Is video conferencing draining our productivity?
And if so, do you stand a chance?
Zoom, Webex, MS Teams, Google Hangouts— whichever is your platform of choice, these are the tools that have begun to punctuate the days for many of us WFH today. Your morning begins with your daily sync – and then another meeting begins. And then another. And then another.
Before you realize it, it’s dark outside – and the workplan you had in the morning has sat untouched, accumulating more urgent priorities.
And don’t forget WFH-life balance!
Combine mounting workloads, striving to spend more time with family, and maintaining the home that has become your office— and your burnout is around the corner.
It’s easy to pin the blame on our frequently-clicked video conferencing apps, but meetings don’t book themselves. These tools have the ability to connect teams and overcome incredible boundaries when handled thoughtfully. And with our days growing longer, our calendars fuller, and no end in sight—the time has come to question the true source of our productivity battle.
Why are we really calling all the time?
When used responsibly, these video conferencing tools can be our only way to connect and tap into those creative juices that can’t be replicated over email. But, you can’t help but think back on how your calendar looked a mere month ago and swear to yourself that you used to have at least 15 minutes in between meetings for a coffee. The blame for our packed calendars cannot fairly rest on the video conferencing tools made to bring us together.
Many of us who are lucky enough to be working during this time have felt our organizations push us to move forward and regain stability. Unfortunately, this often materializes in the form of lots and lots of sync meetings. Via videoconference. Back-to-back.
But why have our calendars become so cluttered? What are we really looking for? I’ve come up with three, decidedly low-tech reasons.
Having lost the cadence we have come accustomed to in the office, it’s easy to grow anxious around the status of a project you are spearheading or a client your fear has gone unnoticed.
In an effort to simulate the “drop by your desk for a quick question”, harmless 15 minute sync calls just to align are becoming commonplace.
Chasing down status updates through these sync calls can get the best of you and your team real fast— turning a tool that is has the potential to enhance your work, into the very thing that hinders you.
Filling in gaps
We no longer have the comfort of a shared space to consolidate all decisions made, knowledge accumulated, and progress made.
If you don’t have a common, shared digital workspace with a centralized source of information, you and your team are often chasing down data. This is because our tools – whether they are CRMs, ERPs, or something else – remain woefully disconnected from each other – and often times, from our team members.
So we’re holding more video conference calls as a way to fill in information gaps. Identify the value you get from a video call and focus the meeting around that.
By spending the first 10 minutes of a call just getting on the same page, sharing data and reconciling informational gaps, meetings become less about moving forward and more about repetitive updates.
And when they’re back-to-back, it’s even worse.
It’s no secret— these are crazy times we are living through.
In an effort to offset this unusual distance, many are scheduling meetings just to create a feeling of stability.
People want to know that their work is being seen, that their company or organization is doing the best it can, and to feel a part of something larger. Having your company or team weekly meetings over video call can become the dedicated time to leverage the (sort of) face-to-face interaction and human connection you can get from video conferencing in order to give any support your teammates might need.
We’ve got a tools and platform problem
For large-scale plans and brainstorming, nothing can replace a good strategic meeting.
But if you are meeting to share data, collaborate on specific work items, or simply to “ask a quick question” – you’ve got a tools or platform issue, not a videoconference issue.
When you are spending your whole day clicking in and out of video calls for the reasons above (chasing alignment, stability or filling in gaps), you simply don’t have technology to fit the way remote teams need to work today.
When WFH, it’s critical to have the tools and platforms you need to get your work done. If your tools are simply creating more work, you’ve got the first indication of a deeper problem than just too many calls.
Stopping the video call productivity suck
So how do we stop the endless cycle of calendar ping after calendar ping? We have to define when and why to video chat.
When to call: transparency goes both ways
As we slowly become accustomed to the norms of working from home, and realize that things are still getting done, projects are still moving forward, and the sky has not actually fallen yet— a normal daily rhythm will form.
Transparent calendars. Working from home has blurred the boundaries between kids and colleagues, office and living room, and personal time vs work time.
Here at monday.com, we’ve encouraged people to set “family time” on their calendars – and we respect those boundaries. Setting those expectations early has helped us avoid productivity issues due to videoconferencing, and allowed us to be fully present when we do join.
Why to call: same principles still apply
Some video conferences have to happen – in some cases, there’s no substitute for the kind of creativity and energy a meeting with others will bring. But given our new WFH reality, we’ve gone way past that.
So, before you mindlessly schedule another meeting, consider these quick checks:
YES to schedule: Big-picture sync, weekly progress meetings, meetings where you need to make progress as a group, team projects that require collaboration not covered by tools.
NO to schedule: Data-sharing, sync and status updates, collaboration for editing documents or design work edits, “a quick question”, meetings during blocked off calendar times.
Let’s demand more of our tools and platforms
WFH has made it clear to many of us: we have a tools issue.
Our tools need to help us bridge information silos by integrating many different sources of data; they need to help us track progress and get work done; and they need to be easy to use and update, for any project, process or workflow.
For every organization working remotely today, it’s time to take a critical look at the tools we are using and ask:
- Are our tools flexible enough? Can we adapt them for every workflow, process or project?
- Can we integrate our data sources so we have one common space for data-driven decision making?
- Do our tools save us time (and calls)?
- Can we collaborate effectively with our tools?
If the answer to any of these questions is no, then it’s high time to start demanding more of your tools and platforms.
There is no telling how long this will last, but what we know with certainty is that when we do eventually return to our offices, it won’t be to the same workflows we’ve always known.
The habits and structures that are built during this time have the potential to define your company culture and processes for years to come.
So, schedule responsibly.