Video meeting fatigue? Asynchronous video could help

With so many workers experiencing video meeting fatigue during the COVID WFH era, asynchronous video is having a moment. Here’s how we can continue to collaborate from anywhere and reinvent traditional meetings while reducing team fatigue.

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Dealing with video meeting fatigue

Remember when real-time everything was all the rage? It’s turned out to be a little exhausting for a lot of people during this pandemic, at least when it comes to live virtual meetings.

According to a survey of remote workers in the U.S. and U.K., 42 per cent have experienced virtual meeting fatigue during the COVID-19 era. Here’s what some of the 2,000 respondents confessed to doing during live video meetings:

  • 31% had private conversations with friends
  • 23% shopped online
  • 15% played computer games
  • 12% exercised
  • 9% consumed alcohol or gotten drunk
  • 9% looked for a new job

The most interesting figure isn’t the 30 per cent who wore pajamas during their videoconference (or even the 11 per cent who wore no pants at all). It’s these numbers:

  • 35% say people should only attend “relevant sections of meetings”
  • 33% say meetings should be shorter
  • 13% say meetings should have five people or fewer

Those three stats are why asynchronous video is having a moment.

Asynchronous video

The issue of asynchronous video cropped up recently at Enterprise Connect, when Unicomm principal Marty Parker mentioned it during a panel discussion on UC&C.

“(Video) is likely to be more asynchronous,” Parker said, predicting that in the business realm, “asynchronous video will do the same to video meetings” that email did to phone calls.

Here’s how Parker envisions the asynchronous video trend playing out: people will explain their point or idea on video, and then post that video clip on a UC&C app or platform like Microsoft Teams. The relevant people can then view and comment on that clip whenever it suits their own schedule. The key, according to Parker, is that it eliminates the need to hold a live virtual meeting with everyone present at the same time.

New interest

Combat video meeting fatigue

Asynchronous video isn’t new (Loom has been around for a few years). But virtual meeting fatigue during the COVID WFH era has certainly fuelled new interest in it. Startups like Supernormal and Weet are dipping their toes into the water (and the VC pool) with some success.

Since Big Tech can smell a hot trend from miles away, Facebook has picked up on the buzz. An exec at Workplace, Facebook’s business collaboration app, recently told Tech Republic she expects asynchronous communication to grow as hybrid work evolves.

“People have really looked for other ways to connect with each other and communicate and have meetings and resolve issues, and that’s where asynchronous is coming into practice,” said Christine Trodella, who heads up the Americas division of Workplace from Facebook.

Trodella cited weekly Q&A sessions held by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg as an example of the trend gaining traction. “I think we’ve seen an increase in people attending because these sessions are recorded and people don’t have to carve out time right now to watch,” she said.

Facebook hasn’t launched a dedicated asynchronous video feature in Workplace yet. For now, Workplace users have to post their recorded videos within chats, news streams and messages.

Pilot projects

I first heard Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield talking about asynchronous video through my earbuds, when I went out for a pandemic fitness-and-mental-health walk last October.

“This will sound a little bananas to people at first, potentially,” he told CBC Radio. “But (it’s) something very much like Instagram Stories married to that concept of a (Slack) channel.

“If you can record a short video update of what’s happening,” he continued, “you go from a position where you’re sick of looking at this person’s face on a video call to watching them on video — but in a mode where you’re not on camera yourself. (If) you can hit the pause button and walk away for a minute and come back, it really dramatically shifts the experience.”

Read more:

Top UC&C trends for a post-pandemic world
How AI will transform video meetings in a hybrid world
What’s next for WFH: Tackling techie burnout

Two months after that radio interview, Vidyard announced an integration of its own existing asynchronous video tool with Slack. Per Vidyard’s press release, the integration means Slack users can now “record videos and send them directly as messages within Slack using Vidyard’s tools.” Slack users have to install the Vidyard app to make it all happen.

Fast-forward to a few weeks ago, when Slack’s chief product officer, Tamar Yehoshua, revealed Slack is experimenting in-house with developing its own asynchronous video tool.

“We need a replacement for meetings that don’t need to be scheduled and on video,” Yehoshua wrote in a blog post. “We need to reduce team fatigue while improving belonging. To help with this, we are piloting ways to shift meetings toward an asynchronous video experience that feels native in Slack. It allows us to express nuance and enthusiasm, without a meeting.”

Where does all of this leave Slack’s new Vidyard integration? What happens to Slack’s in-house pilot project of asynch video once its acquisition by Salesforce is finalized? Could Butterfield spin off the asynch communication thing as a brand new startup after the Salesforce deal is done?

To use Butterfield’s own words, that might sound a little bananas. Then again, Flickr and Slack were both spun off from the ashes of failed online games that Butterfield created.

It’ll also be interesting to see how traditional UC&C providers respond to the uptick in demand for asynchronous video. Will asynch revolutionize enterprise communication? Or is it a passing fad to appease remote workers so tired of virtual meetings that they’ve given up wearing pants?

Images: izusek/iStock; Vladimir Sukhachev/iStock

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