Hey there, managers and leaders. It’s time to let your teams Zoom out and Slack off. In fact, we dare say it’s time you demand it.
Over the past nine months, many of us have had to adapt to the new work-from-home norms. Sweats have replaced jeans. Walking to the kitchen has replaced the commute. And Zoom and Slack have replaced conference rooms and swinging by one another’s desks.
While working from home has its benefits, one thing is for certain: We are all Zoomed out and over-Slacked!
As executive coaches to a number of the fastest growing startups during this pandemic, we have seen firsthand the impact that too much time trying to collaborate online has had. While many of our client companies are providing critical services during this time, their teams are paying the price for that success with longer hours and, in many cases, ailing mental health. All across the country, anxiety and depression are up, burnout is up and employee satisfaction is down.
How to help your employees
Here are a two simple things you can do to help you teams regain a sense of normalcy during this oh so abnormal time:
1) Zoom out. It’s easy to assume that because we all used to spend eight to 10 hours a day together in person, we should spend the same amount of time together online. But studies have shown that too much Zoom is taking a toll on us.
Jeffrey Hall, a professor of communication studies at the University of Kansas and author of the book "Relating Through Technology," explains, “Zoom is exhausting and lonely because you have to be so much more attentive and so much more aware of what’s going on than you do on phone calls.”
The remedy for this is the good old-fashioned phone call. We are encouraging all of our clients to do “Walk-and-Talks” for all their one-on-ones. Studies have shown that we are actually more emotionally intelligent and connected over the phone than over video chat. It turns out that a “Walk-and-Talk” provides three benefits over Zoom: It’s not a cognitively taxing video call; it’s more emotionally connected; and it gets you both outside for a little bit. Win, win, win!
2) Slack off. Yes, many teams sing the praises of Slack. But we have learned over the past few months that the main benefit of Slack also turns out to be its greatest weakness. Anyone who has used Slack extensively can attest that the product is massively addictive, and not conducive to deep-flow-state work due to the constant interruptions and “urgent needs” of colleagues.
We’re not alone in the observation that Slack drives addictive behavior. Three years ago, Mashable called upon readers to “Face it: Slack is ruining your life.” Fast Company has published three simple ways to “kick your addiction to Slack.”
And by constantly interrupting your team and keeping them from achieving flow state, apps like Slack also prevent your team from doing their most satisfying and enriching work, according to psychologist and author of "Flow: The Psychology of Happiness," Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.
Break the stressful addictions
At Velocity Group, we’ve recommended to our clients a simple way for the entire company to dial back the Slack and drop in to more and longer flow states so people can actually get work done. We call it a “Slack Off.”
It’s nearly impossible for any one user to turn off Slack notifications for a period of time given the deluge of messages that will likely be awaiting them upon their return. Instead, the best solution we’ve found is for the entire company to log out of Slack for pre-scheduled periods.
The impacts of this simple trick are astounding. People report feeling “at ease” for the first time in months. Without the constant DING! of their Slack notifications, they can drop in deeply to creative projects that have been on the shelf for months. And as a company, we see overall greater productivity and bottom-line execution due to happier and less strung out employees working on projects that bring them greater satisfaction and joy.
At first, the idea of Zoom-ing out and Slack-ing off might seem counterintuitive. We use these tools to make us more productive, not less. But anyone who has put too much salt in their soup knows that too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. It’s time we develop a healthier relationship with these tools and use them strategically and sparingly, and a little less obsessively.
Edward Sullivan and John Baird are respectively the CEO and chairman of Velocity Group, an executive coaching firm with operations in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and London. They are also authors of the upcoming book "The Power of Insight," which will be released by Harper Collins in 2021.
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: It's time to stop Zoom fatigue and Slack addiction for employees