In no small part due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Zoom has become the most popular virtual meeting tool.
In the second quarter of 2020, Zoom reported 148.4 million active users, a stunning 4,700% growth year over year, and its market cap went from $25 billion in 2019 to $129 billion this year. Clearly, video meetings have found their place in the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.
But video chats and meetings aren't without drawbacks. Faulty internet, bandwidth limitations and social fatigue have made online meetings a dreaded event for many workers around the world.
Now, many companies are looking for ways to combat what has come to be known as Zoom fatigue, a condition born out of the the downside of constantly looking at a camera to show attention as well as maintaining constant control of facial expressions to avoid misinterpretation.
That's why some companies are trying new approaches, rethinking how they do meetings and setting meetings in immersive virtual worlds as a way to avoid the fatigue and hyper self-awareness that comes with Zoom and similar video platforms.
Business Meetings in Video Games?
With virtual meeting fatigue and the inability to conduct in-person meetings, some executives are looking into immersive virtual worlds to give workers a hint of relief. Creating and customizing an avatar can be fun and playing a video game can help people bond. But it comes with an important note of caution.
"This depends on the nature of your company," said Michael Hammelburger, CEO at expense reduction consultancy The Bottom Line Group. "If you're into entertainment, then yes. Video gaming? Then it can work. Otherwise, it might take some time for the organization to adjust."
Rachel Renock, co-founder at New York City-based Wethos, a platform that allows entrepreneurs to share projects and collaborate on services, isn't a big fan of conducting business meetings in immersive, gaming-style environments, citing technical constraints and employee preferences.
"Could they play the same game without difficulty? Do they have the right software to play this game?" she said. "That's not to say we wouldn't have an icebreaker activity in something like Fortnite in the future, but it's not feasible for external meetings."
The technical issues are among the most common objections to video game meetings but the fact that virtuality is seeping into the business environment is a clear sign that the need for human interaction is a key part of work. Whether it's yes to video gaming or no, there's one enduring truth behind the debate: The way we do business meetings needs to improve.
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Improving the Quality of Business Meetings
With or without video games, meetings can start with simple things that help workers bond. Renock said it starts with companies understanding that employees are people and not just faces on a screen.
"There is no water cooler over Zoom," she said. "Allow employees to have five minutes at the beginning of the call to have wins in their personal life, joke around and encourage chat throughout the call."
Improving communication is a key part of better meetings. Games can play a role in improving communication, said William Thornton, head of US partnerships at GRID esports, a Berlin, Germany-based data platform for esports.
"Games help loosen discussions the same way the golf course or taking a client out for dinner could help," he said, suggesting that video games could provide a relaxing atmosphere that fosters open communication.
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Tips to Add Interactivity to Business Meetings
While video game-style meetings may not be an immediate solution to virtual meeting fatigue, there are some things companies can do to bring gamification and interactivity into business meetings. Themed meetings can have a positive effect on the team's morale, said Adam Crookes, founder of Freshly Squeezed, a content writing service for marketers.
"For instance, I might ask each participant to bring a book to the call that they've recently enjoyed reading," he said. "We have a few tea fanatics on the team, and we've got a few tutorials on how to make the perfect tea. You should really look to create those lighthearted moments to combat any Zoom fatigue that may be lurking around."
There are classic ways to keep meetings interactive that don’t include playing Call of Duty.
“Rather than moving to another environment to combat Zoom fatigue, why not develop strategies to engage your team on these videoconferencing calls?" Crookes said. "You would just have to ensure that everyone gets a chance to speak and be heard.”
Using video games in meetings may or may not be a realistic solution, but companies still need to adapt and evolve their approach to virtual meetings. Improving interactivity to reduce fatigue is a logical step. Sometimes something as simple as allowing each worker the opportunity to speak does the trick.