How to Combat Virtual Meeting Fatigue

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Two and a half years ago, the corporate world had a seemingly straightforward response to lockdowns: virtual meetings. Platforms like Zoom and Microsoft Teams rose up as the be-all, end-all solution for hundreds of thousands of workers everywhere. As a result, employers felt relief because they did not have to close up shop altogether. 

However, there can definitely be too much of a good thing. Another psychological phenomenon followed this ostensibly harmless situation: virtual meeting fatigue. Employees everywhere were reporting feelings of listlessness and agitation after attending too many online meetings in a row. 

Many have adopted a hybrid working arrangement, and some of that online meeting exhaustion has subsided as in-person meetings resumed. However, some companies realized the benefits of fully remote work, making virtual meetings the norm as their employees continued teleworking.

If you’re one of them, you may still be experiencing the negative effects of virtual meeting fatigue (or Zoom fatigue). Therefore, this article will aim to provide some actionable tips on how to combat this particular kind of burnout.

Reduce the number of consecutive meetings 

During the height of the pandemic, many companies thought that filling their workers’ calendars would serve to increase productivity. At the very least, they believed it would mimic a “normal” work schedule. 

However, productivity took a nosedive because people didn’t have time for anything due to being stuck in meetings all day. Not only that, but Zoom fatigue had the added negative effect of draining people’s energy and leaving them feeling demotivated. Basic tasks could not be attended to due to this specific kind of video conferencing burnout.

Your calendar might still be cluttered with consecutive virtual appointments, even though many now know this isn’t conducive to productivity. Therefore, the best way forward would be to establish ground rules for video conferencing with your team or other coworkers. 

For example, you could make it a rule not to schedule more than a specific number of meetings per day. A good starting point would be no more than three meetings a day. People could then get the information they need while still being left with time to do work outside of meetings.

Another tip would be not to schedule more than two meetings in a row. This way, you and your coworkers could have reasonable breaks between each meeting. 

Additionally, try to always check other people’s calendars before sending them a meeting request. Many might already have something booked for the timeslot you picked. There is nothing more overwhelming than overlapping appointments. If you’re using a mailing tool like Outlook, just check the other person’s calendar before sending them another invite. You’ll be doing them and yourself a favor by not contributing to online meeting exhaustion.

Invite fewer people to attend

 photograph showing a view over the shoulder of a person on a video call using their laptop to illustrate Zoom fatigue

Image source: Unsplash

Have you ever attended a meeting where you and ten other people kept silent in the background for an hour? Perhaps while three other coworkers discussed something related to their work and only slightly (or not at all) to yours? 

It’s great to feel included by being invited to all sorts of company meetings. However, let’s face it — the benefits of hearing everything that’s going on at all times diminish as time gets wasted. This is especially true for group meetings where you hardly have anything to contribute. All this does is enhance the effects of virtual meeting fatigue. 

The best tip to avoid this situation is to suggest only inviting those who are required to attend. This means actually having input to provide, or being able to chip in with a word or two. This would reduce the number of people for each meeting and free up everyone else’s time to perform other duties. Additionally, meeting minutes can be kept by a member of the team, after which their notes can be distributed around.

Coaching employees in this regard is essential. Sometimes, even team leaders need to be reminded of the fact that not everyone has to attend every single meeting.  

Turn your camera off during larger meetings

Research conducted by the Harvard Business Review indicates that keeping your camera on during all meetings contributes to Zoom fatigue.

Therefore, if you’re attending a large group meeting or webinar, consider turning your video off. This will help you make the most of your time, but also relieve the pressure to look a particular way. Moreover, when your camera is off, you can multitask while doing something else, such as cooking or folding laundry. 

Some companies are stringent about people keeping their cameras on during meetings. This rule is hardly sensible when you and dozens of other people are not required to have any input. Talk to your boss or coworkers about turning your camera off in these instances. Other legitimate camera-off occasions include personal matters like having a sick kid at home.

Ultimately, determine if video conferencing is even required. An audio call or even a virtual phone call would more than suffice in many situations. This is especially true if it’s a brief update and you and your coworkers have lots of other tasks to get through.

Keeping your video off can contribute to alleviating the effects of virtual meeting fatigue. You won’t be glued to your seat for hours, but instead can move around with your laptop. What’s more, you’ll be able to do other useful things while listening to your team members talk.

It’s okay to cancel a meeting

photograph of a man seen from behind in front of his laptop with his hands behind his head to illustrate online meeting exhaustion

Image source: Unsplash

Attending too many virtual meetings can take a toll on your mental health and ability to deliver quality work. This vicious cycle only continues if you don’t occasionally pull the brake on what’s causing your Zoom fatigue.

Therefore, canceling a meeting or two per week is a reasonable solution to this common problem. Not being able to fit another meeting into your packed schedule should be absolutely understandable to those working with you. What’s more, they may even feel the same way and suggest rescheduling the meeting for another time. 

However, you don’t need to be totally swamped with work if you wish to cancel a meeting on any given day. Prioritizing your mental and physical health can often be disregarded in the era of remote work. However, it is a legitimate reason to tap out from time to time — and employers are increasingly realizing this fact. Canceling a meeting is a much better and healthier option than going into it feeling listless, demotivated, or anxious. 

Final Thoughts

Anyone who has ever participated in continuous online meetings is familiar with the idea of virtual meeting fatigue. However, online meetings will continue to play a growing role in our post-pandemic reality. 

Unless we start taking breaks and scheduling meetings more sensibly, video conferencing burnout will continue to affect many of us. Doing so will enable you and your coworkers to connect more honestly, work more effectively, and perform at your best.

Photo of Nina Petrov a content marketing specialist, passionate about graphic design, content marketing, and the new generation of green and social businesses

Author bio: Nina Petrov is a content marketing specialist, passionate about graphic design, content marketing, and the new generation of green and social businesses. She starts the day scrolling her digest on new digital trends while sipping a cup of coffee with milk and sugar. Her white little bunny tends to reply to your emails when she is on vacation. Her professional profile can be viewed on LinkedIn.

Featured Image Source: Photo by Chris Montgomery on Unsplash

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