Zoomed Out? Try Something New!

Published June 3, 2020

In a pre-COVID-19 world, most of our clients did not know what the word ZOOM meant. Now it’s a verb as in “I’m zoomed out.” (Note: We don’t mean to pick on Zoom … we are using it here as a placeholder for any visual platform.) We did a little digging to find out why so many of us are tired of being seen on camera. With people sharing tips and tricks on how to look our best on Zoom, we got curious about what happens to our brains and our energy levels when we are observing ourselves as a participant in the conversation. Here’s what we found out:

1. It takes more effort: Being on video requires more focus than a face-to-face conversation which means we have to work harder to process non verbal cues like expressions, tone and pitch of voice, body language, background noises, you get the picture. According to Gianpiero Petriglieri, an associate professor at Insead, a global graduate business school, “our minds are together when our bodies feel we’re not. That dissonance, which causes people to have conflicting feelings, is exhausting. You cannot relax into conversation naturally,” he shares. In addition, notice how hard it is to avoid looking at yourself and the energy it takes to listen to others while trying to put your best face forward. Oh yeah and be mindful of the eye rolls and other involuntary habits that might just creep up on you unexpectedly. Oops!

Healthy and Healing Tip: Limit the calls and make turning on the screen optional. I’ve started to do this during my coaching calls with clients, including taking them for a nature walk. I’ve received so much gratitude for this simple gesture.

2. Technology issues: The lags and silence create another challenge. When we are in face to face dialogue, silence is a part of the natural rhythm of the conversation. However, during video calls, people often become unconsciously anxious about the technology and whether it will work. Some studies suggest that even delays of 1.2 seconds make people perceive the responder as less friendly or focused. Other technology issues include not having the right home office set-up and the lack of privacy when having to lead from the basement.

Healthy and Healing Tip: Try having your screen off to the side, instead of straight ahead, can help shift perspective and increase concentration, especially during group meetings.

3. Extroversion bias: If you want to read more about introversion, please pick up Susan Cain’s insightful and well researched book Quiet. Living with one deeply introverted person has taught me a thing or two about how to connect meaningfully with people who appreciate different forms of interaction than our more extroverted clients. When we are on camera, we are aware of being watched. Marissa Shuffler, an associate professor at Clemson University, shares that it’s like being on a stage and not everyone is comfortable under the spotlight. Being performative is nerve-wracking and more stressful for many of us, not just introverted people.

Healthy and Healing Tip: Instead of a Zoom meeting, invite your staff to a ‘voice only’ meeting and engage them in a conversation on how best to make use of this wonderful platform, in a manner that won’t be exhausting. Incorporate their feedback. Sometimes a collaborative word document does the trick.

4. Pressure to look our best: This is a pain point for many of my clients. Some have shared playfully that they take extra care from the waist up but below, they are sporting their lulus or pajama bottoms. For some, the extra effort to present a polished image of themselves is beyond what they can muster on any given day. So, what’s different now? Why is this more draining that going to the office? Isn’t working from home living the dream? Turns out, COVID-19 is attacking our sense of safety and security and depending on how we are coping through this world pandemic, our capacity to attend to our image may be compromised. I’ve written about healthy and healing tips and if you need more, drop me a line.

Healthy and Healing Tip: I worked with a holistic image consultant a few years back and it was one of the best experiences. I am now better able to discern the colours that work for me, the kind of clothes that make me feel at my best, and how this affects my energy levels. Not only do I save money and time when adjusting my wardrobe, my external image is more reflective of my inner self.

5. Reminder of all that we have lost: As someone who is studying thanatology (study of loss and grief), being on Zoom reminds us of all that we have lost. Every time we get on another call, I believe it triggers another loss event that we aren’t fully processing or expressing. This accumulation of loss is added to our loss history and depending on where you are in life, this can further complicate your capacity to be in this global disruption. Petriglieri concurs. “The video call is our reminder of the people we have lost temporarily. It is the distress that every time you see someone online, such as your colleagues, that reminds you we should really be in the workplace together.”

