Covid-19 has shuttered businesses and disrupted everyday life for billions globally. It has compelled all of us to accept this new reality and then adjust to the ever-changing ‘new normal’. The rise in coronavirus cases around the world has led to a massive change in priorities and organisations have been compelled to implement extraordinary measures to combat the situation. For many of us home and office has become one and the same and new safety and social distancing protocols have become the new normal.
To prevent transmission of the virus among employees, organisations had to radically modify their work dynamics and depend on remote working (WFH). The collective adoption of this culture has led to an increase in the use of video conferencing tools and applications. According to ComputerWeekly.com, between February and June 2020, the number of daily active users for Microsoft Teams grew by 894% while Zoom experienced a growth of 677%.
Several organisations around the world have been using video-calling applications for months now. However, several challenges have emerged as companies face new dilemmas with this increased usage of virtual conferencing applications. Recent research suggests that after months of frequent daily video-conferences, employees are suffering from issues such as misunderstandings, lack of ownership and commitment, distrust and suspicion, diminished productivity and most vitally, a feeling of redundancy. Boredom with video-conferencing has set in.
To overcome the declining interest in video-conferencing, organisations will have to remodel the dynamics of virtual meetings. Here are ways that can make virtual conversations more fun, more effective and less redundant.
1) Organisations should schedule virtual meetings only when absolutely necessary. Overdoing these will dilute their effectiveness.
2) Plan a short ice-breaking session at the start of every call. It helps relieve the pressure and anxiety employees may feel before connecting into a virtual meeting to discuss critical matters. A light stretching exercise or a small off-topic conversation at the start can do wonders to revitalise everyone before they get down to business.
3) Plan for themed days. Apps like Zoom offer features like ‘Gallery View’ that allow users to choose a screen background of their choice. An exciting theme can be selected and all attendees can be encouraged to select a background that fits the theme. For example, a theme day to celebrate Earth Day or Retro Eighties can make meetings more fun and visually appealing.
4) Hold conversations over a meal. Social distancing and isolation have reduced office lunches and get-togethers. Sharing a meal during a virtual meeting is a perfect way to put work aside momentarily and unwind.
5) It need not always be about work. Many organisations around the world hold 'away' or 'leisure' days, so that employees can spend time out of the office and engage with each other on a personal level.
6) Everyone loves game days, so why not hold these once in a while for office virtual meetings? Simple, easy-to-play games like Tambola (Bingo), quizzes, Dumb Charades or even Antakshari could be fun. Such activities help to lift the spirit of employees and bring more harmony among teams.
Employee engagement through Zoom or Teams meetings will become critical to compensate the absence of physical interaction and its related benefits. Improvisation in terms of online meetings has become the name of the game and if organisations ignore this, they face the prospect of ending up with a de-motivated and unproductive workforce.
Covid-19 is far from over and organisations will have to continue to adjust their communication mechanics to the new normal. Successful organisations will be those that evolve and use virtual tools most creatively and effectively
Emad Zafar is Senior Manager Client Services, Asiatic Public Relations Network. firstname.lastname@example.org