Welcome to the Ask Chloé column on Security Boulevard! Each week, Chloé provides answers to readers’ questions to help guide them as they navigate the technology industry. This week, Chloé helps a reader address both Zoom fatigue and sexism in the virtual realm.
I think I hate Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts and Skype. I can’t beat the fatigue of video meetings anymore. I’ve tried to talk to my colleagues about why having the camera on for all video meetings every single day is an issue. I’ve gotten nowhere in this conversation. I’m also so tired of my male colleagues not including me in conversations and constantly interrupting me during virtual meetings. Do you have any suggestions?
-Boycott Video Meetings
Dear Boycott Video Meetings,
I can absolutely understand. Daily video meetings can give employees the impression that their employer doesn’t trust them to work at home, it can throw off life-work balance and it can be generally exhausting. I’ve heard from folks that tell me when their boss tells everyone they must have their camera on at all times, they feel like they are being micromanaged and find it incredibly uncomfortable. Plus, some employees feel that video conferencing in their home reduces their personal privacy.
No one should be forced to keep their camera on at all times if they are at home. Showing one’s face on camera doesn’t mean employees are paying attention or are engaged. If anything, it can be distracting to stare at faces for hours without feeling that it’s possible to look away. Also, some people really are uncomfortable with their face and/or their surroundings being on the screen and ‘on display.’ It’s also important to note that employees who are parents or caregivers find it difficult to be on camera during the work day because of the lack of available child care or the ability to send their children to school.
Virtual meetings do not contribute to a healthy life-work balance. I do recommend having a weekly “Zoom-free” Friday or Monday to help reduce the fatigue of constant meetings. The reality is that many folks hop off one meeting and immediately onto the next meeting day after day. There is a reduction of engagement and a lack of break times that can impact the meetings and employees’ engagement and well-being overall. Employees can also find it difficult to jump into virtual conversations and instead listen passively; because video conferencing doesn’t allow for more than one speaker at a time, often folks interrupt others by mistake. This can become a problem because if we aren’t noticing participation across virtual meetings, people can and do ‘switch off’ and tune out after someone speaks for minutes on end. That’s assuming it’s not a “brotopia” situation.
By a “brotopia” situation, I mean a situation where cisgender white males dominate the company culture and conversations. Let’s talk first about cisgender women’s participation on video conferencing. It can be a real struggle, at times, and there’s actual evidence for why that is:
- 45% of women in leadership positions find it difficult to speak up in virtual meetings.
- One out of five women felt their male colleagues interrupted, explained, ignored or took credit for their work during virtual meetings.
We can certainly do better at equality and equity in virtual meetings. But the impetus to change the situation shouldn’t be placed on women’s shoulders. It’s important for cisgender male colleagues to recognize how they could be hurting the situation and how they can step up and speak up as well. For example, when men notice anyone taking credit for something someone else shared—call it out. Lastly, remember that two simple words can be very powerful: “I’m speaking.” This line can be used repeatedly if needed. 😉
Virtual meetings are not going to disappear any time soon, even in hybrid workplace models. Thus, it’s important to make sure that employee comfort is taken into consideration and make sure no one is being forced to be on camera for every single virtual call. Additionally, there should be a weekly “no meetings” day to help reduce fatigue.
Lastly, invest in DEI best practices to support all employees. No one should find it difficult to speak up or feel disrespected in virtual meetings.
Learn more about the award-winning tech changemaker, Chloé Messdaghi, at https://www.standoutintech.com.
Have a question? Want advice? Submit your anonymous question to Chloé: [email protected].