How to fight the fatigue of online meetings

Work Wisdom

How to fight the fatigue of online meetings

With apologies to Brittney Spears, “Oops, I did it again.”

I just disconnected from an online video meeting … and realized my mind had disconnected some time earlier. As in I missed part of the discussion (Was it the important part? Who knows?) because I got distracted, or my mind wandered, or I tried to multitask.

Sound familiar?

The pandemic has forced most of us to tune in to virtual meetings for everything from work check-ins to church services. Zoom reports use has zoomed from 10 million daily meeting participants in December to more than 200 million in March. And that’s not counting the millions on Skype, Microsoft Teams, Houseparty, Facebook Live and other platforms.

Virtual meetings have helped us stay connected and continue working during quarantine, but at a cost: video fatigue.
Yep, it’s a “thing.” When august publications including the Harvard Business Review, Smithsonian Magazine, National Geographic and even the BBC are reporting on it, it’s got to be real.
Video meetings drain our energy for several reasons:
• It’s harder to catch the subtle nonverbal cues of speakers, so it takes extra effort to fully understand what someone’s saying.
• We’re not used to staring at someone’s face nonstop, but concerned looking away might indicate disinterest or lack of attention.
• It’s too easy to try doing something else at the same time. Studies show multitasking is inefficient and could even harm your brain.
• We’re self-conscious about being on camera (especially in our work-from-home look).
• If we don’t have a private workspace, children, pets or other family members cause distractions.

If you’re finding yourself exhausted at the end of a video meeting-filled day, here are some tips to try:

Mute it. When you’re not speaking, mute your camera and microphone. Just don’t use hidden mode as an excuse to do other tasks. Speaking of which …

Practice active listening. This one may be the hardest, but it’ll pay off the most. Resist the urge to respond to email, finish up that report or whatever other tasks feel pressing. You’ll get more value from the meeting if you give it your full attention and won’t feel like you just wasted 30 minutes of your day because you don’t remember the conversation.

Break it up. Try to spread out your calls so they’re not back-to-back all day. If that’s not possible, suggest slightly shorter calls to your group. Meetings tend to expand to fill the allotted time, so put it on the calendar for 45 minutes instead of 60.

Move around. Take advantage of time between meetings to get up from your desk and stretch, or even take a short walk.

Go old school. Every meeting doesn’t have to be on screen. A good old-fashioned phone call could work as well, especially for 1-to-1 conversations. If you just need a couple questions answered or some feedback, an email might even suffice.

Just say no. You may not be able to skip the boss’s weekly meeting, but you don’t have to virtually attend every happy hour or social gathering. Choose a few that mean most to you, and politely decline the rest.

Turn it off. Don’t use your lunch break to check social media or catch up on email. Step away from the electronic devices and take time to recharge your own physical and mental batteries.

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