Zoom-Free Fridays are the New No-Meeting Mondays, Apparently

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If you’ve interacted with me on the interwebs before, you know I value a few things: practicality, freedom, and overthinking. Those three come together to form Remotely Inclined. 

I get a lot of my ideas through the news. My thoughts, reactions, hot takes, etc. 

And that led me to a New York Times feature entitled: Citi Creates ‘Zoom-Free Fridays’ to Combat Pandemic Fatigue

I had to laugh. 

I like this idea as a concept. The article (behind their paywall) talks about how people were crazy exhausted from having to sit on camera the whole day, all week. So the global bank took inspiration from No-Meeting Mondays and said eff-it, no Zoom calls on Friday. 

Per the article: The bank plans to have one day each week when workers can avoid being on-camera for internal calls. “We are all feeling the weariness,” Citi’s chief executive said (emphasis mine).

Let’s talk about remote work weariness

There are a lot of tiring things about remote work:

  • Having total control over your day means you need to think consciously about how you act – you can’t just show up somewhere and call it an accomplishment. 
  • Being able to work from wherever you want requires discipline to pick a place where you can actually be productive (and have a good wifi connection). 
  • Issues around taxes and remote work laws are cumbersome and most bureaucracies suck at them, which impacts workers. 

But Zoom fatigue? I’m sorry to say, that’s not a remote work problem. That’s a way of work problem. 

I’ve been a remote worker since 2017. I have never had so many people asking for video calls as I had during the pandemic. I’ve also never been trapped in my house, unable to leave for fear of a public health crisis, but that’s a different argument.

When companies simply sub-out in-person chatting for video chatting, they are creating their own environment of fatigue. Don’t blame remote work, folks. 

Citibank logo
Source: Citibank

How to work better remotely

Reading my last section back, I am aware that I sound like a curmudgeon. It’s only because I wrote in Feb 2020 how COVID would explicitly make people think that lockdown work is remote work (I repeat: lockdown work and remote work are not the same thing).

But I also don’t want to turn this into a bitch-sesh and force you to read it. 

So if you read that article and thought: “Stefan, I am weary and you are rude,” here are a few genuine tips I’ve found to reduce weariness and get through this crap until we can get to real remote work (or back to the office) in a few months: 

1 – Stop requiring videos: Bring back the good old fashioned phone call! In the office world, when someone couldn’t be in the meeting room, they phoned in. You didn’t force them on video (well, most people didn’t). You do not need video all the time! It’s exhausting! 

2 – Work async more often: Send that email. Or a Slack. Or a voice note. But stop requiring (or implying you require) an immediate reply. A lot of zoom calls, much like a lot of meetings pre-COVID, could be an email. So make it a dang email and save everyone the time. 

3 – Set boundaries for real reasons, not fads: This is where I absolutely hand it to Citi. Based on their messaging around this shift, they are doing it as a solution to a problem, not chasing a fad. They realized employees were burning out, so they stopped zoom calls one day a week to give people a reprieve. The only change I’d make is to ask what people need to accomplish in a given Friday, and design around that with burnout in mind. 

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This post originally appeared on Remotely Inclined.