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Six ways to help employees fight virtual meeting fatigue

|July 07, 2020
Written by

Samantha Strader

Director

If the thought of getting on yet another virtual meeting gives you an instant headache, you’re not alone. And now there’s even a name for it: Zoom fatigue.

When the COVID-19 pandemic first began, everyone jumped to schedule those virtual coffee chats, happy hours and check-ins—anything to fill the social connection void. We wondered why we hadn’t taken advantage of these virtual options more before—and not only for work, but our personal lives too, with FaceTime quickly replacing in-person hang outs and group text messaging between family and friends. As the work from home days continued, it was fun to see the inside of our coworkers’ homes, their kids running by in the background, their dogs hanging out at their side. In a way, it felt like we were getting to know them even better than before.

Fast forward a few months, and here we are: still working from home, but now utterly exhausted by all the virtual meetings. From that feeling of having to be “on” the whole time and not being able to multi-task (which, let’s be honest, we’re all guilty of doing), to dealing with awkward silences and mute fails, the virtual meeting fatigue is real. But with COVID-19 cases still being recorded and many employers encouraging staff to continue working from home, it doesn’t seem like virtual meetings are going away anytime soon.

So what can you do to help employees fight the fatigue and stay engaged? Here are a few tips.

1. Limit virtual meetings: We’re all past the point of needing a virtual meeting every day to feel more connected. So before you schedule one, consider whether you really need a meeting at all, or if the purpose of the meeting can be achieved via email or some form of instant messenger instead.

2. Set the purpose and agenda: When a meeting is necessary, make sure it has a clear purpose and a set agenda that are communicated ahead of time. This will ensure that you’re efficient with people’s time, and give you a better chance of keeping them engaged during the meeting.

3. Involve more people in the meeting: No one wants to watch a talking head for an hour. Make sure you involve other people in the meeting by asking questions and getting others to weigh in as appropriate, so that the attendees don’t just feel like one of many silent faces on the screen.

4. Keep them short and sweet: Staring at a screen for hours has always been exhausting, but it’s even more exhausting now that we don’t have in-person meetings or conversations during the day to break it up. Keep virtual meetings as short as possible. And if you need more time, either ask people if they can stay on a little longer, or schedule a follow up meeting.

5. Send a recap: When you’re not engaged (or just plain burnt out), it’s easy to tune out unintentionally and miss something important. It happens to all of us. Make sure someone is responsible for sending a recap with action items after the meeting.

6. Encourage screen breaks: As mentioned above, we’re all spending more time than ever staring at our screens each day. Encourage your employees to take visual breaks during the day, such as going for a walk, enjoying lunch away from the computer, or simply taking five minutes to look out the window. It’ll help reenergize them for the rest of the day.

How are you keeping your employees engaged during this work from home period?