SINCE THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC BREAKDOWN, the whole world of workplaces underwent a huge shift almost overnight. Work from home became the new norm. While working from home for long was seen as a great perk for many of us, but as they say, the grass is always greener on the other side and only when you go nearer do you see the weeds too.
This new trend of teams working remotely fuelled a rapid increase in the use of video conferencing as an important tool to keep the teams connected and engaged. Even though things have normalized a bit, but the new normal has led to the acceptance of the future workplace going hybrid.
Thus, video calls and meetings will remain an important component of workforce collaboration and team communication going forward and are likely to stay for the long haul. In fact, various reports suggest that the number of meetings actually increased since the pandemic breakout.
Why? Because the need to work together in teams to collaborate, connect and communicate has increased
than ever before and virtual meetings became the ideal tool to do so. This spike in virtual connections bought its own challenges and created a new stressor called “Zoom Fatigue” a unique phenomenon of feeling complete mental and emotional exhaustion after a long day of back-to-back online meetings.
Though it is known as “Zoom Fatigue,” it is not restricted to just one platform but is related to other video conferencing platforms like Skype, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, Slack, GoToMeeting, and more.
The reason for “Zoom Fatigue” is obvious! Unlike face-to-face meetings or audio conferencing, video conferencing requires far more focus and concentration, more participation, and people sitting for long periods in a single location facing the camera.
Then there are other issues of network, poor quality audio and video, and home environment that led to more stress. As a result, “Zoom Fatigue” if not addressed could also lead to burnout.
So, it’s critical for companies and business leaders to come forward and face the devil head-on.
Sounds challenging and not that good. But don’t lose heart. I am sharing the top 7 science-backed ways to combat the menace of “Zoom Fatigue.” Just spare 5 minutes to read this article, before you head into another video call.
Interesting Related Read: Great Scientific Ways to Beat Stress.
Shorten Time Limit of Meetings.
In a study conducted by Microsoft last year it was observed that due to a high level of required concentration during a virtual meeting, Zoom fatigue starts to set in by 30-40 minutes into the meeting, leading to a drain of energy and attention drifting.
Also considering poor attention span in humans which even becomes shorter in virtual settings, start scheduling your meeting time under 45 minutes. Ideally, your virtual meeting should last for a maximum of 30 minutes.
But, if you need to have a meeting that you feel might take more than an hour, then allow participants a short break between say 30-40 minutes to recharge and refocus their body and mind. This will not only allow you to improve the attendee’s concentration, increase their engagement, but also help them to understand and retain the information better.
One way to keep your meetings crisp is to limit the number of participants. Also, try shorter pop-up meetings for group conversations.
Well, if you need to schedule back-to-back video-call meetings, then just make sure to take a 10–15-minute micro-break in between to add some method to this madness. Long hours of virtual meetings can tire your eyes and drain your energy quickly.
Taking a break will help you clear and reset your body and mind. During the break disconnect from the computer screen, get up from the chair, stretch a bit, move around to get the blood flowing, use the restroom, treat yourself to a cup of coffee, or head straight towards the window to get some fresh air. This allows your eyes to recover, your body to decompress, and re-energize for the next meeting.
Can you recall your in-person meetings, where after the end of the meeting, you would just walk to the next meeting room, grab a nice drink or take the much-needed bathroom break?
Working remotely changes nothing, just follow the same pattern. Remember the break must offer you mental, visual, or physical relaxation. If you are using apps or tools to schedule meetings just ensure a mini-buffers is inserted between consecutive meetings.
On the surface, this break might appear to waste time, but those 5-10 minutes can do the trick. Though you may not realize it immediately, but in the long run you will fill the difference in your productivity and energy levels.
These tiny breaks would make your hard work a little smarter.
Avoid Multitasking at all Costs.
Yes, we have all succumbed to the temptation to check and reply to emails, read comments on social media platforms, read a text message or work on a project. Research after research has shown that multitasking is a powerful productivity killer.
Because when you multitask, all you are doing is switching your focus. You can call it a manufacturing defect, but your brain can only focus on one thing at a time. So, when you multitask, your brain has to switch focus between each of them.
According to Harvard Business Review, this switching between tasks can cost you as much as 40 percent of your productive time.
Remember switching weakens the four pillars of productivity: time, energy, focus, and attention.
Just think! Not only that but because you are switching between tasks, you could miss important information in the meeting. Worse, you could end up sharing inaccurate communication or maybe left playing catchup. In both scenarios, you are adding stress to the already stressful day. So even if you feel that the video call isn’t relevant to you, pay full attention.
So, the next time you prepare for the virtual meeting, try to eliminate as many distractions as possible, both human and digital. Close down other tabs, minimize other pages, mute alerts, silence your smartphone so that you aren’t tempted to switch, and can just focus on the meeting.
