Friday Faves is our weekly blog series highlighting a few select pieces from the REG team’s reading lists. You can catch up on past Friday Faves on the archive

Cartoon of the Week

Jakkii says: No commentary needed this week – I think most of us can relate. Let me know if you find that reset button, though…

Zoom fatigue is real

Anne says: If you haven’t experienced it, you’ve probably heard a colleague mention it… “I’m soooo over Zoom meetings…” and “Why does every meeting have to be on Zoom?” !!

Now – it’s official – it’s exhausting being on video calls, back-to-back, all day!

Initially, some of our conversations noted the breakdown of sharing our home lives with colleagues – from kids, to pets, to decor – there was no place to hide! Unless you added a Zoom background – but we soon figured out they didn’t always work either – there’s been some hilarious pixilated versions of people absorbed into the backgrounds, and quite a few other weird experiences as well.

This article by Libby Sander, an Assistant Professor of Organisational Behaviour, and Oliver Bauman, Assistant Professor in Psychology, both at Bond University in Queensland, explains the key issues at play – and the cognitive load that is experienced by video calls.

They explain five aspects that create the cognitive load in video calls (this isn’t exclusive to Zoom):

  1. Loss of non-verbal communication
    No surprises here – this is one of the most commonly stated issues of online collaboration. The authors explain that on screen we have to work much harder at trying to read the facial cues. And if there are multiple faces on your screen, it’s very difficult to concentrate on the speaker only. We’re constantly trying to read reactions and feedback cues which in a meeting with the same number of people is entirely manageable. What apparently happens is without the appearance of body language, we concentrate heavily on the verbal cues, which is more exhausting for us to manage.
  2. When the kids run in
    Kids, dogs, cats… I think this anxiety broke down for a lot of people after about a week in lockdown. But the example in the article is special – I haven’t experienced that one yet!!
  3. No water-cooler catch-ups
    I don’t think this issue can be attached solely to video calls. This is more a symptom of lockdown and isolation. Spontaneous interactions and informal discussions are recognised to be stimuli for innovation and creativity. Video calls, online text chats and emails don’t replace the real-life interactions in the office. However, they introduce cognitive scaffolding, which can be developed or recreated in other innovative ways if we’re all working and interacting remotely. In the short-term, video calls with a particular agenda are unlikely to resolve this issue, unless there’s intentional design and experienced participants. In fact, if you look at some of the amazing initiatives people have come up with to stay in touch socially during lockdown (from TikTok dancing, to quarantini sessions, to wine tasting and dinner parties), it makes you wonder why business meetings are still following the same structure as if they were in a physical meeting room.
  4. Looking at ourselves
    Oh yes – this is a tough one! Do you find yourself watching your face while you’re speaking? It’s not the same as talking to yourself in the mirror – this is weird and it’s unsettling and causes most people a lot of stress.
  5. When silence is deafening
    Silence online feels like forever – that 1 or 2 second delay while someone is thinking – feels like forever. As does the lag while people unmute themselves, or people talk over each other unintentionally. The flow is not natural and makes the sessions feel like you’re driving on off-road tracks!

All of these aspects impact our cognitive load and the more load there is, the more exhausted we are. As an advocate for the use of video, in the appropriate contexts and with bandwidth permitting, I have been troubled by the negative impacts being experienced by many people during this lockdown period. Bad experiences with technology take a lot longer to resolve than face-to-face interactions. We’ve seen this in particular with early eLearning initiatives where poor instructional design made the user experience far from optimal and set back adoption of quality eLearning for years.

No one is saying get rid of video calls – in remote working and lockdown environments it’s been an important element of staying connected – but, let’s just think before we send another Zoom meeting invite: do I really need a video chat for this? In fact, do we have to meet about this at all? Sometimes we can very effectively collaborate on projects without constant meetings – how about using some technology (other than video calls) to do that!


Work with me

Jakkii says: Having trouble focusing while working at home? If you didn’t know already, you’re not alone – and, it turns out, there might be a slightly unconventional (some may say “weird”) way to combat it: ‘work with me’ videos on YouTube.

I really don’t know how this got started, but if you search “work with me” on YouTube (the link below will take you straight to the results for this query), you’ll find a whole bunch of videos that are just… people working and studying. I guess the idea is that it simulates – sort of – the experience of being in an open plan office, or in a library, or at school, and having other people working and studying near you. Perhaps there’s a psychological guilt factor involved, like ‘this person is working hard so I should too’? Or even ‘this person might judge me for whether or not I’m doing work’? Who knows? And what about when the person is filmed with their head and face out of the frame, like in the video linked above? I don’t know about you, but I don’t usually work near headless people so I’m not sure exactly what this one is going for.

I’m super curious though about whether anyone finds it actually effective – if you give it a try, please let me know how it goes!


Forced social isolation causes neural craving similar to hunger

Jakkii says: This is an interesting read on Scientific American about a study into the neural effects of forced social isolation.

After only ten hours of social isolation– and even despite people knowing exactly when their deprivation would end– people reported substantially more social craving, loneliness, discomfort, dislike of isolation, and decreased happiness than they did at baseline. Similarly (and unexpectedly), the same findings were seen after ten hours of food fasting.

Social isolation is nothing new, so we have been aware that it can have negative impacts on humans for some time. However, this large-scale, forced isolation is a whole kettle of fish altogether, and so it’s interesting to see any research that might shed some light on the many feelings we’ve experienced at various times throughout the lockdown. I suppose if there’s one positive to take away, it’s that perhaps greater understanding of the impacts in social isolation in general, and heightened empathy for those who are more socially isolated on an ongoing basis such as those who live alone or people who live with disabilities or chronic illnesses that keep them largely confined to home, might lead us to better policy, better services and outreach, and better outcomes for people. From a workplace perspective, too, perhaps we might get a little better at understanding the increased sense isolation of when working from home – particularly if others have returned to the physical workplace – and begin to be more intentional and inclusive in how we bring remote workers into the fold.


Around the house

Jakkii says: Restrictions are now beginning to ease all around the country, so we hope you’re enjoying some healthy, safe, and socially distanced time in the great outdoors and in supporting your local small businesses! But, of course, there’s still plenty of time being spent at home, so here’s your weekly round-up of some ways to keep yourself occupied at home:

Friday Funnies

So… left or right? Hmmm…





Misinformation Friday Five

COVID-19 Friday Five

Work Friday Five

Tech Friday Five

Social Media Friday Five

I don’t usually use the word Twitter, I use, I say social media. But I put something out, and the next day, or the next hour or the next minute, everybody’s reading about it. 

Sydney Business Insights – The Future This Week Podcast

This week: where will the sputtering car industry go? And struggling food delivery apps. Sandra Peter (Sydney Business Insights) and Kai Riemer (Digital Disruption Research Group) meet once a week to put their own spin on news that is impacting the future of business in The Future, This Week.

The stories this week

04:59 – The pandemic will permanently change the car industry

15:28 – Restaurants go it alone, despite delivery app fee reductions

Other stories we bring up

University of Sydney scientists discover ‘virgin’ bees with offspring

The lockdown live-streaming numbers

Twitter will now let its employees work from home indefinitely

Westpac Banking Corp will re-assess the need for staff to be in its major city offices

The car industry faces a short-term crisis and long-term decline

Our previous discussion of oil prices on Corona Business Insights

China’s electric car industry in the COVID-19 storm

The auto industry bailout

The U.S. car industry is restarting after COVID-19

The lockdown has exposed the fatal flaw in Deliveroo’s business model

A huge cocktail-mixing truck is driving around Sydney and dropping off free drinks


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