So, remote working is not for everybody,.. and virtual meetings are not for everything.
By now, you would have probably heard a few times about how lives will be different after COVID-19, and that the world can never go back to the old normal. Partly true, yes.
Nevertheless, what is becoming clearer is that individuals are also getting remote work fatigue, especially when you have to face a screen for back-to-back meetings.
Added to that is that working parents have to deal with kids who are not precisely big fans of the virtual classroom. They stress that remote work and the virtual classroom are not meant to be together, quite literally. Parents who manage are ones capable of separating their work-designated spaces from their personal ones, as long as they can ensure than no one barges into their virtual meetings uninvited.
Parents with older kids are also better situated to work from home, as their kids can better adjust to e-learning and a virtual classroom.
Dominance by one
Remote work does not serve brainstorming sessions well either. We tried - in most cases, the conversation is dominated by someone’s ideas and them explaining those ideas, with others being either discouraged or have had it with virtual meetings for the day.
Virtual meetings, meanwhile, are a whole different matter. When conducting bilateral meetings, virtual meetings do not differ much from normal ones, minus the direct human interaction. The same cannot be said of multilateral meetings, however.
Overlapping sounds and ways
There is always the issue of a bad connection or of echoing sounds, when many microphones are unmuted. Else, there is always the issue of participants going about their business while the virtual multilateral meeting is taking place. As a result, it does not matter how many times you call that country’s name to deliver their remarks, and you will have to give them the virtual floor whenever they ask for it.
This obviously costs time and irritation, both on an individual level and sometimes on a political one, depending on how comparable the virtual space and the actual space is to that country. Moreover, a virtual multilateral meeting does not allow for side-talks and pull-asides, which are at the core of attending multilateral meetings.
Always playing catch up
Also, as a host of such meetings, you must keep track of all comments and remarks that are typed into the chat box. This seriously tests one’s multi-tasking limits, more so when there is a need to check your phone for messages from the team in case you missed a participant’s comment or request to speak.
We have also experimented with virtual office hours, where individuals can log into the virtual meeting room to either inquire about something or raise a concern. Those have been good to stay in touch with team members and to not lose contact with work colleagues.
They also work better than brainstorming sessions. The problem is that after a certain period of time, it gets tiring to log into virtual office hours with a fewer number of participants to show for it.
Does all of that mean that remote work is not here to stay?
Absolutely not. Remote work is here to stay, though it would be in the flexibility of what days per week to be in the office.
That is, an employee can work from home once or twice a week, subject to preference and the kids’ e-learning situation. Coming to the office becomes less mandatory, with brainstorming sessions and office hours being pre-scheduled and done in person.
This makes it is easier to bounce ideas off one another and to exchange views on different matters. Virtual meetings will be an option rather than a must.
That will be subject to the meeting’s nature, being bilateral or multilateral, and the number of participants and attendees.
The last thought that I want to leave you with: How eager are you to go back to the office?
- Abdulnasser Alshaali is a UAE based economist.