Three Ways We’ve Learned to Defeat Zoom Doom

Person on a video call with diverse colleagues, viewed over shoulder

Online meetings are critical for managing remote global teams, and have become a vital tool in the new normal. But they’re also the source of Zoom Doom, a new challenge currently facing remote employees.    

Zoom Doom is caused by too many online meetings, it leaves people feeling tired, drained and, in some cases, physical pain. And it’s fast emerging as the number 1 workplace hazard for remote workers this year.  

The challenges of online meetings are highlighted in Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home and School, by John Medina. He explains that you need to treat online meetings differently because they can’t fully recreate real life. You need to get smart with how you use them.  

“In a virtual world you don’t have the help of your surroundings to allay boredom, so you need to create content that moves along quickly and has pace; and break down long meetings into shorter series of meetings.” – Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home and School, by John Medina.

And remote work evangelists agree. Basecamp CEO, and the author of Remote: Office not Required, Jason Fried, says the biggest mistake people make when moving to remote work is trying to replicate the office experience, especially when it comes to meetings. In fact, he says you should go in the opposite direction. 

“Having video conferences all day long is totally the wrong direction. The beauty of remote working is the opportunity to improve the way you work, to cut way back on meetings, to cut back on the number of people that need to be involved in any decision, to cut back on the need to FaceTime constantly.”

“The real opportunity with remote work is to embrace the advantage. It’s not just about working remotely and simulating what it’s like to work locally.”

We share this attitude. Designing remote learning programs, requires a much more thoughtful approach than merely recreating classroom lessons online. 

And our experience designing virtual classroom sessions has helped us improve our own online meetings as we’ve evolved into a remote global workforce. 

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KISS – Keep It Short Stupid

As Medina pointed out, our brains aren’t  wired to focus as long online as they are in person. So don’t try to recreate those all-day or even half-day meetings that you held in the office.  

Over the past 10 years we’ve found 60-90 minutes to be the optimum length for online face-to-face training sessions. Long enough to achieve something substantial without losing attention or causing fatigue. 

Design Every Minute 

As well as keeping sessions short, we deliberately structure them into specific phases. As Medina explains, this change of pace and activity helps provide focus and maintain attention. 

For a 60-minute session our trainers follow a proven format of 10-minute activities, moving through warm-up, topic acquisition, guided application, independent application, activation and feedback. 

We’ve found online meetings benefit from a similar approach. They’re structured to ensure a variety of content, presenters, and participants. Like with our training sessions, this  maintains attention and engagement skyrockets. 

Develop Blended Communications

Learnship Sprint is our next-generation blended learning product that combats Zoom Doom without compromising learning goals. It’s designed to accelerate learning, while reducing virtual classroom time to provide a more flexible experience for learners. 

Blended learning means it’s a fully integrated combination of self-paced learning and virtual classroom sessions. The self-paced learning is preparation for the 60-minute trainer-led session, to maximize the value of time spent with the trainer.  

This blended approach can also improve communications across remote global teams. Prepare core communications, such as written reports, ahead of time for team members to read in their own time. Then use precious meeting time on collaborative discussion and idea development.  

Learnship helps remote global teams attack cultural friction and capture their diversity dividend by improving their business language fluency, intercultural intelligence, and personal communication skills.