Editor’s Note: Eric S. Yuan is the founder and CEO of Zoom. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own.
At the outset of the pandemic, Zoom became an instrumental part of many people’s lives and livelihoods almost overnight. Within weeks, usage of our platform increased exponentially, with hundreds of millions of meeting participants relying on Zoom to stay connected to their customers, colleagues, family and friends. We felt — and continue to feel — unbelievably privileged to help so many people keep their lives moving forward. Even as our worker population starts to get vaccinated, elevated usage rates have persisted. And many workers are feeling fatigue from joining a steady stream of video meetings each day.
As someone who has spent many days and nights on Zoom over the last 12 months talking to people all around the world, I can relate. It is incredibly hard to abruptly pivot from a social, in-person work environment to a world where we only see images of faces on a screen. My personal record is 19 Zoom meetings in a day. It’s a record that some may be able to beat, but I’ll admit it was a struggle to make it through.
As with everything in life, moderation is critical, and when Zoom was founded 10 years ago, the intent was never to replace in-person interactions altogether. After all, the pandemic has shown how fatigue, especially video meeting fatigue, can impact productivity, job satisfaction and work-life balance. That’s why leaders must find ways to make meetings more manageable as employees continue to work remotely.
Here are some of my own practices to limit strain from a high volume of video conference meetings:
- Take scheduled breaks away from the computer.
- Book meetings for 25 minutes or 55 minutes (or even try going down to 20 or 45 minutes), or end meetings early to give everyone a buffer to recover mentally between meetings.
- Use chat or email in lieu of a meeting.
- Try turning off self-view so you can see your colleagues’ faces, and so they can see yours, without having to see yourself.
- Implement a “no internal meetings day” to give yourself and your employees a break. We’ve been doing this since late last year at Zoom and our employees love it.
- Encourage employees to set boundaries around their personal time. While exceptions must be made for a global workforce, leaders should discourage night and weekend meetings.
Of course, everyone’s preferences and circumstances are different, so there is never going to be a “one size fits all” solution when it comes to remote work. Since the pandemic began, we have learned that people experience meetings in different ways. A recent study, for instance, found that women experience meeting fatigue more than men. One reason for this is women are less likely to take breaks between meetings. New findings like this emphasize how important it is for meetings to be customizable and flexible, taking into account the preferences and experiences of all demographics.
My colleagues, CFO Kelly Steckelberg and COO Aparna Bawa, encounter and combat fatigue in different ways from me, and from each other. Kelly likes to go for walks during some of her meetings. Aparna believes in putting wellness at the center of her life and workstyle and schedules screen breaks and power naps when possible. In acknowledging that we all have different experiences, we can grow, together, and create a new future of work that is comfortable and satisfying for everyone.
I expect that, once we can safely return to a physical corporate work environment, people will be able to better calibrate the balance of in-person vs. remote work to suit their preferences. The pandemic has proven that working remotely can provide many benefits, too — a hypothesis that many were beginning to test even prior to the events of the past year — and I believe that our experiences with the pandemic will accelerate our shift building forward that falls somewhere in between fully in-person and fully remote work. Zoom recently commissioned an economic analysis and survey conducted by Boston Consulting Group where businesses surveyed expect over a third of employees to work remotely past the pandemic. And a Boston Consulting Group Covid-19 employee sentiment survey from 2020 showed that more than 70% of managers surveyed are more open to flexible working models than they were before the pandemic.
My hope is that Zoom can help provide the technological foundation for this new future. We are partnering with some of the world’s largest companies to help them reimagine their processes and provide them with the tools they need to adapt to a “work from anywhere” model. We’re working on features like virtual receptionists for offices, which would reduce direct contact as workers return to physical locations, and AI-enhanced smart gallery views, which creates a gallery view of in-room participants so people joining remotely feel equally part of the meeting as in-person participants, making for a more seamless hybrid experience. And we are also excited about what Zoom can provide in terms of supporting new remote jobs and use-cases across the workforce — creating new opportunities for everyone.
We all deserve to have the flexibility to work in the manner that is most productive for our preferences and beliefs. I am committed to making that happen for Zoom employees and our customers, and I encourage every business leader to do the same.