Back in March, as businesses, schools, and offices started to shut down, we all turned to video to stay connected. Virtual happy hours made their way on the calendar, and leaders encouraged their team members to turn the cameras on for all meetings.

It was fun and novel until it wasn't anymore.

As spring began to near its end, and we all found ourselves still at home, a new trend began to dominate the headlines: video fatigue.

Had we gone too far? Were all the video meetings causing employees to burn out? What were the long-term psychological impacts of spending so much time in front of the camera?

These are all interesting, important, and worthy questions to explore, but maybe they're not the only questions we should be asking.

Is video really to blame for the added stress and fatigue that 2020 has ushered in, or are there deeper issues that are just too awkward, taboo, or inconvenient to address?

Why It's Time to Start Having Tough Conversations at Work

Even before COVID, employees were beginning to experience burnout rates higher than ever before. In 2019, the World Health Organization officially declared burnout a disease. Here's how they defined the condition: "syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed."

The official symptoms?

  1. Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion
  2. Increased mental distance from one's job or feeling negative towards one's career
  3. Reduced professional productivity

It's safe to say that rates of burnout have only increased in 2020. But if we take the easy way out and blame a high volume of video meetings for the added stress and lower team engagement, we're missing the point. And we're establishing a dangerous precedent for the future.

Sure, employees would probably appreciate seeing a few meetings drop off the calendar. But what most of your team members need at this point is the support and resources to navigate tricky personal situations--from financial uncertainty to healthcare concerns. And that means the real challenge of keeping remote teams connected has nothing to do with where any of us are working or how many video meetings we're all attending.

What it Takes to Help Remote Teams Feel Connected

During the first episode of the new 8x8 Podcast, An Open Conversation, we asked LearnLux Co-Founder and Forbes 30 Under 30 honoree Rebecca Liebman to share her thoughts on remote employee engagement, financial well-being, and more.

Her take? Conversations about employee engagement need to go well beyond debates over brick and mortar offices and video conferencing.

"Engagement and connection have nothing to do with people sitting in the same room together. It's about working towards common goals and feeling purpose in your day to day work. It also means feeling that the work you're doing is contributing to the personal plan you have for your life," said Liebman.

It's also about navigating the unknown future, together, she says.

"Right now, employees may feel uncertain about the stability of their job, or if their paycheck is going to be enough to support their family. As an employer, you can foster engagement and connection by helping reduce your team's main sources of stress - mental, physical, emotional, financial, career."

So, beyond paying them lip service, what can employers really do to addresses these sources of stress? That's what we're on a mission to uncover!

Over the next few weeks, we'll be exploring all the emotional, mental, and physical aspects of today's digital workplace. And we invite you to join us on this journey. It's well past time to start talking about the digital workplace's challenges that go beyond technology.

Let's Have an Open Conversation about Employee Burnout, Engagement, and Well-Being

We believe tech companies are in a unique position to use the tools at their disposal for good. Here at 8x8, we want to lead the way in starting open, honest conversations about all the joys and challenges of modern work. We hope you'll be a part of the conversation.

Episode one of An Open Conversation is now available wherever you listen to your favorite Podcasts. You can subscribe on Apple Podcasts (iTunes), Spotify, or Google Play. Listen as we interview Rebecca Liebman and get her perspective on remote employee engagement, financial well-being, and more.

And be sure to tune in later this season as we address more tough topics, including the mounting stress working parents are experiencing, navigating difficult conversations with your boss, and more.

Have an idea for season two? Please drop us a note on Twitter: @8x8.