Boardroom briefing: Zoom fatigue, post-pandemic working week and retrenchment today


Fighting Zoom fatigue, pandemic transforming the working week and retrenchment becomes less taboo. Readings from around the world on business, leadership and management.

Dragging yourself out of ‘meeting hell’

Google offices in New York. Credit: Instagram

Initially there was excitement around Zoom allowing workers to work – and even share drinks with friends – from home during the pandemic, but CNN is reporting that businesses can see remote workers bogged down in video ‘meeting hell’.

Many companies ramped up the number of face-to-face encounters when lockdown started in order to make up for lost interpersonal time but the pressures of endless Zoom meetings soon left employees exhausted and in some cases terrified by the huge number of engagements.

recent report by researchers from Harvard Business School and New York University’s Stern School of Business shows the average length of meetings has dropped 20 per cent since before the pandemic began. But while meetings have gotten shorter, we’re having more of them. The number of meetings increased by 13 per cent.

Now companies are changing how they work (again!) with meeting-free days and challenges like #timeback that helps employees regain some of the time they have been wasting on meetings. They are also turning off the camera for ‘walk and talk’ phone calls that combine the outdoors with a brief brainstorm and collaborating on other platforms, like Slack, that don’t require a video call.

Pandemic shortening the working week

Are our homes our offices or are our offices our new homes? Credit: Diala Hakim

Another COVID-19 trend is companies experimenting with a four-day working week as working from home makes it harder to juggle the work-life balance. New York-based software and design company Elephant Ventures had noticed that by the end of the working week employees, especially parents with remote-learning responsibilities, were burned out. Now the whole company gets Friday off.

Interestingly, the company says in a lengthy blog post that it took the idea from its staff outside of the US, with half of its 41-person staff based in the Philippines. They have been working shorter schedules for five years and the company saw a 20–30 per cent productivity boost from the team after the schedule was condensed.

Story continues after advertisment...

So, less hours does not mean less productivity; you just have to make sure it is managed correctly and it might work for you.

Stigma around retrenchment starts to change

One upside of the mass lay-offs of the COVID-19 era has been the slow dissipation of the stigma of being made redundant. While being sacked still hurts, Singapore’s The Straits Times found that, because of the far-reaching effects of global job losses, COVID-19 has allowed for more frank and honest conversations around losing your job.

Singapore Human Resources Institute president Low Peck Kem told the newspaper: ‘The pandemic has changed the notion of retrenchment, as it [COVID-19] is an easy scapegoat to blame… It is never the worker’s fault, it is not even the company’s fault, it is COVID-19’s fault.’ So, yes, there is less stigma attached to losing your job, and employers should be more understanding and recruiters more willing to give retrenched workers a chance.

Workers are opening up more on social media about the hurt of retrenchment too, receiving a lot more understanding about the situation and more help getting back into the workforce.

Leave a Reply