Achieving Excellence

How to Turn Down Zoom Meetings (without Burning Bridges)

by Preston Lee
How to Turn Down Zoom Meetings (without Burning Bridges)

Turning down Zoom meetings can be tricky. But getting it right means solving Zoom fatigue, working more efficiently, and better emotional health for everyone involved. Here's our best advice for turning down your next Zoom meeting and beyond.

If you were used to working remotely prior to 2020, then you were likely familiar with Zoom. If not Zoom, then you were probably familiar with a Zoom alternative.

However, when nearly the entire working world was thrust into “work-from-home” status in the wake of the global Covid-19 pandemic, suddenly “Zooming” or “having a Zoom meeting” was everywhere. 

Along with this surge in Zoom calls came detrimental side effects, such as Zoom fatigue, which left us all asking the same question: Do I really have to jump on another Zoom call today?

It's worth noting that there are many other ways to communicate when working remotely, and synchronous Zoom meetings just aren’t the best use of everyone’s time. In fact, quite often, asynchronous solutions are far better. 

So today, let’s take a look at a few ways you can “get out” of your next Zoom meeting without upsetting your manager or team and without burning important bridges in your career.

How You Communicate Matters

When you’re working remotely, how you communicate with your team really matters.

Research shows we’re more likely to be unkind or unsympathetic when communicating over the Internet. This reinforces the fact that we have to put in extra effort to stay professional when communicating online.

Simply thinking about how you phrase and deliver your Zoom meeting opt-out may make all the difference. What's more, not only will you find your tact and kindness pay off well into the future of your career, you’ll also be happier at the end of each workday as you strive to communicate professionally.

If not Zoom, what?

You might be asking yourself if I turn down a Zoom meeting with my team, how else are we going to communicate about the work we do each day?

Here are a few alternatives you can suggest:

(Async) A team messaging service like Slack. Such tools allow for efficient asynchronous communication. If your boss or team insists on a synchronous meeting, a 30-minute Slack exchange can still be more productive than an hour-long Zoom meeting (“Hey, Jerome. You’re on mute.”).

(Async) A project management tool like ClickUp. Synchronous Zoom meetings are often used to inefficiently coordinate effort and updates on collaborative work. With modern remote working software, team members from around the world can give updates when it makes the most sense for them.

(Sync) A phone call or non-video Zoom call. If your team insists on meeting in real-time, a conference call without video is still a better option. Three of the four causes of Zoom fatigue have to do with your video (including constant eye contact and seeing yourself constantly). Try suggesting a non-video call once in a while.

How to professionally turn down a Zoom meeting

Now that we’ve identified a few reasons you might want to turn down a Zoom meeting and a few reasonable alternatives, let’s address the elephant in the room:

Turning down a work meeting can be awkward.

Some may even see it as unprofessional.

So how can you turn down your next Zoom meeting without upsetting anyone? There are lots of ways to say to “no” to a Zoom call, but here are just a couple that work well:

1. Offer a healthier, more productive alternative

Instead of outright declining a Zoom call, offer a more professional response by suggesting a helpful solution such as the ones mentioned above—especially the asynchronous alternatives such as messaging or project management apps.

2. Warn the meeting organizer you won’t be available in video

To keep Zoom fatigue down and potentially discourage more Zoom meetings, politely inform the meeting organizer you’ll not be available to turn on your video but that you can join using audio and you’ll be 100% present and attentive.

3. Be patient and professional. 

If your emotional health just can’t take one more Zoom meeting today and your colleagues just aren't buying into the alternatives, then politely decline the meeting with an apology that you’re not feeling well. You should then speak privately with your manager to express your fatigue and concern. Changes of this nature may take time, but through patient, professional, honest dialogue, change will come.

How to discourage Zoom meetings in the future

Of course, avoiding one or two Zoom meetings can be pretty straightforward and simple, but how can you help your manager, your team, or other people you work with understand that Zoom meetings are not the best option moving forward?

Here are a few things to consider:

Just be honest about it. If you’re feeling Zoom fatigue, the chances are other members of your team have the same issue. Simply asking something like “Does anyone else need a break from Zoom?” can open a professional conversation about what asynchronous alternatives may work better.

Share important research and information. If your team needs a little more convincing, back up your opinion with a little research and expert information. There’s tons of information out there on why asynchronous communication is more efficient and how Zoom is hurting us at work that you can politely share to help your team be more aware.

Moving forward

Every day, millions of people around the world are navigating the “new normal” of work and life. 

Whether you worked remotely before COVID or have only recently learned what it’s like to communicate digitally with your work team, working remotely effectively still requires constant adjustment and learning.

Remote work is here to stay. That means it's up to you to find a path forward, seeking out the best ways to work together even when you and your colleagues are not in the same geographical space.

If you're interested in finding the perfect remote working job for your forever career, Crossover can help. View our current job openings today.