To Zoom Or Not To Zoom, That Is The Question

Zoom fatigue seems to be everywhere these days. Constantly dealing with frozen screens, software crashes, and poor internet connections is not only exhausting — it’s also inefficient. Now, problems that would have taken 20 minutes to solve over the phone are stretched out to last an hour-long Zoom meeting. Additionally, research has shown that video calls are actually more draining than face-to-face conversations and making it harder for employees to find a work-life balance — leading to what I call “Zoom burnout.”

To make things worse, many companies are now using various technologies to monitor employees — tracking the words they type, the websites they visit, the emails they send, and more. They can even track an employee’s physical location using GPS, and measure productivity by noting a computer’s idle time.

These types of monitoring tools do more harm than good. It can be extremely damaging to morale, as employees don’t feel trusted when they’re being micromanaged. It can also perpetuate a sense of unfairness — if they’re still expected to reply to work emails late at night, why aren’t they allowed to step away for 30 minutes to run an errand during the day? Ultimately, the idea behind this type of management can be traced back to the time and motion studies of the 1950s, which attempted to turn employee output into a rigid science by prioritizing standardization, regimentation, and efficiency — a practice we outgrew long ago.

Businesses need to think through more creative solutions to address the challenges of remote work head-on. Since many companies of all sizes are now considering a more permanent shift towards remote work, it’s becoming increasingly important for CEOs to recognize that working from home isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. We need to start thinking about strategies that put the goal-achievement of our employees first — not monitoring how our employees spend their time. Because at the end of the day, we shouldn’t care how our employees get the job done — as long as the job gets done.

The fact of the matter is that we’ll have to adjust to a new normal, where video meetings and other digital interactions will be part of the workplace — even after we return to the office. But we should be constantly re-evaluating what’s working — and what’s not — by drilling into what traceable aspects of remote work are beneficial or detrimental to the bottom line, and more importantly, paying attention to how employees are responding. It’s the best way to move a company forward.

Mark E. Watson III is the founder and principal of Aquila Capital Partners. From 2000–2019, he was CEO of Argo Group, an underwriter of specialty insurance.

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