• Deb Kleinman

Plausible Deniability of Absence


Several things about meetings:


  • Many meetings are bad

  • When bad meetings go online, they're even worse

  • We are, many of us, so exhausted from so many online meetings right now


It is so much easier to stay connected in the midst of this pandemic today than it would have been even 5 or 10 years ago. For this, I am deeply grateful.


But it is a mixed blessing. It's exhausting. Physically, mentally, and neurologically.


Have you heard about "plausible deniability of absence"? It is this idea (popping up on my feed just in the last few days) that the dissonance between connecting virtually through video while still being physically separated causes significant fatigue. Our brain and our body just can't get on the same page with what is happening.


This makes intuitive sense to me, even though a quick google search didn't turn up much research on the topic.


I'm exhausted from all of my time on Zoom. I know many of you are as well.


How can we connect and collaborate without becoming so drained?


There are some things you can do to prevent Zexhaustion (poorly coined phrase by me):


  • This is key. If you are in charge, plan a good meeting. Make it purposeful, engaging, interactive, fun, with breaks and changes in activity and mode of engagement. Save the talking heads for memos, emails, or recorded presentations. In fact, just commit to planning better meetings in general!

  • If you have any control over your schedule, limit the number of video calls you have in a day, and the time you spend on each call. Plan breaks between calls. I'm doing my best to keep my calendar to four total, five if it's a really fun social call or an urgent family request.

  • Get up and stretch during video calls. Move around. Pet the dog. It helps to even shift around in your chair.

  • Take your eyes off the screen and take notes analog style. Doodle. Play with your glitter glue pens.

  • Put fun photos, books, 8-balls, memorabilia, whatever, in front of you so you can look at them and remember those times when you weren't on endless video calls.

  • Sometimes, call someone on the telephone old school style. Talk to someone while you are going for a walk, maintaining the appropriate spatial distance between you and everyone else.

Best case scenario: we all get better at having conversations in line and in person. Wouldn't that be something.


Photo by Polina Zimmerman from Pexels




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