Since the Covid-19 pandemic hit, we’re on video calls more than ever before – and many are finding it exhausting.

According to Gianpiero Petriglieri, an associate professor at Insead who explores sustainable learning and development in the workplace, one of the things that is tiring is that being on a video call requires more focus than a face-to-face chat. Video chats mean we need to work harder to process non-verbal cues like facial expressions, the tone and pitch of the voice, and body language; paying more attention to these cues consumes a lot of energy. “Our minds are together when our bodies feels we’re not. That dissonance, which causes people to have conflicting feelings, is exhausting. You cannot relax into the conversation naturally.”

High Tech or High Touch
The pandemic has shown us the need to balance two different – but possibly complementary – forces:
high tech and high touch, or virtual meetings and face-to-face meetings. Post Covid-19, both forces will be at play simultaneously. We are experiencing how high-tech offers a range of virtual solutions to human interactions. Yet, at the same time, we also sense that the lack of in-person interactions takes a toll on an organization’s energy, creativity, and the ability to problem-solve and break habitual ways of thinking.

The future will not be an either or. It will be both and: although there will be more virtual interactions and fewer in-person interactions, the demanded outcome of in-person meetings post-Covid will be higher than what was expected before. Attention density has to be high, and there will be a code of conduct stressing that those in the room be fully immersed in the interaction. If we do not meet very often in person, we will expect even more from times when we actually meet.

FLOW and Hard Fun
Post-Covid we will expect in-person meetings to be more challenging than virtual meetings. We will expect the in-person meetings to give us a clear sense of accomplishment and optimize both the individual’s and the group’s highest learning potential – i.e. to be an in the FLOW experience.

Several decades ago, Professor Seymour Papert from MIT coined the term “HARD FUN”. When something is HARD FUN, the fact that it is HARD makes it FUN. We know from our own experiences that things are not fun if they are too hard. Neither are they fun when too easy. Things are the most fun, and MORE learning rich, when they are sufficiently difficult. Most virtual meetings are only HARD and not much FUN. We should require in-person meetings to be HARD FUN.

Pick up some LEGO bricks

Problem-solving with LEGO bricks has the power to deliver FLOW and HARD FUN and, at the same time, also provide the sense of accomplishment felt when a 10-year-old completes a model designed for someone 16+; challenging yet soul satisfying.