The workforce is zoomed out, survey shows

Read time 5min 00sec

As South Africa marks one year since entering a COVID-19-induced hard lockdown, it has also been one year since most of the workforce had to become accustomed to the world of work moving into the home.

The pandemic resulted in an urgent need for remote interactions,lighting a fire under the uptake of video-conferencing and online tools such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Google Meet, formerly Google Hangouts.

App Annie’s State of Mobile Report 2021 shows Zoom to be among the most popular video-conferencing applications in the market. The video-calling tool is said to be used by over 300 million people globally every day.

Last April, Microsoft revealed it was witnessing a surge in demand for its unified workspace platform, Microsoft Teams, reaching 44 million daily users across the globe.

However, the widespread adoption of video-calling has brought its own set of challenges, according to presentation design agency Buffalo 7.

Buffalo 7, which surveyed 2 066 home workers, found the constant pressure of having to be on work video calls has led to the rise of “Zoom anxiety” − a physical feeling of panic when called upon to talk on video.

According to the agency, many people feel unnatural and awkward when having to speak on camera, with 73% of the respondents saying they have suffered from Zoom anxiety over the last 12 months.

In addition, 76% of people surveyed revealed video calls made them more anxious than telephone calls, and 48% found them worse than face-to-face meetings.

Being on a video call requires more focus than a face-to-face chat or a regular phone call, says James Robinson, marketing manager at Buffalo. “Of course, 2020 wasn't short on anxiety, and we’ve all had a lot to deal with. However, with a huge 73% of respondents saying they’ve struggled with Zoom anxiety at some point over the past 12 months, it’s clear that for many, video calls bring with them their own set of challenges.”

Robinson adds: “Everyone is struggling this year, and if you do suffer from Zoom anxiety, look to discuss your problems with your boss… We’re all under a lot of stress recently, and the worst thing you can do for yourself and for your colleagues is to add extra pressure on yourself.”

In terms of the main triggers of Zoom anxiety, the majority of respondents (83%) highlighted having tech or audio problems – and not knowing how to fix them – as their number one trigger.

Some 67% indicated that not being able to read a caller’s body language also caused anxiety, while 56% said feeling like they are being unheard also caused anxiety.

In addition, 41% revealed that being put on a call without having time to prepare their appearance caused stress, with 34% saying they worried about their video background looking unprofessional.

When asked about which tasks are the biggest triggers of Zoom anxiety, 42% of the respondents listed presenting as a top trigger, 25% said interviews, client meetings were also listed with 18% highlighting these, and team catch-ups (15%) were also among the tasks that were noted.

Meanwhile, tech giant Microsoft announced the findings of its first annual Work Trend Index, which identifies seven hybrid work trends every business leader needs to know amid the “new era” of work.

Titled “The Next Great Disruption is Hybrid Work – Are We Ready?”; the report outlines findings from a study of more than 30 000 people in 31 countries and analysis of trillions of aggregate productivity and labour signals across Microsoft 365 and LinkedIn.

Microsoft’s Office 365-based collaboration platform combines workplace chat, video meetings, file storage and application integration service for business employees, students and teachers.

According to the report, business leaders should resist the urge to see hybrid-work as business as usual, emphasising it will require the rethinking of long-held assumptions.

The study’s findings show 73% of workers surveyed want flexible remote work options to continue.

Remote job postings on LinkedIn increased more than five times during the pandemic, it reveals, adding that over 40% of the global workforce is considering leaving their employer this year and 46% are planning to move now that they can work remotely.

“The choices you make today will impact your organisation for years to come. It’s a moment that requires clear vision and a growth mind set,” says Jared Spataro, corporate VP for Microsoft 365. “These decisions will impact everything from how you shape culture, to how you attract and retain talent, to how you can better foster collaboration and innovation.”

The seven hybrid work trends the report believes every business leader needs to know are:

  • Flexible work is here to stay.
  • Leaders are out of touch with employees and need a wake-up call.
  • High productivity is masking an exhausted workforce.
  • Gen Z is at risk and will need to be re-energised.
  • Shrinking networks are endangering innovation.
  • Authenticity will spur productivity and wellbeing.
  • Talent is everywhere in a hybrid work world.

Karin Kimbrough, chief economist at LinkedIn, comments: “During this pandemic we’ve observed a swift acceleration of certain pre-COVID trends. But perhaps one of the most exciting trends is this rise in remote work.

“As opportunity is democratised with remote work and talent movement, we’ll see a spread of skills across the country, and this is the time for business leaders to take the opportunity to access different skills and talent not previously available to them.”

See also