Could This Video Meeting Be an Email?

As businesses approach the one-year mark since shifting to more remote work (and video meetings continue to dominate our calendars), it’s a great time to reevaluate our contingency plans and ask ourselves what’s working and what isn’t — starting with those Zoom meetings!

Zoom fatigue is a real thing

If you find yourself feeling utterly drained after clocking in a marathon of on-camera meetings week after week, you’re not alone. The struggle — in this case, “Zoom fatigue” — is real!

Experts suggest that online meetings are particularly draining compared to in-person meetings or even phone calls. It makes sense. Being on camera, we’re obligated to be “on” in a different way, not to mention the additional focus required to compensate for the ways that remote communication, even by video, is not as natural as it is in person.

According to Dr. Steven Hickman, associate clinical professor at University of California - San Diego, the focus required to simultaneously view and process multiple faces, including your own, on a screen is similar to “intensive multitasking.” Add back-to-back intensive multitasking meetings to your day and it’s no surprise you feel like ripping the laptop in half by five o’clock!

While online meetings are bound to stick around for the long haul, here are a few strategies to overhaul your virtual meeting strategy and reduce the risk of Zoom burnout.

Know your meeting limit and stay within it

Even when meetings were in office, the number of meetings was a challenge. Some estimates suggest middle managers spend roughly 35% of their time in meetings. Upper management can spend an agonizing 50% of their time in meetings.

With all this time spent discussing what needs to get done and how, there isn’t a lot of time left over to, well, get things done. While we won’t ever eliminate the need for meetings altogether, a deliberate effort to improve meeting efficiency wherever possible is a big help.

Part of the problem with video meetings may, in fact, be how easy they are to set up. It’s never been easier to switch gears in the middle of an instant message chat and drop a virtual meeting link. There’s no meeting room to book or calendars to check in advance.

There’s no denying that sometimes it’s quicker to talk, and video provides communication-rich visual cues for greater context and clarity. But the old adage that applied to in-person meetings also applies for virtual meetings: just because you can meet doesn’t mean you should.

To reduce time spent in meetings, be judicious with those video meeting invites. Some experts suggest spending no more than 14% of your workday in meetings. It may take some time to get there, but once you’ve reclaimed that huge chunk of your day previously spent staring dully at a gallery of faces, there will be no going back!

Schedule meeting-free zones

This worked well when we were in the office and it’s time to bring it into the remote workplace! Setting aside meeting-free blocks of time in your calendar so you can focus on other tasks is critical for improving productivity and efficiency.

When setting up your calendar, give some thought to how attentiveness naturally ebbs and flows throughout the day. Does your team prefer to meet first thing in the morning over the first coffee of the day, or are they more communicative by mid-morning? Avoid scheduling back-to-back meetings whenever possible and apply all the standard meeting best practices, such as providing an agenda ahead of time and sticking to a time limit.

Leverage other team-working tools

From Slack to Google Workspace and even Microsoft 365 bundled with Microsoft Teams, there is no shortage of collaboration software available to remote teams.

Get creative with some of the other features these platforms provide and swap the video call when possible. Put those project management tools to work and use them to assign tasks, create reminders, comment on progress, and ultimately keep a project in check and on track.

You may be surprised at how well these features keep the work flowing even without virtual face-to-face interaction.

Workplace trends evolve over time and sometimes they practically change overnight! As we settle into routines, we need to continue thinking about how we can work better, not harder. And if that means leaving more video calls on the cutting room floor, then so be it!


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