As we kick off 2023, a hybrid style of working is certainly here to stay, which is leading to many companies considering ways to fight the fatigue that’s often felt after a workstream of constant virtual meetings and video calls.
Since the pandemic, we’ve all had the frustrating experience of working diligently on a report and being pulled away by a calendar invite that pops up for a reoccurring meeting due to start in 10 minutes. The meeting is only semi-important, though it’s definitely one you need to attend, even if you won’t contribute each time.
In this situation, you know sending a message to your manager and asking if you can sit out would probably not bode well for your overall performance. Instead, you decide to listen in with your camera and microphone turned off so that you can still work in the background, half-listening and half-working.
Unfortunately, this type of interruption happens a lot during our workdays. Splitting your time and attention this way not only disrupts your flow, but the quality of your work is also likely to suffer.
Let’s face it: many of us are drowning in ways to connect with our fellow workers and are looking for ways to compensate for the lack of in-person contact we now deal with as remote workers. Last year, a study by McKinsey confirmed that disruptions like “too many meetings” affect one’s quality of work as well as make employees feel drained at the end of a workday.
By reconsidering when we meet and collaborate, we can look to this year and the future of remote working where our interactions are more focused, thus leading to improved productivity, creativity, and saving teams from burning out.
Here are ways to help you and your colleagues combat Zoom fatigue and other negative consequences of too many virtual meetings:
1. Make sure the meeting has a true purpose
Whenever you think about hosting or accepting a meeting, your first thought should be: what is the meeting for, and is it truly necessary? Instead of just booking a time and inviting people to a meeting that may not add much value, taking the time to answer these two questions should help you decide whether the meeting is really needed. Enabling your team to also ask the same questions will empower the, and their ability to practice more efficient time management, as well as save them from feeling frustrated or like they’re wasting time.
2. Always publish an agenda ahead of time
Setting an agenda ahead of the meeting and sharing it will all of the participants will help everyone understand the objectives from the very beginning. The agenda doesn’t have to be fully fleshed out or particularly lengthy, but creating a numbered list of points will help everyone know what to expect. The best part about this exercise is that it will reveal the importance of the meeting. If it’s difficult to put down in a few words what is to be discussed, you probably don’t need to hold the meeting!
3. Use your personal calendar to block out your time
When are you most productive? What is the best time of day for channeling your creative energy? For me, I like to have time at the beginning of the day to check my inbox and calendars before I talk to or meet with anyone. At the end of the day, I like to go through my to-do list and tick off anything I’ve completed, as well as make my new task list for the following day. Whatever your preference, make sure you have clear start and end times for your workday so that you avoid feeling burnt out. Block off certain times on your personal calendar, or even a shared calendar amongst your colleagues, so you have dedicated time to complete your tasks that is free from any meetings.
4. Keep in touch with your colleagues with chat-room tools
Sometimes, it’s not totally necessary to send an email for every little thing. Moving conversations to a dynamic chat-room tool, such as Slack, Microsoft Teams, Discord, or Google Hangouts, with your colleagues is the best way to keep in touch throughout the workday without needing to set formal meetings. Avenues like these are a good place for bouncing ideas around or collecting your collaborative efforts in one place.
5. Organize different types of calls to boost engagement
If you have the same type of call every single week at the same time, chances are the participants will begin to feel bored or unenthusiastic about attending, especially if they aren’t required to speak or present. Of course, these standard team meetings are very typical for remote teams, but managers should try and organize some social ones, too. The “water cooler” catch-up with colleagues is something now missing from our day-to-day work schedules, and people largely miss these types of casual conversations that allow for real emotional bonding. Hosting one call per month that has more of a fun or lighthearted vibe or agenda is a wise way to encourage engagement, and it may even have a positive effect on the other more formal calls as well.