Zoom fatigue? Make meetings great again using Roblox

Are you getting tired of Google Hangouts, Zoom and Microsoft team meetings? I know I am.

This was orginally posted on LinkedIn by Rory Wilmer.

While the home office does have some benefits, the fatigue of online sessions and video conferencing are taking their toll. There are various reasons for this. One is the remoteness of the experience. You can’t sincerely judge peoples body language from behind the camera, and often than not, webcams are switched off as we sit at home in our PJ’s till the late afternoon. Or do we? You will never know. It’s more likely the lockdown haircuts have really sprung up again, and we are a little embarrassed at our state of personal grooming. The other is that it gets tiring to try and listen to people as the connection cuts out, the burning of the screen brightness into our retinas, the lack of fresh air and movement of your body. Sitting and starring into a screen for hours upon end. It all starts to drain our concentration and the will to live. Maybe I just want to be working in a potato factory. Like Nathan Apodaca riding to work on his Skateboard and not sitting behind a desk reading marketing bullshit all day long.

I have a strict regime. I’m up at 5.30 am each day, I go through my tea ritual of making a fresh pot of my latest favourite leaf, and I start to write ideas that I dreamt of for my forthcoming TV show and book: Social Media and The Seven Deadly Sins. Mornings have always been my most productive time. And for anyone who follows me on social media, you’ll be used to logging in and seeing that I have started spamming your news feed from an ungodly early hour of the day. I get up, showered and I get dressed. It’s important to keep up your good habits and standards even if you are at home for most of your time.

Data trends from Social Bakers Engage conference yesterday highlighted that due to lockdown and the fact there isn’t much to do in the evenings now events, pubs and cinemas are closed means we are going to be earlier and waking up sooner. This is reflected by the usage time of social media switching to the earlier hours of the day and trailing off in the evenings. A notable switch in behaviour patterns which is something I will be watching to see how that changes as the nights get darker earlier and the long dark winter sets in.

The impact on your mental health of video meetings. AKA Zoom Fatigue.

While video conferencing does have some benefits, the biggest one being the time can be limited. I believe that meetings that last longer than 20-30 minutes soon become very unproductive, especially in advertising and marketing. The adage ‘this meeting could have been an email’ rings true for 90% of marketing meetings I partake in. Just get to the point, make a decision and decide on the next steps and actions to be taken.

And this is something that brings on the fatigue. While there have been mainstream media articles written about the phenomenon, I’ll link to one I read in National Geographic as an example.

“It’s almost like you’re emoting more because you’re just a little box on a screen,” Eichler-Levine says. “I’m just so tired.” So many people are reporting similar experiences that it’s earned its own slang term, Zoom fatigue, though this exhaustion also applies if you’re using Google Hangouts, Skype, FaceTime, or any other video-calling interface. The unprecedented explosion of their use in response to the pandemic has launched an unofficial social experiment, showing at a population scale what’s always been true: virtual interactions can be extremely hard on the brain. “There’s a lot of research that shows we actually really struggle with this,” says Andrew Franklin, an assistant professor of cyberpsychology at Virginia’s Norfolk State University.

In essence, we are missing the social interactions which are part of our basic DNA. Our long-distance ancestors did not use spoken language to communicate. The spoken and written word is a modern concept in the bigger time scale of human evolution. Back in the caves when we hunted and gathered, our communication came from other social cues. From gestures, body language to how we looked at each other. Our social intelligence developed through mirror neurons.

A mirror neuron is a neuron which fires both when an animal performs an action and when the animal observes the same action performed by another animal. Thus, the neuron “mirrors” the behaviour of another animal, as though the observer were himself performing the action.

Mirror neurons allowed our ancestors to have empathy and understanding of their fellow beings. So even without language, they were able to communicate with each other. Being forced to conduct the majority of working hours on video calls, has conflicted with our circuitry and this is having an impact on our mental wellbeing. Those little conversations around the water cooler or the espresso machine. The shared lunches and after-hours beers in the office kitchen. All these small yet meaningful moments have been taken away. And that is what is partly causing fatigue. The home office just isn’t much fun. Especially when you get your latest electricity bills and see how much extra power you have burnt through as a result of being at home all the time.

So what can we do to try and change this? Well, my suggestion is that we take to online gaming to help.

Roblox, if you have never heard of it, is one of the biggest online gaming platforms there is. Founded by David Baszucki and Erik Cassel in 2004 and released in 2006, the platform hosts user-created games of multiple genres coded in the programming language Lua. With over 164 million active monthly users and over $150M quarterly sales revenue, its a serious platform that many are just totally unaware of.

Now if you are like me, and you live in a household with young children. You’ll know what I am talking about! As the user base of Roblox ranges from between 9 years old to 16.

It has spawned an enormous Youtube community of content creators and viewers of their channels. Many leading Roblox YouTubers are making millions of dollars in ad revenues from their content as the demand for such videos is so high.

What is also great is that Roblox games are created by the users themself. It is one of the best entry points for new games developers and also a great platform for seasoned games developers. At the same time, it is more known for its post-Minecraft lego style avatar look. The game has the power and ability to be fully 3D immersive, and as of late 2020, I have seen much more sophisticated RPG and action games being deployed on the network.

What a Roblox board meeting could look like 🙂

So why am I talking about Roblox in a blog about Zoom fatigue? Well, my advice would be to take regular meetings into a Roblox world, for all your teams to gear up in their Roblox avatar and meet in a gamified office for an hour of discussion, gameplay and even PvP battles and puzzle-solving. This experience would bring teams closer together and take us back to some childhood experiences of fun. To work as teams in a safe and friendly environment with humour and playability. To use the chat features and team speak and or Discord servers to gamify our home office experience. To stop being so serious, so miserable and so tired of the non-stop facetime google hangout zoom lifestyle. To remember who we are and what we do best.

The great thing about Roblox is that its development software is free. Roblox editor can be downloaded here, and anyone with the most basic knowledge of programming can start to write lines of code in Lua. The developer hub can be found here. I would argue that especially if you have inhouse developers and coders, giving them the challenge of setting up your company Roblox gaming environment would make them smile.

Roblox is a platform many brands and creative agencies are unaware of and have overlooked. It’s probably about time we took a look at this platform and what possibilities it offers for creative output.

Eight almost nine months of homeschooling two young boys has taught me a lot about Roblox. Why waste such valuable knowledge? Contact me if you would like to discuss how to use my ideas and concepts.