All Zoomed out: why it’s time to call time on ‘overcommunication’

‘Overcommunication’ has been one of the leadership buzzwords of the coronavirus crisis, but for many in the industry it's an approach that contributes to burnout.

There's no such thing as a quick Zoom catch-up, writes Nicola Kemp
There's no such thing as a quick Zoom catch-up, writes Nicola Kemp

Agency leader: “The mental health of our staff is our number-one priority.”

Also agency leader: “I found a free 15-minute slot in your diary, so I popped in a quick Zoom catch-up.”

There is no such thing as a quick Zoom catch-up.

In the midst of few certainties, the current crisis has shown up our collective inability to keep a video call to time.

Particularly for those of us with young children, who must also find the time to locate the ever-smaller corners of our homes that do not look like they have been burgled, Zoom fatigue is more than just a catchy phrase.

The fallacy of overcommunication

What does ‘overcommunication’ really mean in practice?

For more than a third of the industry it equates to endless video calls that are bleeding into every given moment of the day.

Research from advertising and media industry charity NABS revealed that 37 per cent of employees are struggling with the new pressure of online presenteeism – with 35 per cent citing long videoconferencing meetings as a stressor and 45 per cent finding it difficult to set boundaries around working hours.

The global pandemic affords the communications industry the opportunity for a complete reset in how, when and how much employees work – to forge new, inclusive and flexible ways of working. Instead, there is a risk that the industry will simply replace the inflexibility of office life with digital presenteeism, swapping one toxic working practice with another.

As days merge into back-to-back video calls, the work itself is often squeezed into evenings and weekends.

Research published in May from LinkedIn in partnership with the Mental Health Foundation shows that, on average Britons, have been working 28 hours of overtime per month since lockdown began – the equivalent of four extra days.

It is a trend that sparks the question: is the industry hurtling towards burnout?

Of course, it’s easy to deliver platitudes on prioritising wellbeing, as many did during Mental Health Awareness Week in May.

But it is clear that what is much harder to do is to put effort and sacrifice into ensuring that employees don’t burn out; that they have the time and emotional energy to be present to those who love and need them.

There is no question that the communications industry faces difficult decisions; furloughing, pay cuts and redundancies are the painful reality of the business ecosystem.

Yet, regardless of whether you believe the recovery will be V-shaped or that we are on the precipice of the biggest recession in living memory, the industry will come out of this crisis.

So the question for leaders is this: are you treating the mental health of your people with the urgency it deserves?

Or is your commitment to mental health little more than a platitude; a thought-leadership platform devoid of any meaningful action, but in danger of robbing employees of their most precious asset – time.

The time to step up is now.

Nicola Kemp is managing editor of Bite at Creativebrief

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