How to Combat Virtual Meeting Fatigue

You’ve just finished your tenth video call this week, and instead of feeling energized from brainstorming with your coworkers, you feel exhausted. And now you’re starting to dread that virtual team bonding event coming up.

If the thought of giving your full attention to 10 people all eager to talk at once makes you want to flee to a remote island—you might have meeting fatigue (AKA “Zoom fatigue,” if you’re meeting virtually).

Virtual meetings have become ubiquitous in the modern workplace. While they provide convenience and flexibility, they also come with a major downside – virtual meeting fatigue. Prolonged video calls can drain our energy and engagement over time. As we spend more of our workdays in virtual meetings, it’s crucial to combat fatigue. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore what causes virtual meeting fatigue, its impacts, and most importantly – how to overcome it.

What Causes Virtual Meeting Fatigue?

There are several key factors that contribute to virtual meeting fatigue

Excessive Meetings – The most obvious culprit is simply too many video calls packed into our calendars. One study found that the average worker spends over 4 hours in meetings per day, with mid-level managers averaging 5.5 hours. This meeting overload is draining.

Increased Multitasking – Virtual meetings make it easier to multitask by checking emails or messages during the meeting itself. While this provides the illusion of efficiency, it actually fractures our attention and increases cognitive load.

Lack of Non-Verbal Cues – Body language and facial expressions provide valuable context in in-person meetings. But staring at faces on a screen makes it harder to read social cues, which can be mentally taxing

Technical Issues – Dealing with glitchy audio, poor WiFi, or dropped connections adds an extra layer of frustration to video calls. These tech troubles create mental strain.

Lack of Movement – Being “pinned” to our desks for back-to-back video calls reduces mobility. This physical inactivity can limit energy and engagement.

Camera Self-Consciousness – Having our cameras on for prolonged periods can heighten self-consciousness and the pressure to appear constantly engaged. This creates a degree of performance anxiety.

The Impacts of Meeting Fatigue

What effects does constant video call exhaustion have? Some major ones include:

  • Diminished Focus – Fatigue makes it harder to stay focused during meetings. Our attention drifts more easily when we’re low energy.

  • Decreased Participation – Too many meetings leads to passive participation. We turn off our cameras, refrain from speaking, and become disengaged.

  • Reduced Collaboration – Fatigued employees are less likely to collaborate effectively. Creativity and problem-solving suffer without energy.

  • Poorer Decisions – Mental exhaustion impairs the speed and quality of our decision making. Tired brains are quick to cut corners.

  • Increased Stress – Trying to power through back-to-back video calls while fatigued heightens cognitive load and emotional drain.

  • Lower Productivity – Research shows employees are far less productive when dealing with meeting overload and video call burnout. Output suffers.

Clearly, unchecked virtual meeting fatigue takes a real toll – decreasing morale, wellbeing, and performance. How can we combat it?

8 Ways to Overcome Virtual Meeting Fatigue

Here are some proven strategies and best practices for combating video call fatigue:

1. Create Meeting Goals

Be clear on what each meeting aims to achieve. This keeps discussion focused and prevents tangent rabbit holes. Share a simple agenda to align everyone.

2. Minimize Distractions

Close extra apps and browser tabs. Silence phone notifications. Decline non-essential meetings to maximize time and attention for priority ones.

**3. Use Asynchronous Communication **

Determine if a topic can be covered through email or chat instead of real-time video. Asynchronous communication relieves some meetings.

4. Be Interactive

Boost engagement by polling participants, using digital whiteboards, and having everyone share thoughts. Interactivity keeps blood flowing.

5. Limit Meeting Length

Schedule video calls for no more than 40 or 50 minutes to avoid attention crash. Build in buffer time between meetings.

6. Avoid Multitasking

Give your full focus to the meeting. Don’t attempt to also answer emails and chat messages. Be fully mentally present.

7. Take Regular Breaks

Get up and move around between video calls. Even brief 1-3 minute breaks help recharge your batteries.

8. Ask for Help

If your calendar is packed with excessive meetings, ask your manager or colleagues for help prioritizing and consolidating the most essential ones.

Tips for Meeting Organizers

As a meeting organizer, you can also help reduce video call fatigue for participants:

  • Set an agenda – Provide focus and prevent meandering discussions.

  • Use an icebreaker – Get people engaged right away.

  • Vary format – Include breakout discussions, collaborative slides, polls.

  • Offer camera breaks – Don’t force cameras on continuously.

  • Limit attendees – Only essential participants should attend.

  • Shorten meetings – Keep discussions as concise as possible.

Virtual Meeting Best Practices

Here are some additional best practices for making your virtual meetings less fatiguing and more engaging for all participants:

  • Begin punctually and end on time to respect people’s schedules.

