Four Reasons why Zoom fatigue won’t last

Video chat has dominated our work and social lives for more than a year. How can we better adjust to this mandatory, draining technology that’s going nowhere?

I’ve learned a lot of things about myself in this year of social distancing and pandemic lockdowns. One of those things is crystal clear: I never want to use Zoom again.

It’s not because it’s not a great app. In fact, without it, our pandemic experiences would likely have been far, far lonelier. And Zoom has almost single handedly made remote work, which many companies viewed with skepticism before Covid-19, actually possible.

No, the reason I want out is because of Zoom fatigue. Simply put, Zoom drains your energy, because it flattens all of your social interactions – personal or professional – into the same, unnatural grid of disembodied faces, where being stared at and inadvertently interrupting people is the name of the game. And although video conferencing has been around for years – almost a century, technically – Zoom felt like it erupted into our lives overnight, and within a specific, unprecedented landscape of pandemic fear and anxiety. As a result, it’s not exactly something I’ve come to develop a positive association with.

Yet expert consensus points to remote work sticking around after the Covid-19 era – which means Zoom won’t be going anywhere, either. So, if widespread Zoom use is going to continue, how will we keep Zoom fatigue at bay? If it’s going to be an ongoing, important part of our professional lives, how can we learn to love it – and can we?

‘Work made us do it’ 

A year into the pandemic, research is starting to confirm what we feel instinctively – that video conferencing saps our mental resources. A new study from Stanford University in California, published last month in the journal Technology, Mind and Behaviour and the first peer-reviewed article to look at Zoom fatigue, pinpoints the more granular reasons we experience the phenomenon. The four chief factors include constant, close-up, interrogation-like eye contact from the other participants that doesn’t go away, even if you’re not the one speaking; constantly looking at your own face (which has led to self-esteem problems and plastic surgery for some); having to sit still for an extended period; and not being able to easily and accurately pick up on cues like body language.

Zoom has been a godsend in many ways during the pandemic, but experts say its dominating presence in both work and social life makes it feel inescapable and tiring (Credit: Alamy)
Zoom has been a godsend in many ways during the pandemic, but experts say its dominating presence in both work and social life makes it feel inescapable and tiring (Credit: Alamy)

The fact that we’ve been sitting in front of a webcam all day isn’t the only reason for Zoom fatigue, however. Many of us were abruptly forced to adopt it at the start of the pandemic; we didn’t have any choice. With Zoom, “our work made us do it, our schools made us do it, seeing our friends made us do it”, says Jeff Hancock, founding director of Stanford University’s Social Media Lab and one of the researchers who worked on the new study.

Yet for most people’s day-to-day lives, Zoom is “what we call a ‘heavy’ technology”, he says, which is why video conferencing – an emotionally taxing and technologically demanding medium – sat on the periphery for decades, until Covid-19 propelled it to the fore. “You have to look good, you have to pay attention, you have to pay attention to the area behind you, and that’s heavy,” he says.

Like hand sanitiser and face masks, Zoom has become an indelible symbol of the Covid-19 era

Make no mistake, Zoom has been an integral lifeline. But the novelty is wearing seriously thin, in a year which has been defined by “Zoom with your grandmother, Zoom with your friends, Zoom with your colleagues”, says Anne-Laure Fayard, associate professor in the department of technology, culture and society at New York University. The app has effectively flattened all of our interactions into the same tool, which makes it feel repetitive, inescapable and mandatory. “The pandemic created this sense that we only had one option, and that option was forced on everyone.”

That means that, like hand sanitiser and face masks, Zoom has become an indelible symbol of the Covid-19 era. “For many of us, Zoom fatigue is really work fatigue, pandemic fatigue, lockdown fatigue and social isolation fatigue,” says Henry Jenkins, a professor at the University of Southern California who specialises in communications and media.

Mix-and-match approach

Once we exit this crisis period, however, it makes sense that our relationship with Zoom will evolve, experts say. After all, though the process is usually slower than Zoom take-up in the pandemic, we’re used to adopting new technologies and finding the best ways to use them.

“Our norms will change. When we first had elevators, everyone would stare at each other like, ‘oh God’. And now in an elevator, we face forward,” says Hancock. And when ride-sharing services like Uber first appeared: “’Do I get in the front? Do I talk?’ And now it’s, yeah, you sit in the back; you don’t have to talk if you don’t want to.” We figured out the more awkward and messier bits as we went, and eventually adapted to the technologies.

