The Pandemic, Burnout, and Videoconferencing

July 28, 2021
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For decades in our society one popular wish has been something like a video wristwatch.  The basic idea is doing phone calls on our wristwatch with live video or something like TV included – so we can see and hear each other while we talk.

And that wish was before we had even heard of videoconferencing or COVID.  And before many of us took a serious look at burnout.

During our years of national, state, and multi-county Summit meetings for the Recovery Alliance Initiative, we have encouraged the use of technology to help support the real work of getting out of our silos and collaborating across sectors.

Recovery Alliance work groups formed and made good use of Zoom and YouTube years before they were in common use in our daily lives.  And many of the work groups have used the Recovery Alliance website because it includes group project tools, communication notices, alerts/reminders, project platforms, resource archives, and more.

 

All of these tools have provided a level of practical connection.  And those connections have been a great help.

  • Meeting with others in videoconference and using electronic project tools has meant more people have met to get things done more easily with less travel.
  • Recordings of those meetings, saving project documents, and discussing projects in project threads on the website, have all helped move projects along.
  • Meeting together with the help of these tools has been an integral part of the Alliance effort for a number of years.

Then the pandemic hit.  And the pandemic brought new stresses combined with social isolation.

Burnout can happen in just about any profession.  In the burnout literature, burnout is often thought of as consisting of two factors.  One factor is environmental, and the other is personal.  At a workplace, environmental factors are things like workload, control, company values, and fairness.  Personal factors include emotional exhaustion and a sense of personal accomplishment.  During the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us experienced changes in the kinds of environmental and personal factors that are found in the professional burnout literature.

The great news is that the burnout literature tells us something we who help people already usually know – that the solution to burnout is social support, not “fixing” our selves.

As the pandemic has rolled along, in Zoom meetings, I have often said some version of “We used to dream of video meetings on our watches.  Now we do those kinds of meetings at work.  We should be glad that we have these tools so we can connect, and give and receive support.”

Q:  Is videoconferencing a great way to stay connected?  A:  Like the telegraph, radio, telephone, or email, videoconferencing is a tool we can be grateful to have.

Q:  Are some of us becoming weary of videoconference meetings, and anxious to meet in person?  A:  I don’t know what you’re hearing from people but for many that is a “yes.”

Prior to COVID we had to travel to attend certain events and activities.  During part of the pandemic we were not allowed to gather as we normally would, and perhaps videoconferencing was our only option.

The question we are left with answering is, “What do we do with the freedom to attend in person or to attend in videoconference?  Can we remain grateful for this new tool and the flexibility it provides?”

Although we would probably not choose to experience a pandemic, we have been forced to innovate.  And in this example of innovation, the improvement is connecting with our friends.

Brian Coon, MA, LCAS, CCS, MAC 

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