Watch out for the zoombies
BUSINESS MATTERS BEYOND THE BOTTOM LINE - Francis J. Kong (The Philippine Star) - October 18, 2020 - 12:00am

No, there is no typographical error in the column title. As Halloween approaches, you will see many appearances of zombies, vampires, werewolves, witches, etc. This is not referring to the zombies you will be seeing. What I am referring to is the number of people who are now suffering “Zoom fatigue” and have transformed into what I call “Zoombies.”

I have experienced this on more than four occasions, while doing training needs analysis with my clients for the webinar training or events, the HR or the marketing person would profusely apologize if they Zoom in a few minutes late. The person explains that she just got off from another Zoom meeting with a boss. And she says she still has three more zoom meetings with either their bosses or their people before the day is done. What are these guys doing? People are being turned into Zoombies! That is not healthy, and that is not advisable.

When everyone is in a state of shock at the start of the lockdown, we behaved like amateurs. We zoomed in and out of almost every situation, and it was understandable. Quick decisions had to be made and people had to adapt. Now, why did I say that we behaved like amateurs? If you notice, amateurs or newbies tend to do too much of the same thing. They do not have the depth of experience; they do not have many options, so the one or two things that they do, they do more of it, and they even do it harder.

But by this time, we should have gotten over that phase. We are no longer rookies, newbies, and amateurs. We now know how to use this technology to maximize its utilization responsibly. But that does not seem to be the case.

Remember the ancient days (a few months ago) when we used to work in a physical office? We know that too many meetings are counterproductive. So we managed the meeting; we kept an agenda; we had time limits allotted to it. We became professionals in doing meetings. But now it seems like we have not gotten to the point of responsibly and professionally managing this new way or communications. And it is taking its toll leading to “Zoom fatigue.”

This is why the industry’s running joke now is: How would you know whether you are Zooming too much or not?

You have gotten into the habit of using your webcam feed as a mirror when you dress up – and it’s usually only the upper garment.

Who you are is defined and wrapped in your virtual background, and others see you sink and occasionally float in it and above it.

You have talked so much and presented to passionately providing detailed explanations to realize that you are muted while you were speaking.

When work time is over, you experience a phantom headphone feeling on your head and ears.

You are now an expert, and you are so fast at sharing your screen.

You can recognize your co-worker’s dogs and cats by the way they look and the way they bark or meow.

You are eating your meals while zooming. It is now part of your daily routine.

You have developed a new skill. The skill of appearing as if you are paying attention when you are multi-tasking during a Zoom meeting.

And here is the biggest one:

You have developed a habit of virtually raising your hand even when you converse with your spouse or kids inside your home.

Bosses should understand that their people cannot afford to go through the additional stress of Zoom fatigue. If they Zoom too much (this includes all kinds of virtual meets by the way), refrain from turning your people into Zoombies.

Some questions you need to ask and just some things you need to think about:

Do you need to schedule that meeting?

What situations would a phone, email, Viber-group, WhatsApp, perhaps a conference call, give the same or better results with less stress on the participants?

Trust me. Kids are doing school at home, spouse is at home, and just fixing a place to function as an office presentable on-screen requires an enormous amount of preparation and energy. Only one or two fewer Zoom meetings would be a welcome relief for everyone – including the boss!

(Connect with Francis Kong at Or listen to “Business Matters” Monday to Friday 8 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. over 98.7 dzFE-FM ‘The Master’s Touch,’ the classical music station.)

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