the action of soap on the virus.
For note, however, not any one or two of these measures is adequate to prevent the spread of the virus. Each of them has to be considered to increase the probability of desired safety. However, with all the measures considered, there is still a chance of spreading the Coronavirus.
This is because the Coronavirus is said to be airborne, and most often people touch the front of the masks or touching their faces, thus exposing themselves to the virus. Research indicates that the COVID-19 virus gains entry into the human body through three points: the mouth, nose, or eyes.
The Practice of Videoconferencing
The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic brought in new modalities of socialising and conducting meetings. Operations had to continue even with the lockdowns and the cessation of movement. Hence, video conferencing becomes the preferred mode of conducting meetings and coordination activities. Different platforms have since been utilized for video conferencing including Skype, Zoom, Google Meeting, WhatsApp etc
This came at a time that most of the people had not had the opportunity of learning or using virtual platforms for meetings. Hence, there are embarrassing members from some of the meeting participants while conducting the virtual sessions.
There is one incident that was recorded and ran viral in the social media, of a meeting of diplomats. One of the diplomats stood from his seat, proceeded to the washroom, and relieved himself on life meeting. In other lesser embarrassing moments, people holding the meeting at home, then children come running and use uncivil language while the meeting is in progress.
In some cases, there are technical hitches where the microphones or earpieces fail, thus affecting the meeting.
Addressing the embarrassing moments
To be able to conduct a successful virtual meeting, the participants should prepare themselves as if they were attending a physical meeting. The preparation for a physical meeting is usually preceded by the choice of a serene venue.
The sound systems, lighting, and ambience are checked to ensure that the conference room is fine. The meeting participants ensure that they have set their mobile phones in a way that will not disrupt the meeting once it starts.
People are not usually allowed to walk in freely or disrupt the meeting while in progress. These are actually ordinary protocols for physical meetings. The same, if applied in virtual meetings, leads to productive engagements.
Video Conferencing: Seven factors to consider
One may consider the following points to host a productive meeting.
- The host should share the meeting link address early enough, allowing ample time for testing the tools before the official starting time of the meeting. Where necessary, someone should test the gadgets of the meeting participants in good time to ensure there are no technical hitches with the gadgets
- The meeting participants should dress up appropriately and decongest the meeting room, or environment by sitting in front of a clear background. This will avoid the temptation of people getting lost to the patterns or the mages in the background. Proper dressing is meant to accord the meting the seriousness that it deserves
- Each of the participants should ensure that they have an adequately strong network connection. Weak links often disconnect midway thus affecting the flow of communication. This will also cure the waste of time by repeatedly asking whether one is being heard by the colleagues.
- The participants should be prepared adequately for the meeting by going through any documents that are meant for presentation. The early preparation will make it easier to run the meeting since all are aware of what is being discussed. A productive meeting is one where all participants are on one page at any given moment, and contribute their ideas with the hindsight of the meeting agenda.
- The meeting host or the moderator will guide on whether the participants should be on video or audio. This decision is informed by the strength of the network, and the available bandwidth, and access. If the participants are not able to afford the desired bandwidth for clarity, or when the infrastructure deployed is not optimised, then the meeting may proceed in audio format. The advantage of video is that the host is able to follow on the attentiveness of the participants. It is a common practice that some participants set on the meeting, mute their audio and video, and then leave for other activities. This means they are neither active nor passive participants. They are clearly ghosting.
- Using the meeting, participants often switch languages. This may sound informal, and hence dilute the formal nature of the meeting. In a formal meeting, the participants should try their best to maintain the use of one language.
- The person taking the minutes of the meeting should be keen to ensure they follow up on what is said and what is written on private chat. In the place of the participants, the secretary can take a screenshot of the portraits of the people present. In this case, each of the participants should indicate their official names for the record.
How to better manage Video Conference Fatigue.
Video conferencing fatigue is caused by various factors, key among them being the drain one gets while stuck in a meeting for long. As opposed to a physical meeting where one can whisper to a colleague, in a virtual meeting, participants are often in their own rooms, looking at faces on the computer screen.
Studies indicate that people attending virtual meetings tend to be looking at themselves more in the video that the time to gaze at other participants.
This creates more self-awareness and hence the need to put more effort into one’s appearance. This results in more fatigue as one thinks of how best to present themselves in subsequent meetings. They are hence working for the cameras and not for the people.
Participants in a virtual meeting, especially using the computers tend to multitask. They may be responding to emails, or to chats unrelated to the meeting in progress. This reduces their concentration in the virtual meeting, hence overworking their brains to process other information concurrently with the information of the ongoing meeting.
The constant gaze at the screen is a cause of fatigue.
This is complicated by some of the background designs of the meeting participants. Through the video, participants scan through the background of colleagues’ environment, thus forcing the brain to multitask. This adds to the fatigue level of participants who try to analyse the background appearances.
To address these concerns, the meeting should not last longer than an hour without a break. This allows time for the participants to recollect themselves and reenergize. On the matter of complicated backgrounds, the participants should use simple backgrounds, if not plain or solid colours. Busy backgrounds are most likely to affect the other participants.
The meeting host should allow participants to mute their videos at some point. This offers their eyes some rest from staring at other people faces on the screen. Related to this, as well, the one should hide their own video so as not to concentrate on themselves but look at the other participants’ faces.
The virtual meetings should be adequately spaced. Crowding the meetings would lead to fatigue because meetings drain the brain.
Despite the challenges of virtual meetings, they prove to be cost-effective and often directed straight to the main agenda as compared to the physical meetings. With the COVID-19 pandemic containment restrictions, the meetings are the best alternative that allows communication in the context of the pandemic.