What in the world does bathrooms, Zoom, and Diversity do in the same post?
Bear with me, there is good scientific stuff to follow.
It has for years been a public nuisance that people didn't wash their hands after using the bathroom. Not only does it make door handles yucky, potentially it makes other people sick.
One of the very simple tools tried has been to put up pictures of faces, or just drawings of a pair of eyes, on the walls. When people feel like they are being watched, their behavior is closer aligned to the persona they want to be seen as. Usually, that means considerate of our fellow human beings - and not dirty.
Experiments have shown 15% more people washing their hands with just eye-drawings on the walls.
So we are not really relaxed when we are "being watched".
That leads us to Zoom.
If you are suffering from Zoom-fatigue, it may be from feeling that you are being watched whenever you are in a virtual meeting.
Weren't you watched as well, when you were sitting in a real life meeting?
You were. But generally only when you were talking. When your colleagues were talking, people looked at them.
That also happens on Zoom. People do look at the person talking - even when you don't use speaker mode.
But all these faces are still staring on your screen. You can turn off your own camera and be 100% sure nobody are looking at you; the eyes are still there.
As we have seen, that has an impact on the subconscious level. Enough to make more people wash their hands.
Furthermore, often this is not just one pair of eyes. It is a whole pack staring you down.
No, they are not. But your inner caveman thinks they are - and that puts you in a state of alert. Hence the fatigue.
Onward to Diversity and Inclusion.
I am a big fan of Sarah Elkins' podcasts. In this discussion with Jason Greer, among many other things they talk about tokenism.
Tokenism is at play when people, from interacting with you, believe that now they know what "your kind of people" are like. As immigrants, many of us have been the single person of a nationality in a bigger group. Or perhaps you have been the only man among a group of women. Or the only woman among men.
When you stand out by something noticeable, like gender, race, age, or accent, there is a feeling that you are seen not only as "you as a person", you are also seen an ambassador for "your kind of people".
That is exhausting. You have to be at your best behavior all the time because what you do now will impact how the rest of the group will interact with Danes/men/women/white/black/young/old/... next time they meet one.
Like much of what happens in our heads, it doesn't really matter if other people intend to single you out. You feel extra exposed and vulnerable.
And this is where I believe our Zoom fatigue could be a gift: If we can remember what four - or ten - pairs of eyes all the time feels like and how tiring that is, perhaps we can have more empathy for what minorities go through every single day of their lives.
Don't spread your minority employees - whether they are women/a different race/a different age group into every group possible to "spread the diversity". They need one another not to be the tokens on their teams. Even if they are diverse on different things, put them together just so that the majority group becomes a little less dominating.
The "critical mass" is 30%. That is 2 people on a team of 5. (Unless your real agenda is to prove that diversity doesn't work/is too much work.)
It is 2021, people. Let's give each other a break and not heap more fatigue on people than they already get from video conferencing. Finally, don't we all know just a little what social fatigue feels like.
Now, go listen to the podcast.