In the case of Zoom, the hypothesis is we’ll use it more sparingly, and in situations that truly call for it. A great place to start is to really think on why we hold video conferencing in high regard in the first place.

“The assumption is face-to-face is always great, and so then we always need to have technology mimicking face-to-face,” says Fayard. “I think that’s why some people want video, and not just an email.”

But not everything needs to be face-to-face. “It’s about variety – I call it a ‘mix-and-match’ approach,” says Fayard. Juggle Zoom, email, in-person meetings, phone calls and other communication methods, she says, depending on “organisational needs, different types of meetings and different personalities of [employees]”.

Doing something while you're Zooming, like preparing and sharing a family meal, can potentially minimise the unnatural-feeling, draining effects of video calls (Credit: Alamy)
Doing something while you’re Zooming, like preparing and sharing a family meal, can potentially minimise the unnatural-feeling, draining effects of video calls (Credit: Alamy)

The team at Stanford suggest practical tips that can help, like making “audio only” meetings the default for your organisation, which can help eliminate the main Zoom fatigue triggers outlined in the study. They also suggest using an external webcam and keyboard to allow greater flexibility in your seating arrangement; meaning you won’t be staring mugshot-style at the screen for the entire call.

Plus, Zoom and its competitors will roll out new features that minimise the ways the apps drain our energy. For example, you might have noticed a new feature on Zoom that blurs your background – possibly eliminating the stress of having colleagues peek into your messy kitchen or judge your personal items. Some providers are working on tools that will record meetingsso people can watch them asynchronously. (Hancock also says Zoom has reached out to the Stanford team to open a dialogue on how to improve.)

More choice, more appreciation?

Of course, the passage of time will also play a role in the ebbing of Zoom fatigue. Social distancing measures will lift, travel will begin again and we’ll be not only be able to head back into the office, but also visit friends and family in-person – meaning we can choose what we use Zoom for, and what it’s suited for, instead of it being the default. 

Judith Donath, fellow at Harvard University’s internet and society centre, says she’s been taking online photography classes during the pandemic, a situation that’s perfect for Zoom. You’re not staring unblinkingly at each other in a sea of talking heads, because there’s no need to. Rather, you might all be looking at a fellow student’s photo on the screen and critiquing it with audio only.

“I’d much rather do those [classes] online than in person,” says Dolath. “You’re not having an intimate conversation with someone – the teacher is talking to the class in general, and people are all addressing the general class” when they speak – so why do you need to see their face?

Now, in what we fervently hope are the closing months of the pandemic, it may be time to realise that just because we can communicate via video call doesn’t mean we necessarily should. We want the facilities and conveniences Zoom affords us – but going forward we’re going to be able to choose how we use it and when.

For me, I’ve found I like the app best when I’m Zooming while I’m doing something else, just as Dolath says: playing video games with friends, for example. And even after the pandemic, my scattered family will still be far-flung – so we might be able to gather virtually to make Christmas cookies or a holiday dinner, with Zoom on in the background, as Hancock did with his own family last year. It makes for a more natural and comfortable video call – as opposed to one full of people staring at each other on a webcam in the chairs, trying desperately to replicate being in person, only to clumsily talk over one another or tell people they’re on mute.

“I feel a little bit like Zoom is the hammer for everything right now,” he says. “Let’s not use a hammer. Not everything is a nail.”

By: Bryan Lufkin – BBC

Business strategies in covid-19 for competitive advantage

Compiled By: Kwamed2k

An organization strategy is a broad-based formula for how a business is going to compete, what its goals should be and what plans and policies will be needed to implement and accomplish these goals. Information systems are viewed as potential means to achieve the objectives of businesses and competitive advantage.

According to Earl (2001), competitive advantage is only one of four uses of strategic information systems planning. The other uses (all of which are key components of business strategies) are:
• To improve performance,
• To enable new ways of managing and
• To develop new businesses.

The term information systems is referred to as management of the organizational function in charge of planning, designing, developing, implementing and operating the systems and provide services. The information systems of your organization, therefore must comprise information technology infrastructure, data, application systems and personnel that employ IT to deliver information and communication services in your organization.

