Humanizing the virtual work landscape

Community Engagement, Part 1

March 11, 2021

You’re on the fifth Zoom call of the day. Your screen is freezing. You're having trouble unmuting. 

What started off as a great way of linking with others and working collaboratively during the pandemic has led to what’s now widely recognized as “Zoom fatigue.” Staring at a screen for extended periods of time, taking minimal breaks, and working with the distractions at home contribute to this feeling of burnout many of us can't seem to shake off. 

HCCC grantees took part in an ad hoc peer learning session last month on community engagement and touched on some of the strategies they’ve incorporated to combat “Zoom fatigue.”

For Heather Murphy of Wilkes County, leveraging web-based platforms has helped with the monotony of connecting online. Miro, a collaborative online visual tool, has allowed her and her team to conduct research, design and strategize for both their HCCC project and other public health initiatives that her team is a part of. Through this virtual “whiteboard,” she now has an innovative way of coming together online to share notes and ideas with her cross-sectional team. 

For others, like Ferdando Jackson from Dougherty County, a simple transition to using Google products has made a huge difference in how he and his project team link. Using products like Google Drive, his team can work together and collaborate in real time once again. 

Other grantees suggested using icebreakers as a way to humanize virtual meetings for situations when a video meeting is necessary. As much as we can sometimes dread them, not all icebreakers have to feel awkward. Grantees agreed that games like Would You Rather, Two Truths and a Lie or even just posing a simple starter question during your meeting like “What was the most eventful thing you did this weekend?” is a great way of making virtual conversations feel less dull and more personal. 

Finally, another great strategy to consider is developing virtual team-building activities to get your team connected in matters beyond work. In celebration of National Public Health Week in April, APHA’s Keep It Moving Challenge is an easy and fun way to promote healthy behaviors while getting co-workers, partners, community members and friends/family involved as well. Plus, it is a great opportunity for some friendly competition between Challenge communities to see who can log the most activity. Exercise challenges aside, you could host other activities, such as stretching sessions, art therapy, brown bag lunches and bingo nights to bring some freshness and fun to our new virtual lives.

Some additional tips to help revitalize both yourself and your virtual meetings in 2021: 
1. Theme your weekly calls/meetings.
2. Encourage everyone to bring their pets to a meeting for a quick show and tell. 
3. Follow the 20-20-20 rule (for every 20 minutes of work, look at something 20 feet away from you for at least 20 seconds). 
4. Build in water/snack breaks during long meetings. 
5. Encourage your team to try out new web-based platforms to connect. 
6. Schedule a few minutes of screen-free time into your workday. 
7. Hide self-view when you're in a video meeting. 
8. Consider a phone call, group text or email in lieu of a Zoom meeting when possible.
9. Switch up your Zoom background. 
10. Use the annotation, whiteboard or polls feature on Zoom to make your calls more collaborative. 

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