Written by Hailey McBurney
Over the course of the nearly two years of the pandemic, have you found yourself thinking “Oh not another virtual meeting!”? You’re not the only one accepting yet likely tired of videoconferencing, presentations, or virtual events. This is also known as ‘Zoom fatigue’.
The concept of Zoom fatigue is accepted and experienced by many of us. According to a workplace study by Virtira Consulting,  49 percent reported a “High degree of exhaustion as a direct result of many daily video calls.” Without a doubt, this number will continue to grow the longer the pandemic goes on.
On the flip side, video streaming services such as Zoom, Google Meets, Teams, etc. have provided an incredible opportunity to increase access, or “democratize”, communications. This is particularly true of organizations with a large geographical footprint.
For example, in June 2020, I was supporting communications programming around National Indigenous Peoples’ Day. As with everything else, we had moved to virtual events and were discussing internal promotion. When someone noted that a specific offering was for a Calgary audience, I asked why that couldn’t extend to all North American employees. “We usually just have these events for our local office,” was the answer.

A Change in Strategy

After a bit more conversation, we not only changed our strategy to broaden the audience but also our reach, impact and included more people. This simple change meant that team members in some of our smaller offices throughout Saskatchewan or Ontario, and the United States were able to take part and experience a rich offering that was previously inaccessible.

Less Exclusion. More Access.

In September that same year, I was looking for professional development opportunities. I found a great conference that took place over three days.
As the mother of two young boys, it would have been both difficult and costly to get away to an in-person conference. Several thousand dollars and a week off work away from my family was not appealing. Instead, it was only a few hundred dollars and time blocked off in my calendar. Think of that at scale. Hundreds of participants (and their respective organizations) benefitted from the removal of these barriers to participation.
To this day, that conference (focused on diversity and inclusion communications), was one of the best training events I’ve ever attended.

Equal Contribution is Good Business

Truthfully, these are only a couple of my own examples. Virtual meetings, however, have really “levelled-the playing field” in several areas. In my workplace, virtual meetings across cities and time zones allow more opportunities to show up and contribute equally. We don’t have meetings that are taking place in Calgary with a few forgotten callers from Houston or Duluth sitting on the line.
Clearly, once we return to ‘normal’ (whatever that looks like), our continued preference will always be for face-to-face. Yet, as we calculate what the future of communications holds, let’s not forget about the opportunities that forced innovation has brought us. We’ve gained increased access and opportunities for more meaningful participation.

This article was written by one of our talented IABC Calgary volunteers.

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