In Praise of the Humble Telephone

phone callby Linda Dunlop

You’ve just spent the day in back-to-back virtual meetings troubleshooting next steps on an important project. It’s all in a day’s work, right? But by evening, you find yourself stretched out horizontally on the couch, drained of all energy. Sound familiar?

It’s called Zoom fatigue, named after the videoconferencing platform that’s recently exploded in popularity. Experts say this exhaustion is pretty common. While virtual collaboration tools such as Zoom, Webex and Microsoft Teams have become our new go-to way to connect, the hours and hours of onscreen face time are taking a toll on many. Here’s a simple solution: why not switch it up and occasionally use the phone. It’s reliable, trouble-free and available at your fingertips.

I know this sounds a bit retro—but I’m in good company. During these times when we are conducting so much of our business virtually, the Harvard Business Review recommends you carefully check your calendar to see if all those intrusive video calls are in fact necessary. “If you’re Zoomed-out but have an upcoming one-on-one, ask the person to switch to a phone call or suggest picking up the conversation later so you can both recharge,” say the writers.

I’m with them. Let’s not discard our tried-and-true communication tools in pursuit of the next, big thing. The key is to know which tool to use, and when. Here’s when making a phone call in business is simply your best bet:

You want to get someone’s attention

If a situation is urgent or you need an immediate reply, by all means, call. Don’t overdo it though. By the end of your conversation, the person at the other end of the line should understand why you needed to call instead of sending an email or text.

You want to make an emotional connection

Trying to close a sale with a prospective client? Chances are you’ll need to talk on the phone first. While technical details can often be ironed out in writing, many intangibles such as overall fit and compatibility can best be determined through a one-on-one chat.

You need to ensure the privacy of one or both parties

If you’ve got a sensitive matter to discuss and a face-to-face meeting is impossible: what do you do? Remember, emails can easily be copied and forwarded so they’re not a great option. To keep your conversation off the record, find a private space and talk on the telephone.

You want to soften bad news

Need to let a remote employee know they’ve been laid off? Please, have the courtesy to talk to them directly. Delivering bad news is never easy. Doing so in person shows respect and courage. If you’re about to drop a dismal sales report into my inbox, a gentle heads-up call beforehand might help cushion the impact. For more tips on delivering bad news, click here.

Still feeling a bit reluctant to interrupt somebody’s work week with a phone call? Book ahead. While you’re at it, consider this: Not everybody wants to be seen. I relish the days when I can focus solely on my work and not how I look on a video screen.

Resist the urge to overuse videoconferencing. Embrace the power of your phone! You, your clients and colleagues will be more productive and energized as a result.

For more ways to beat Zoom fatigue, click here.

And please share your video conferencing stories in the comments below!

2 Comments
  1. Effective communication does not mean using one medium only i.e.: video conferencing or zoom. It means being comfortable to use a variety of mediums and using the best one for the situation that is involved in the communication.

    Great article reminding us of this!

    N.B.: Third to last paragraph, last sentence refers to “For more tips on delivering bad news, click here.” and there is no link for us to click.

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