If you are a proud multitasker, then think twice. Eliminating multitasking is one of the best productivity habits you should develop.
Whenever Possible, Turn off the Camera.
Most virtual meeting platforms display a square showing how you look on camera during the video chat. Professor Jeremy Bailenson, founding director of the Stanford Virtual Human Interaction Lab writes in an article, “In the real world if somebody was following you around with a mirror constantly – so that while you were talking to people, making decisions, giving feedback, getting feedback – you were seeing yourself in a mirror, that would just be crazy. No one would ever consider that.”
Isn’t it weird and unnatural?
He further mentions studies showing that when you constantly see your reflection, you become more critical of yourself. And in long video chats, we see our own faces on the screen for hours and hours, which can be very tiring and stressful.
Some scientific research has shown that seeing yourself in the mirror for long can have negative emotional consequences. So, just because there is a video feature present in most video conference tools, you don’t have to always use it and be on video every single second.
If possible, permit yourself and others to turn the camera off when you or they need only to listen and can turn it back on when it’s time to speak. Make it optional and permissible. Ask yourself whether your co-workers, colleagues or other attendees do really care about this whole issue? The answer is no.
So, the next time you’re on call, set your face properly in the video and then use the “hide self-view” button, by right-clicking your own photo. Don’t worry, others can still see you as usual.
No Agenda, No Attendance, No Attention.
Agreed today no organization can function without virtual meetings, but most can function far better if those meetings are well organized. One way to do so is to begin by drafting an effective meeting agenda.
In the 21st century time is the real currency, and I am sure you don’t want to waste your and other people’s time. Productivity is directly proportional to your focus and attention. Having an agenda can allow everyone involved to direct their attention to the matters at hand.
An agenda unknowingly sets the deadline for the meeting as everyone knows the real reason for the meeting and what they want to achieve and accomplish.
Having an agenda is also courteous to attendees and other guests you have invited to speak as it allows them to prepare for what and when they will talk about. Most importantly it can help limit the time to share the screen. The minimum timeframe for sharing the agenda prior to the meeting should be at least 24 hours. The more the better. This will give the participants an opportunity to plan and prepare for the meeting.
Use Tools to Make Meetings Interactive.
Making your virtual meeting a one-way conversation is the last thing you should do.
In face-to-face personal meetings, it’s easy-to-use collaborative approaches to keep the meetings interactive and reciprocative, but in virtual meetings, there is a high probability that they end up becoming a one-way show. Also in face-to-face interaction, the use of non-verbal communication like gestures, body language, tone, and pitch is quite common and interpretation easy. But, in video calls, sending and receiving signals is hard work. So, find ways to encourage bilateral conversations and make your meetings more fun, enjoyable, and productive.
Use interactive tools to encourage stimulating discussions and interesting conversations. One of the tools is Mentimeter. It allows participants to share real-time information and feedback with presentations, polls, brainstorming sessions.
Use some fun icebreaker questions to engage the attendees. Allow inputs and comments from the audience to get some live reactions. Set up a Q&A session so that attendees can freely ask some relevant questions. Also, there is collaborative whiteboards to brainstorm, share ideas, take notes, share screen, manage projects, and other multiple options for real-time collaboration, and teamwork. All these will lead to more engagement and retention.
Find Out the Right Format that Works Best.
Be creative in figuring out ways to reduce strain and fatigue.
Talk to your team members about various meeting formats and what suits them all. One way is to nominate a meeting-free day. This day in the whole week you say no to any meetings.
It could be “Meeting-Free Tuesday” or “Meeting-Free Thursday” the choice is yours. You can also flip it around and designate just one full day in a week for all the meetings.
Another way is to stack all your mandatory virtual meetings at the beginning of the week or the other way around at the end of the week whichever works best for all.
Also, if you feel that late afternoon meetings are low-energy sessions, then ask your team for the preferred time of day for these meetings. There won’t be a unanimous choice but who knows you might discover a right time when you and your team are less likely to feel fatigued and stressed.
Ever since the Covid pandemic, the workplace world has changed drastically and transformed at a rapid pace. Adapting to this new normal has been stressful.
In these unprecedented times, many organizations that went remote overnight are still struggling to find out ways to navigate this new reality.
Though virtual meeting fatigue is real, it can easily be tackled and eliminated with the above practical actionable steps.
Remember there is no one-size-fits-all approach to immediately reduce the problem. Start with just a few ways, try them until they feel natural, and then move to try all.
Find out what works best for you and then develop a strategy that best suits your requirements and build them into your meeting culture and see the next meeting you call, energizing rather than draining.
See, we have all navigated this situation together, so let’s learn from one another. Do let me know your opinion on this issue in the comments box below.