Why you must implement strategic information systems (SIS) in your business
Implementation of SIS in your business in times like this will greatly aid you in exploiting the above tangible and intangible resources in the planning of the future of the organization such that the operational excellence demonstrated by the achievement of low cost production or quality and differentiation and high profit is achieved.

Objectives of information systems
The most important objective of information systems for your business must be to create and improve relationships between your customers and suppliers. If your business can use information systems to learn more about its customers, serve them better and ensure that they continue to come back for more products and services, your business can increase revenue remarkably.

On the other side of the equation, the business can use IS for better and timelier information about its own needs that can lead to lower costs of operations which will help to improve business and to increase satisfaction levels. IS and technologies are more valuable in achieving your business objectives especially when they are combined with changes in business practices and management behavior.

Customer intimacy is the of understanding your customers and providing them with the products and services they demand. It is true that IS help companies to establish entirely different business models.

Management objectives in investment in Information Systems
Technology is impacting on our world and lives. Technological advancements are effecting all aspects of our careers and work.

Entrepreneurs and Business executives are now investing as much monies as possible in technology in modern business organizations.

The main objectives for these investments in business information systems are in six main folds:
Operational excellence: The way and manner managers will achieve improved productivity and value for money in their operational activities. Value for money, simply means the sum total of economy, efficiency and effectiveness in business operational activities in the work place.

Innovation and creation of new products or services.

Creation and improving relationships between the business and its customers and suppliers.

New managerial tools: Investing in IS will avail to managers and workers the tools necessary to make better decisions.

Achieving competitive advantage: Increasing the business’s advantage over its competitors in the market and

Sustainability: Ensuring the survival of the business. The objective is to ensure that data is effectively updated so that better, reliable and timelier information is provided to business partners at a lower cost and in an improved process.

Value proposition and Diversity of competitive information

What you must really do to succeed in the environment which you compete

A key element in any organization’s IS is identifying its target customers and delivering what those target customers want. What the organization tries to deliver to its customers is called its value proposition.

Value proposition is a clear and short statement of competitive value that your organization must deliver to its target customers, thus how you will compete for or satisfy your customers that will be distinctive from your competitors.

Below are the four elements of Value Proposition:
Cost: The price paid by the customer, given by the product features and competitors’ price.

Quality: The degree of conformance between what the customer is promised by you and what the customer really receives from you. For example, a defect-free smart phone that performs as promised by your salesman.

Functionality and Features: The performance of a product. Example a meal in a restaurant that provides the dinner with the level of satisfaction expected for the price paid or a new mobile phone that provides the user with Palm-Top Computer functionality for the same price of the mobile phone.

Services: All the other elements of the product relevant to the customer. For example, for a Car, service might include how customer are treated as the car bought in addition to the degree and form of after-sales-services.

Achieving Operational Excellence
Good supply chain management and customer service are critical in achieving operational excellent. Enterprise systems will help your management team to make better decisions by giving them more complete information.

Enterprise softwares incorporate the best practices of an industry helping it to conform its business process more easily, more efficiently and effectively.

The basis of today’s (millennial) competition has changed from who sells the most to who owns the customer and has the best customer relationship.

Competitive Advantage
A competitive advantage exists when the firm is able to deliver the same benefits as competitors but at a low cost (cost advantage), or deliver benefits that exceeds those of competing products (differentiation advantage). Thus, a competitive advantage enables the firm to create superior value for its customers and superior profits for itself.

The goal of much strategy is to achieve a sustainable competitive advantage.

Using Michael Porter’s two basic types of competitive advantage;
1, Cost advantage and
2, Differentiation advantage

Both advantages can be more broadly approached (or narrowly approached), which results in the third viable competitive strategy: FOCUS.

The common ways of thinking about gaining competitive advantage as above are:

1, Deliver a product or a service at lower cost
This does not necessary mean the lower cost, but simply a cost related to the quality of the product or service that will be both attractive in the marketplace and will yield sufficient return on investment. The cost considered is not simply the data processing cost, but is the overall cost of all corporate activities for the delivery of that product or service.

There are many computer systems that have given internal cost saving and other internal advantages, but they can not be thought of as strategic until those savings can be translated to a better competitive position in the market.

2, Deliver a product or service that is Differentiated
Differentiation means the addition of unique features to a product or service that are competitively attractive in the market. Generally such features will cost something to produce, and so they will be setting point, rather than the cost itself.

Seldom does a lowest cost product also have the best differentiation. A strategic system helps customers to perceive that they are getting some extra benefits or utility for consuming same product or service.

