Before the coronavirus pandemic, virtual meetings were scheduled around work. Now, it seems as though work is scheduled around virtual meetings. And while I’m as pro-technology as anyone — especially when it comes to solutions that eliminate geographic barriers — I’ll admit that I’m suffering from virtual meeting fatigue.
What’s more, while I like virtual happy hours (which I wrote about recently) and think that they’re important for socializing and staying connected, it can be hard to look forward to them when you’ve been sitting in virtual meetings all day.
Obviously, virtual meetings are the new normal. They’re also important, effective, and in some cases essential. This means the onus is on me to make adjustments. To that end, I’ve put together a game plan with simple and practical tips. If you’re experiencing virtual meeting burnout, then I invite you to borrow any or all of these to help you recover:
Schedule at least break in-between virtual meetings. Note that this is not the same as banning the practice of scheduling back-to-back virtual meetings. What’s the difference? It’s that the former forces you to actually take a small but meaningful break so you can decompress and recharge your batteries. This means no checking email, no doing research, no writing memos — nothing.
Write the words “move your body” on a sticky note and affix it to your desk, your wall, the top or bottom of your monitor, or anywhere else that you’ll see it. And then during virtual meetings, read the note and obey. No, this doesn’t mean that you should start doing jumping jacks or push ups (unless of course your virtual meeting is with your fitness trainer). But it does mean that you should alternate between sitting and standing, and give your neck a nice rotation every now and then (the trick is to “draw circles with your nose”).
And while you’ve got your sticky notepad out, grab a square and place it over your little section of the screen. It’s a lot easier to focus on the speaker (or speakers) when you aren’t staring at a little version of yourself in the corner somewhere.
Evaluate your home office setup and determine whether it’s suitable. If not, then it’s time to invest in an ergonomic chair, desk, footrest, wrist support, and whatever else you need. Here is some good advice on what equipment, furniture and accessories to look for. Trust me, your body will thank you. And if it’s within your budget, consider looking at renovating your workspace since we may be seeing the end of the traditional corporate office. Check out this article for some insights on what might be on the horizon.
Go easy on the backgrounds to avoid inflicting participants with sensory overload. Sure, some backgrounds are amusing and often relevant, but unless it’s a virtual happy hour then changing your background multiple times during a work-related call can be distracting.
Turn off all notifications like new emails, chat requests, instant messages, reminders from your operating system or browser to download yet another update, and so on. The less you have going on, the less energy it will take to focus.
Don’t stare endlessly at your screen. Every now and then, look out the window, or at your aquarium, a pleasant picture on the wall, or anything else agreeable. This significantly helps reduce eyestrain (check out some more good eye health tips here). For virtual happy hours and other informal get togethers, it can also be helpful to move your laptop somewhere so that you can hear what’s going on, but not see what’s going on. I recently attended a virtual yoga meditation session in which the instructor recommended this little tactic, and I was surprised by how refreshing it was.
Staring at a screen dries out the eyes and causes eye irritation. Proactively stay hydrated by having a glass of water nearby, and remember to take sips during the virtual meeting — and throughout your day for that matter. If water isn’t your beverage of choice, then try to avoid anything with excess sugar, sodium or caffeine. Here are some other good tips for staying hydrated.
If you’re taking notes, then instead of typing away while you watch and listen, go old school and use pen and paper. Studies have shown that this helps increase retention and the quality of notes are better, even if the overall quantity is less.
Don’t forget that there is another technological tool to connect with others, and it’s called the phone. It can sometimes be more relaxing to connect with people voice-only; especially if you’re worried that your kids or pets will make an impromptu appearance, or if you’d rather have the meeting while lying in a hammock.
And here’s a bonus tip that is generating a lot of virtual meeting happiness:
Clarizen Go now features Zoom integration, which makes you and your team more productive, efficient and innovative. For example, you can create a Clarizen Go task directly from Zoom, receive push notifications for task updates (individual and team), and launch a new Zoom meeting and associate it with a task in a specific workspace. And when the meeting ends, Clarizen Go for Zoom automatically updates the task description with a copy of the meeting’s recording and transcript. How convenient is that?
Virtual meetings are here to stay, and will only become more prevalent in the months and years ahead. I’ll be relying on these tips and tactics to make virtual meetings energizing instead of exhausting — and I hope they help you, too.