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Defend Your Sanity: Make Your Own Zoom Rules

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Karl W. Palachuk
February 20, 2021

Calendar Dominoes

A year ago, many people had never heard of Zoom. We have been using it for years. In fact, because of various programs I run, my company has four separate Zoom logins in order to accommodate all of our training programs and needs under one account.

But the world changed when . . well, when the world changed. When everyone suddenly found themselves working remote and being isolated from their extended family, Zoom became a great option. It seems more interactive and friendly than a phone call. At the same time, it is more intrusive. People get glimpses of your home office and, sometimes, elements of your home life.

Whether it’s Zoom or another conferencing option (WebEx, Microsoft Teams, GoToMeeting, Apple Facetime, etc.), this new level of sometimes-invasive connectivity can increase stress. In addition to being invasive, video conferencing also showed up without many established rules or norms.

Many people found their days filled with back-to-back (-to-back-to-back) appointments. Before Zoom, we could at least enjoy a micro-break between meetings. We ran down the hall to the bathroom if necessary. we got a fresh cup of coffee. At a minimum, we walked from one room to another.

Now, very often, we simply switch from one meeting to another with no time to blink. Literally.

If you want to see some of the research on this topic, Google “Zoom anxiety.” Unfortunately, you’ll find many results. But there’s also good news. There are only a few things that have the highest effect on video meeting anxiety. And there’s even better news: You can control this with a few personal rules and habits.

One: Leave empty blocks of time in your schedule. Ideally, you will have an hour between meetings. If note, create other open time blocks. You can get work done and set a “do not disturb” policy for your phone and various electronic communications. I’m not saying to stop working. But work on important things. Zoom meetings, after all, are just meetings and often the least important things on your to-do list.

I think the greatest stressor is the opressiveness of a tight schedule. When you have all your meetinging stacked together like dominoes, there is no recovery time. After all, you’re not a machine: Treating yourself like one it not good for your mental health.

Two: Set hard limits. I tend to set 30-minute meeting blocks. If someone needs to stretch it to an hour, I tell them I have to go at fifty minutes. You will be surprised how little push-back you get on this. Everyone knows that everyone is juggling a lot of these meetings.

Three: Feel free to turn off your camera when you are not speaking. Personally, I prefer that people turn the camera on while speaking. Otherwise, I’m searching around to try to find who’s who. But you have a right to privacy, so if you’d rather keep it off all the time, I’m going to sincerely respect that.

Four: A meeting’s a meeting. I hinted at this before. If you have too many Zoom meetings, nothing has really changed from before the pandemic. Too many meetings is too many meetings – no matter how you hold them. Take control. Set limits.

The sudden emergence of Zoom is very much like any other sudden change. It showed up without a new set or rules or guidelines. We just applied other rules from other technology, and other meetings. The fit was okay, but not great. It would have been good to adopt 50-minute hours from the start. But that doesn’t mean you’re out of luck. You can always start with today and adopt this rule going forward.

And one final note to consider: Even if you do not feel Zoom Anxiety, those you work with might. Give them permission to leave a little early, turn off their camera, and avoid scheduling calls back to back.

I’d love your feedback. How are you addressing the never-ending zoom meetings?


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