This article was written by guest contributor Luke Smith. It is the first in a pair of guest blogs about battling video conferencing fatigue.

Even with 2020 firmly in the rearview mirror, video conferencing solutions like Zoom are continuing to record huge profits; over 33 million Americans still work remotely. Virtual meetings are becoming the new norm, as companies across the country recognize that they can save time and resources by hosting meetings online.

The flexibility virtual meetings offer is fantastic for busy professionals, and being able to jump into online meeting rooms for quick questions prevents innumerable logistical hassles. However, while the benefits of virtual meetings are obvious, there is one looming issue on the horizon for many regular users: virtual meeting fatigue.

Virtual Meeting Fatigue Symptoms

The fatigue caused by excessive video conferencing sessions is real. Virtual meetings don’t give us that same buzz that in-person human interactions do, and they can quickly spiral out of control. At this point, we’ve all sat in an online meeting that was meant to be under 30 minutes, only to find ourselves still staring at the screen an hour later. A few of these nightmare meetings within a single week will certainly lead to burnout and will leave you wondering why you ever elected to work remotely.

There are many steps you can take to avoid virtual meeting fatigue, but first, let’s establish what fatigue actually is:

●     Chronic Fatigue: chronic bouts of fatigue can leave you feeling exhausted, even when you haven’t done anything strenuous. It usually manifests itself in physical symptoms like sleep issues, muscle pain, and unexplained tiredness.

●     Depression: depression is linked to fatigue. It makes you feel helpless, sad, and anxious. Physically, you struggle to sleep, are slow to make decisions, and may experience dangerous fluctuations in weight.

●     Burnout: alienation from your work, a reduction in your overall efficiency, and depleted energy are all signs of burnout that you should take seriously.

It’s important to note that if you (or anyone you know) appear to be suffering from any of the above symptoms, you should get professional help. Thousands in the US die every year because of depression, and therapy has a success rate around 90%.

Too many video conferences can leave you feeling like this. Handling virtual meeting fatigue is key.
Too many video conferences can leave you feeling like this. Handling virtual meeting fatigue is key.

Alleviating Virtual Meeting Fatigue

The issue with fatigue is that you’re often too tired to stop the cause of your fatigue. It’s a vicious cycle that can be hard to break alone, but with a few changes, you can at least reduce the effect of virtual meeting fatigue.

Simple Steps

Seeing the same things day after day will wear you out. Without realizing it, your background can zap your energy and convey an unprofessional look. By creatively decorating the office space you use for video calls, you can reignite some of the professional fire you need to succeed in the virtual workplace.

Take Time Away

While it’s not always possible to escape virtual meetings, you should at least attempt to take time away from online meeting rooms. Have you, for example, even asked your manager whether or not there is an alternative to the tenth video meeting you have scheduled this week? If you haven’t made the ask, you’ll never know if it’s possible to reduce the total time you spend in virtual meetings.

If you work in a larger organization, you might be able to shift roles into a less meeting-intensive position. Many companies love to hire internally for both temporary cover and permanent positions. If you enjoy working for your employer, but feel as though your role is draining you, then be sure to let your management team know that you’re looking to make a move.

Organize Your Meeting Time

If you lead virtual meetings, you must control how the time is organized. Do not let the meeting ramble on for no reason and do all you can to keep chatty participants in check throughout. The easiest way to do this is to create, and abide by, a meeting plan. By creating a meeting plan in advance, you can ensure everything you need to cover is included and you will be able to move quickly through topics and issues.

If the meeting strays away from the plan you set, you need to make a judgment call: should you bump today’s agenda into the next meeting? Can you move on from the current conversation without disregarding people’s input? If you feel as though the new direction of the meeting is getting out of control, ask your participants if you can add the unexpected conversation to the next meeting’s agenda—this way people feel heard, but you can keep meetings from running way over time.

Set Clear Boundaries

If you are running virtual meetings, you need to ensure all participants have an understanding of how the meeting will run. For example, do you have a dedicated Q+A section for participants who have questions? How far over-time are you willing to run? (15 minutes is a good limit to abide by). Is it ok for folks to join and leave the meeting when they’ve received the information they needed? All of these considerations can streamline your time and can reduce the chances of virtual meeting fatigue.

Following best meeting practices is essential. However, sometimes the best practice is to log off when your day is done. Increasingly, folks are taking meetings, responding to emails, or completing work-related tasks when they should be living, not working. Working outside of your scheduled hours is a damaging practice that reduces your efficiency and drains you during a time that you should be galvanizing the motivation necessary for professional success. By approaching virtual meetings with clear intentions, you can reduce your chances of virtual meeting fatigue, and maintain the energy and creativity you need for work.

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