Is Zoom fatigue signalling a return to the printed page?
Digital overload from video collaboration
The pandemic has created a surge of both personal and professional video conferencing. Zoom has seen use of its platform skyrocket as a result of the overnight shift to home working. According to CNBC, Zoom averaged 148.4 million monthly active users in the second quarter of 2020, an increase of 4,700% year on year. Zoom’s Q2 revenue (ending 31 July 2020) is more than double Q1 at £663.5 million, growing 355% compared to the same period in 2019. With many companies allowing their employees to work from home indefinitely, the use of virtual collaboration is here for the foreseeable future.
While the use of video collaboration platforms such as Zoom, Slack and Microsoft Teams have become integral to connecting today’s remote workforce, many are experiencing digital overload or ‘zoom-fatigue’.
Extended periods of online meetings can be more tiring as the brain is working harder to pick up on the social cues normally experienced in person. Video interactions can be more draining for a number of reasons, whether it’s always having to be camera-ready, having to focus on multiple heads, or dealing with interruptions or network problems causing the sessions to cut out or the screen or audio to freeze.
Digital detoxers turn to paper
Digital fatigue is leading many to undertake a ‘digital detox’ and disconnect from the noisy online world. For some this means rediscovering the benefits of the printed page; paper is easier to reference, annotate and causes less strain on the eyes than a screen. Time away from screens that emit blue light, especially prior to sleeping, also has a beneficial effect on sleep patterns which in turn can support better mental health – something that has become a priority as home-workers adapt to the unique stresses of recent months.
In our personal lives, many have returned to printed books (or audio books) While e-book sales have increased over lockdown, sales of print books are holding up. According to a survey by market analysts Nielsen Book, 41% of UK adults are reading more books during lockdown with a third saying they were reading more printed books. In the four months to 30th June 2020, the publisher Bloomsbury reported a 9% increase in printed books.
Direct mail is also succeeding in cutting through the online noise as digital inboxes overflow. The mailbox is not as noisy as social media feeds or email inboxes, offering a better way of engaging with people stuck working at home. According to JICMAIL, lockdown has contributed to an 11 percent year-on-year increase in the number of times a piece of direct paper mail was interacted with.
The enforced change in workstyles is also driving demand for print among home workers.
While a laptop would have been sufficient for reference or note-taking during a face to face meeting, many are now putting pen to paper to take notes while on video calls to avoid noisy keyboards interrupting audio quality and the need for multiple screens. Similarly, participants are printing out reference materials so they have them to hand while using their laptop screen for calls. As a result, the ability to print at home is becoming an important factor in productivity and preferred workstyles.
The home printing opportunity
Printing in the home has certainly seen an upturn. Quocirca research shows three quarters (76 percent) of UK workers are printing in the home – mostly on printers they either owned already or have purchased to help them adapt to homeworking during the crisis. The research also showed that three quarters of home workers reported increased productivity compared with working in the office. Among those who reported higher productivity, 64% said they were printing more than they did in the office, suggesting that they are using the printed page to good effect.
With remote working set to form a central pillar of corporate and national health protection strategy for the foreseeable future, the print industry is responding to the demands of the developing hybrid workplace. Quocirca’s upcoming State of the Channel 2020 Survey found that print channel companies see significant opportunities in providing home printing services. With employees printing more corporate documents at home, such services could include security, supplies replenishment and secure document collection and disposal.
The past few months have shown us that it’s good to take a break from the digital world. And as the return to our ‘normal’ workplace may still be some months away, the shift to the printed page may continue to gather momentum as we take some time to disconnect from the online world – both personally and professionally.