  • Establish meeting norms like allowing mute, chat, and camera off options.

  • Pause frequently for reactions and input to keep people active.

  • Summarize action items and next steps clearly.

  • Send post-meeting notes and highlights for reference.

  • Rotate facilitators to share the cognitive load.

  • Adjust meeting cadence and length based on feedback surveys.

  • Foster an inclusive environment where people feel safe to share ideas.

Signs of Meeting Burnout

Watch for these common indicators that signal virtual meeting fatigue across your team:

  • Declining meeting attendance and participation

  • More instances of people joining without cameras on

  • Employees seem disengaged and distracted during meetings

  • Side conversations and multitasking increase

  • Fewer questions and ideas raised during discussions

  • Complaints about an excessive number of meetings

  • Lack of follow-through on meeting commitments

When to Say No to a Meeting

The key to managing virtual meeting overload is learning when to tactfully decline meetings. Say no when:

  • The meeting topic doesn’t require your expertise

  • Previous meetings have been ineffective or repetitive

  • You need to focus time on higher priority projects

  • Your schedule is maxed out and you’re facing burnout

  • The discussion could be handled through other channels

  • You will just be a passive attendee without much to contribute

Set policies about which types of meetings you’ll attend and stand firm. Protect your time and attention.

Foster a “Meeting-Light” Culture

For lasting impact, organizations should take a step back and foster a “meeting-light” culture built around:

  • Clarity – Have clear purpose and goals for all meetings.

  • Consolidation – Combine recurring meetings on related topics.

  • Asynch Communication – Discourage over-reliance on meetings to share information.

  • Participation Choice – Don’t mandate the same meeting for every employee every week. Allow people to opt in and out of recurring meetings based on relevance.

  • No-Meeting Blocks– Preserve large blocks of meeting-free time for focused work.

  • Meeting-Free Days – Consider banning meetings one day per week.

  • Etiquette – Establish and enforce meeting etiquette around things like focus, participation, and multitasking.

  • **Tracking **- Monitor analytics on meeting frequency, attendance, and quality to spot pain points.

Key Takeaways

The rise of ubiquitous video calls has created a real challenge – virtual meeting fatigue. With careful planning, consistent practice of video call best practices, and a “meeting-light” culture, organizations can keep meeting fatigue at bay. The goal is productive and energizing meetings that equip teams to do their best work. With the right balance, video calls can be an asset instead of a energy-draining liability.

how to combat virtual meeting fatigue

Fight Meeting Fatigue With These 10 Tips

Thankfully, there are science-backed ways to combat meeting fatigue. Let’s go over some actionable steps you can take today to recharge your batteries before you head into another video call with your colleagues.

Work and personal life have collided.

Now that much of our time—whether for work or play—is spent on our computers and smartphones, it never feels like we’re truly “off.” We can move from a one-on-one with our boss to a virtual book club with friends all within the same device and app.

As Laura Dudley, a behavior analyst at Northeastern University, explains, this is related to a psychological principle known as “satiation,” where something loses its effectiveness the more we use it.

“We used to take breaks from people by spending time on our gadgets,” Dudley said in an interview with News @ Northeastern. “Now, we take breaks from our gadgets by seeking out real, live human connection.”

How to Combat Virtual Meeting Fatigue With Your Remote Sales Team

How can I reduce virtual meeting fatigue?

Turn off “self view,” if possible, on your meeting platform and make camera use optional for some meetings. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to reducing virtual meeting fatigue or to eliminating “bad” meetings. Be willing to adapt and grow. Experiment with different meeting strategies or platforms. Adjust as needs change or evolve.

What are the ways to fight fatigue?

To combat fatigue, focus on a balanced lifestyle. Ensure adequate sleep, maintain a nutritious diet, and stay hydrated. Regular exercise can boost energy levels. Manage stress through relaxation techniques. Limit caffeine and alcohol intake, and establish a consistent daily routine. If fatigue persists, consult a healthcare provider for underlying causes.

What is virtual meeting fatigue?

Virtual meeting fatigue is the feeling of tiredness that you can experience after completing online meetings as part of your daily responsibilities. In some online or hybrid roles, employees may meet over video conferencing platforms to discuss business. While these meetings can be productive and convenient, they can also be draining.

How can I reduce ‘zoom fatigue’ in virtual meetings?

Recent recommendations for reducing “Zoom fatigue” have included avoiding multitasking, taking screen breaks, or switching to a phone call or email. While these strategies may be helpful for alleviating one’s own fatigue, they do not address the quality, content, or taxing nature of virtual meetings themselves.

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