3, Focus on specific market segment
The idea is to identify and create market niches that have not been adequately filled. Information technology is frequently able to provide the capabilities defining, expanding and filling a particular nich or segment. The application would be quite specific to the industry.

4, Innovation
Develop products or services through the use of computer that are new and appreciably from other available offerings. Example of these are automatic credit card handing at service stations and automated teller machines at banks. Such innovative approaches do not only give opportunities to attract new customers, but also open up entirely new fields of businesses so that their use have very elastic demand.

Analysis of Porter’s Competitive advantage
Porter’s competitive advantage can be summed up in two viewpoints:
1, Cost and differentiation – these advantages are viewed as positional advantages since they describe the firm’s position in the industry as a leader in either cost or differentiation.
2, A source-based – this view emphasizes that a firm utilizes its resources and capabilities to create a competitive advantage that ultimately result in superior value creation.

Resources and Capabilities
According to the resource-based view, in order to develop a competitive advantage the firm must have resources and capabilities that are superior to those of its competitors. Without this superiority, the competitors could simply replicate what the firm was doing and any advantage quickly would disappear.

Resources are the firm’s specific assets useful for creating a cost or differentiation advantage and that few competitors can acquire easily. The following are some examples of such resources that your business must have:

Information technology infrastructure:

  1. Powerful PCs and Robotics
  2. Database and Network
  3. Intranet
  4. Extranet
  5. A vibrant website
  6. Strong organization (knowledge base)
  7. Patents and trademarks
  8. Proprietary know-how
  9. Installed customer base
  10. Reputation of the firm and
  11. Brand equity

This refers to your firm’s ability to utilize your resources, as above, effectively. An example of a capability is the ability to bring a product to the market faster than your competitors, i.e. through website ordering and payment systems. Such capabilities must be embedded in the routines of your organization and are not easily documented as procedures and thus are difficult to be cloned by your competitors.

The firm’s resources and capabilities together form its distinctive competencies.
These competencies enable renovation, efficiency, quality and customer responsiveness, all of which can be leveraged to create a cost advantage or a differentiation advantage.

Core Competencies
These are the most significant value-creating skills within your organization and key areas of expertise which are distinctive to your company and critical to the companies long-term growth.

Your company’s core competencies are the things that you can do better than your competitors in the critical, central areas of your company where the most value is added to your products. These areas of expertise may be in any area, from product development to employees dedication.

A competence that is central to your business’s operations but which is not exceptional in some way should not be considered as a core competence, as it will not generate a differentiated advantage over rival businesses. It follows from the concept of Core Competencies that resources that are standardized or easily available will not enable a business to achieve a competitive advantage over its rivals.

What is the difference between information technology and information systems

Information Technology (I.T.) is often used interchangeably with Information Systems (I.S.) but in reality, they are two different things.

1, Information Technology (IT) Information Technology (IT) consists of hardware such as desktop, laptops and mobile technologies PDAs and even Mobile phones. IT comprises the software that is used on all these devices ranging from System Software (operating systems e.g. Windows, Macintosh and Linux) to Application softwares or productivity management software (e.g. Microsoft office and Accounting packages).

IT also includes enterprise software such as Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) programs, Supply Chain Management (SCM) programs and Customer Relations Management (CRM) softwares. Most IT systems are looked on as support activities to the business.

They mechanize operations for better efficiency, control and effectiveness, but they do not in themselves increase corporate profitability. They are basically used to provide management with sufficient dependable information to keep the business running smoothly and they are used for analysis to aid in planning new directions.

2, Information Systems

Information Systems (IS) also includes all the systems that aid in inputting data (raw facts), processing it into meaningful information and outputting it in the form e.g. print out for decision making. Any computer system has the input, process and output parts from a technical standpoint but compared to good information systems as well as behavioral standpoint and not just simply from technical standpoint, thus the way and manner the people in the organization will interact with information technology to achieve the business objectives.

The final stage of information is feedback. Feedback ensures the determination that the information systems properly process the data input and the output, in turn is appropriate and timely. A good information system is determined by it ability to change data into appropriate useful information. Therefore, information systems (IS) skills are management skills, they are not primarily technological as seen above, but rather include:

1. An understanding of strategic and operational business planning and associated IT issues;

2. The ability to perform appropriate analysis of IT investments;

3. An understanding of IT related benefits and risks;

4. The ability to stimulate and manage organizational change and

5. The ability to communicate effectively about IT issues.

Current Trends

Strategic information systems has become an integral and necessary part of business that is aimed at directly influencing market share, earnings and all other aspects of marketplace profitability. They may even bring in new products, new markets and new ways of doing business.

