4.2 Video meetings: the good and the bad
Perhaps one of the most significant impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the way we work has been the stratospheric rise in the use of video conferencing as a means of communicating or holding work meetings. Google Meet™, Microsoft Teams and – perhaps most notably – Zoom (see below) have all reported huge increases in traffic since 2019. The jury is still out on whether this is a positive change or not, but here are some good and bad aspects of video meetings that have been identified.
In a recent article, the Microsoft 365 Team outlined what they view as the ten benefits of using video conferencing (Microsoft, 2022):
- Improves communication.
- Helps build relationships.
- Saves money.
- Saves time.
- Streamlines collaboration.
- Improves efficiency.
- Increases productivity.
- Makes scheduling meetings easier.
- Creates consistent, accurate records.
- Enables live events.
How many of these reflect your own experience of meetings moving online? What other benefits (if any) have you identified?
If working on campus meant your days were often filled with back-to-back meetings, you might have imagined that working from home (or another remote location) would have changed that for the better. However, for many people those in-person meetings have been replaced with even more prolific video calls.
In the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, articles about ‘Zoom exhaustion’ or ‘Zoom burnout’ started to appear. This reflected the negative wellbeing impact experienced by many people while meeting in person was restricted, with video calls being used for work meetings as well as maintaining social lives. There is even a ‘Zoom fatigue’ Wikipedia page, which notes that ‘the phenomenon of Zoom fatigue has been attributed to an overload of nonverbal cues and communication that does not happen in normal conversation’ (Wikipedia, 2022).
The question of should cameras be on or off is frequently discussed, and while there are benefits to having cameras on to aid non-verbal communication and some aspects of accessibility, it is accepted that depending on technical reasons, the purpose of the meeting, or individuals’ needs, it is not essential. You will dig a little deeper into how this affects some people more than others in the section on neurodiversity later in this course.
Online security and safety are a consideration for video meetings. Most organisations will be using trusted systems, but participants need to be mindful of the information shared and what is visible in their background, or who else can see/hear the conversation, to avoid confidential information being inadvertently shared. If a meeting is being recorded, permission from all participants should be gained first, and access to the recording considered.
Finally, when video calls fail – especially at a crucial point in a work meeting or event – that can be another source of anxiety for remote/hybrid workers. ‘Technology failure’ was the second most common negative effect of technology on wellbeing mentioned by respondents to the CIPD (2020) survey.