By: Catherine Saar
Zoom: I love it, and I hate it. It asks me to make many choices daily: Camera on, camera off, self-view on, self-view off? Muted? Fake background, or the raw truth of where I am?
I “love” it, because as odd as it is, it allows me to keep connection with loved ones, friends, and to build community. It allows me to participate in interactive activities that I can no longer attend in-person and adds another dimension to what otherwise would be a more solitary existence. At the same time, I “hate” it, because it causes me to be glued to my screen for hours on end, resulting in dreaded “Zoom fatigue”: tired eyes, tired brain and too much sitting.
As we enter the darker, colder months across much of the country, and given that winter COVID cases are on the rise, I find myself more enthusiastically embracing my technological connections through this platform.
It is clear that our new normal requires flexibility, creativity and acceptance. As a boomer turned Zoomer, there is a lot of Zoom to get used to. Zoom changes its features frequently, so learning and adapting to how it works at any given time is now a way of life. As a person who is frequently hosting and facilitating meetings, I have also come to respect that not all of my associates want to have their cameras on at all times. Some want to keep more of a work/home divide. Others find that work from home is more productive when they are plain faced, messy haired and wearing their day-pajamas. I respect that.
To allow for true human connection, to create safety and intimacy, I accept participant choices, even though most of the literature suggests that engagement increases when cameras are on. I feel that may not be true if other dimensions of the experience are causing Zoom participants to be anxious. I remind myself that engagement comes in many different flavors: an active chat user or a verbal–only contributor can also indicate presence in the moment. These days, inclusivity – allowing what works and meeting people where they are, is key to making Zoom feel like an asset rather than a liability.
We were having so much fun, we forgot to capture our Food and Zoom activity, but here’s a good representation of it. Imagine being on a Zoom call with different delicious foods!
When it comes time to fun times in a COVID world, Zoom can play a role. Here at Integrated Work, we leveraged Zoom at a recent virtual strategic planning retreat for a shared virtual dinner. It was a blast!
Each team member was given a dinner budget and asked to choose a meal that would be delicious and satisfying. After a day of working together (on and off the screen), the team took a half–hour break to get our meals (either prepared at home or delivered) and gathered back for a virtual dinner hour.
We each renamed ourselves with the name of our meals (which in and of itself was silly and entertaining) and headed to small breakout groups for casual conversation while we shared our delicious meals on camera. It was fun to talk about the different foods we had chosen and why we chose them – which also helped us to launch into a personal and light-hearted dinner hour.
Even though it wasn’t the same as sitting down to a table to break bread together in-person, it felt good to connect over a shared activity and to have a laugh together. Given the available alternatives this winter, I am one boomer who is grateful to call myself a Zoomer. Hope you enjoy your Thanksgiving – and that you have lots to be grateful for as well!