‘Everybody’s suffering from too much time online. Try to condense the time and have more bite-sized engagements’
Employers should strongly consider “mixing it up” during the never-ending stream of online video meetings to keep workers from tuning out, according to a corporate events marketing specialist.
“Everybody’s suffering from too much online time,” says Loren Maisels, founder and president of LOMA Marketing Agency, an event planning company, in Toronto.
“Not everything has to be an hour[-long] meeting or a full day so trying to condense the time and have more bite-sized engagements is one tactic that we’ve seen work well.”
Because all workers are different, it’s important to cater an event or meeting to different ways of learning, she says.
“Some people are visual, some are better at listening [so] trying to incorporate a variety of elements and choosing the online experience that helps people learn in different ways and keeps their attention ― whether that’s getting up and stretching or listening to music versus someone speaking at them for the entire time ― that’s also important to combat fatigue.”
It’s also good to do something different at times during meetings when everybody is staring into a screen, says Maisels.
“Not every meeting has to be full agenda [and] ‘Let’s get things done.’ [It’s about] having opportunities for people to connect; we’re all missing that connection so much, just time to have an informal conversation or ask, ‘What have you been struggling with? Or what do you miss the most in lockdown?’ Versus it just being all content and business agenda the entire time. We need that more now than ever.”
As well, personalized chat areas can be a good virtual way to recreate the personal connection.
“Using different tactics like chat rooms or polls, it creates a two-way dialogue versus one person presents and everybody’s trying to absorb the content: not everybody learns the best just by being talked at,” she says.
“Breakout rooms have become quite popular to [get] people into teams to have more intimate conversations, instead of everybody fighting with the mute button.”
To combat video malaise, workers should be allowed to sometimes choose their own presentation options, she says.
“Make it clear that not everybody, for example, has to be on video all the time; maybe it doesn’t work for some people to be on video. [It’s about] managing expectation that ‘We’d love to see you, we’d love to engage with you but if it doesn’t work, as long as you’re present and with us, whatever way works for you to do that is important.’ [So] making sure there’s options for everybody to feel included and not restricted is important and those barriers are eliminated.”
Sticking to an agreed-upon schedule also helps workers remain productive, says Maisels.
“A pet peeve is you get invited to a 30-minute presentation and it ends up being maybe even an hour and 15 minutes. That throws off the rest of your day so being considerate of people’s time, especially in an environment where we’re all working more than we were before being remote, is important as well.”
The hybrid model — in which some workers are at home and some are back in the office — is here to stay, she says, and “employers and HR teams are going to have to think about ‘How do I create a hybrid experience or engagement for my team that’s equitable [and] everybody’s feeling included and engaged?’ How do you create these hybrid experiences so everybody can participate in a safe way but also get back to some sense of normalcy of connection and engaging with colleagues?”
One of the ways this might manifest is the “hub and spoke model,” says Maisels.
“A town hall, for example, may have the executive team and certain key members who are in the office streaming out to remote locations in different parts of the country or smaller teams meet remotely in person, with safety protocols together, so that they can still have some face-to-face time but in a safe way.”
Constant video calls is causing an explosion of multitasking, according to one expert, and some employers are truly embracing the hybrid model.