Healthy and Healing Tip: Send a hand-written note to each of your staff and board to let them know you care and are thinking of them. Scale this idea in a way that is appropriate for you. This personalized touch will go a long way in building trust and making people feel valued.

6. Role confusion: For most of us we organize our lives in a way that suits our preferences. For instance, we have our work life, we have our social lives, and we have our personal lives. Now, all of this is happening in the same space. The lines between work and personal is blurred and without clear boundaries, we are at risk of burnout, heightened levels of anxiety, and more vulnerable to negative feelings. Imagine if you go to a bar, and in the same bar you talk with your colleagues, meet your parents, connect with your kids, and hang out with your friends. That’s what we’re doing right now and if it feels weird, it’s because it is. “Most of our social rules happen in different places, but now the context has collapsed. We are confined in our own space, in the context of a very anxiety-provoking crisis, and our only space for interaction is a computer window.”

Healthy & Healing Tip: Ask yourself if you want to join the next Zoom call or if you are doing it because you see it as an obligation. If you are feeling “Zoomed Out” take a pass and find other creative ways to connect with your friends and family like sending a motivation quote or a few photos. Chances are you are modelling something that they might be grateful for.

7. There is no down time: Many of our clients are burning the midnight oil. They are trying to take care of their staff, manage an entirely new experience with their family, be accessible to partners, and learn how to cope themselves. For many, they are putting heightened expectations on themselves due to economic pressures and uncertainty about the future. We wrote a blog about how to be dynamic in this environment and our hope is that this can help sport leaders consider a different way to plan during this disruption.

Healthy and Healing Tip: I recommend getting a leadership journal and using this space to log your hopes, your fears, and your ideas. This is a creative way for you to download all that you are carrying and remember, just because you carry it all so well, doesn’t mean it’s not heavy.

8. All work, and no play: These are soul making times. Of that I am sure. For many of my friends, family, and clients, this Great Pause has made our lives better. When I ask them why, they share they are having more quality time with their families, they are able to focus on projects and files that have been accumulating in their ‘rainy day’ pile, they have more time to work out and eat better. This of course is for those of us who are privileged to have our basic needs met and have a space and place to call home. To support more engaging and intentional use of Zoom and other visual platforms, make it a choiceful option and not your default. For some playful and fun ways to use these interactive, visual technologies, here is a list of fun ways you can make your Zoom time … meaningful time.

Healthy and Healing Tip: Some of the great tips and practices that we’ve adopted and learned from clients include the following:

  • Monday Meet-Ups: Schedule a weekly meeting for staff and make it optional. It’s a great way to touch base, get caught up, and stay connected. Get people to share a High (something that brought them joy) and a Low (something that feels heavier). From experience, this simple sharing leaves people feeling better and more connected.
  • Mystery Guest: I was recently asked by SIRC to join their weekly team meeting and I appeared in their virtual space as a “Mystery Guest”. We spent an engaging 30 minutes sharing, laughing, and learning. This also helped their team get connected to a sector partner in a different way.
  • Workout Wednesdays: Many of our clients are doing shared workouts and this is another way to creatively stay connected, get fit, and increase motivation. Co-workers that get fit together, often work better, together.
  • Nature walks: Bring your team on a nature walk and let them soak in the beauty of your natural environments. With or without cameras, this kind of creative connection allows people to walk and talk, which shifts energy and invites heightened levels of possibility.
  • Foamy Fridays: With staff or friends, consider having a let’s connect session that isn’t work related. Weekly is likely too much at this point so engage your staff on what might be feasible.

We hope our blogs bring new insight and perspective that you find helpful as you look to manage through this challenging time. Please know we are here to help and you can reach us at DBL@sportlaw.ca or SJI@sportlaw.ca.

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