They directly affect competitive stance of organizations, giving them advantages against their competitors.

As a result of the above analysis, it is important for us to be able to differentiate between being computer literate and information literate.These phrases are also sometimes used interchangeably but strictly speaking, they are not the same.

Computer Literacy and Information Literacy:

a. Computer literacy

Computer literacy is possession and ability to use of hardware devices such as PCs, Desktop computers and other powerful mobile devices as well as communication media such as the internet to perform some tasks (This coincides with IT knowledge as seen above).

b. Information Literacy

Information literacy is the ability to use Hardware, software and network technologies to identify your business problems and to create solutions to assist your business organization to achieve its objectives (This coincides with Information systems skills as above). In conclusion, there are three dimensions of business information systems, thus:

1. Technology,

2. People and

3. Organization.

The Use of Information Systems in Business Problems Below are the four steps in using information systems to solve business problems:

1. Identification of problem exactly – this could prove to be challenging as we normally attribute symptoms to the cause of the problems and therefore the next stage is flawed leading to a bad result.

2. Solution design – where appropriate problem identification has been done, then the necessary design of the solutions approach could be arrived.

3. Choosing the best solution – since there could be many options in the solution design stage, careful analysis of the organization, technology and people will assist the choice of the most appropriate solution.

4. Implementation – this is about business process change management and it requires a more in-depth approach.

Information Technology Systems in the Accounting profession: Why IT/IS in Accountancy:

Information technologies are changing the nature and economics of accounting activities. Information Technology (IT) is rapidly gaining presence in the workplace. All areas in the business arena are achieving expansion in IT and investing huge sums money in this area. Within this changing environment, several key strategic trends have defined a new role for computers.

The career plans of accountants and related training systems must refocus on the changing nature of accounting, the changing role of the accountancy profession in providing services to businesses, governments and the community at large as well as the knowledge and skills required for future success as professional accountants.

Societies expect accountants who accept engagements or in the accounting fraternity to have reasonable level of competences to perform the work required. The accountant of today should endeavor to possess the needed knowledge and skills to demonstrate competence.
The competences of accountants in IT strategy must be enhanced and preserved in order to maintain both the accountancy profession’s credibility and capability in supporting new strategic information technology initiatives.

Information technology is also affecting the way in which businesses are being managed, structured and operated. One dramatic development affecting organizations is the fusion of business and IT strategies. Organizations can no longer develop business strategies separate from IT/IS strategies and vice versa.

Accordingly, there is a need for integration of sound business and information technology planning and the incorporation of effective finance and management controls within business systems. (Dr. S-Anomah & Associates).

Trends and Implications of the Accountancy profession
Accountants have traditionally produced information to enhance management decision-taking. With the advent of new information technologies and expanded sources and means of access to information, accountants can help bring richer sets of information to bear on specific managerial decisions and screen out unnecessary information.

One of the implications of the growth of such services is the need to expand accountants’ perspectives beyond their traditional focus on accounting information to other relevant types of information and performance indicators, including non-financial information.

The body of knowledge and skills required of accountants entail a variety of important areas and IT/IS is not exception. This area presents a challenge to accountants it requires special attention due to its explosive growth and the high rate of change.

By: Daniel Kusi

Strategic information systems
Strategy is the art of creating value which ‘provides the intellectual frameworks, conceptual models and governing ideas that allow a company’s managers to identify opportunities for bringing value to customers and for delivering that value at a profit’. Strategic information systems concern planning and implementing business strategies with computerized systems so as to obtain the benefits resulting from reduced operational costs, innovativeness and profitability as a result of the use of IT. These are also systems where information resources are applied to tap strategic business opportunities in such a way that the computer systems impact on the organization’s operations, products and services.

People & Computers
Though artificial intelligence is being introduced in all sectors of the economy and labor is being replaced with computerized systems, the emotional and the financial intelligence of the accountant is still needed to interpret financial statements for management decisions-taking purposes. The accountant must adopt news technologies especially working on ERPs in order to remain relevant at post.