Department store group John Lewis and grocery stablemate Waitrose are piloting ‘Zoom-free Fridays’ to ensure staff are not ground down by too many video meetings.

Adoption of services such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams has rocketed during the pandemic, enabling colleagues to stay in touch, hold meetings and replicate some of the interactions that might otherwise have happened in offices as people worked from home.

However, ‘Zoom fatigue’ has sometimes resulted from the overuse of such technology, which can be a drain on time needed to think or for people to actually do their jobs.

John Lewis executive director Pippa Wicks revealed the retailer’s initiative when she spoke at this week’s Retail Week Be Inspired conference, which was itself held virtually.

Wicks said that, during the Covid outbreak, John Lewis has tried to ensure that staff can work flexibly so they can juggle the demands of work and family, but sometimes that balance has “got messed up”.

She said: “We’re looking at having Zoom-free Fridays so you can meet people in person, talk on the phone, just do your thinking.

“We’re also looking at when you start your working day from a Zoom point of view and when you finish it, because you need time to think and follow up on actions.

“The temptation of the new technology is that you can be on Zoom from seven in the morning to seven at night.”


The initiative is one of several being tried out by John Lewis and Waitrose as part of a package of wellbeing and flexible working measures.

Others include scheduling emails to avoid weekends and not sending them before 7.30am or after 7pm.

At present, Zoom-free Fridays are primarily being tested at head offices because those teams have the most Zoom meetings, but the trial may be extended.

A John Lewis spokesperson said shop staff who work in offices may opt to try it out, too. “It’s up to individual teams to decide if it’s right for them,” she said.

As well as John Lewis, other big companies internationally, such as banks Citi and HSBC and tech firms Salesforce and TikTok, have carved out time when video calls should be avoided to prevent Zoom fatigue. 

Separately, John Lewis Partnership said it has become the first UK retailer to introduce 26 weeks equal parenthood paid maternity and paternity leave and two weeks’ paid pregnancy loss leave. 

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