Dealing with Meeting Fatigue in a Remote Setting

Dealing with Meeting Fatigue in a Remote Setting was originally published on Vault.

In the last few years, many companies have begun to adopt fully-remote or hybrid work paradigms, which inevitably means a whole lot of virtual meetings. This has led to increased awareness of the phenomenon known as “meeting fatigue.” Here are some strategies that will help you mitigate and deal with meeting fatigue.

Keep in Touch

When working remotely, it can be easy to escape into oneself. What we mean by that is you can become so focused on your own work while in your own world, that interacting with others might seem like an insurmountable task. If this is the case, even a short meeting can be exhausting. In order to combat these feelings, make the effort to stay in touch with your coworkers.

Staying in touch can be as simple as sending a “good morning” to your coworkers each day, or taking some time to chat about common interests during a break. You can take this idea further if you have any local coworkers by scheduling some time to meet up and play some mini-golf or go to the movies as a group. By conditioning ourselves this way, interacting with others will feel natural, and we’re more likely to have a positive outlook on Zoom meetings.

Take Breaks

Despite what you may think, taking breaks is integral to increased productivity. Breaks allow us time to readjust our perspective, or “cool off” from the more labor-intensive tasks. If you’re constantly pushing yourself towards terrible, inevitable burnout, that email notification that you have an upcoming meeting might hit you like a ton of bricks. The truth is, we all need time to recharge our batteries, even while we’re at work.

Some people swear by the 20-20-20 method, which consists of working for 20 minutes, then gazing at something that is around 20 feet away for 20 seconds. Just make sure you’re not accidentally staring at your boss with an emotionless grin—that might not be too good. You could also try standing up and walking around every hour or so. This will help you get your eyes off your computer screen and get the old blood moving. Whichever method you decide on, make sure you take breaks at regular intervals throughout the day.

Optimize Your Workspace

If you find that you’re always scrambling to hide those awesome action figures or cover up that sweet Nickelback poster in the background before your Zoom calls, try creating a space for yourself that you can use during meetings. This will make the leadup to virtual meetings much less stressful, and will help to put you in the right “mode” as the meeting approaches. Make sure this space is quiet and free from distractions, and if possible, cat proof when necessary.

Along with having a dedicated meeting area, make sure your equipment is in working order. Check your computer’s speakers and microphone, and adjust each volume to a level that’s comfortable with you. You could also ask a coworker to jump on a call with you to test everything out. All of this will help you feel prepared whenever a meeting is coming up, which can greatly reduce stress and anxiety.

Be Selective

Once in a while, you might be invited to a meeting where you’re not actually needed. For example, a graphic designer might not have a whole lot of input during a meeting with the accounting team. Well, most times anyway. The point is, take some time to review the meeting notes, and determine whether it’s absolutely necessary that you attend. If there aren’t any meeting notes or you’re unsure, send an email asking what the meeting is about.

Now, we don’t want to go and decline every single meeting invite we receive. It’s best to use this tactic somewhat seldomly, and always run it by your boss first. If you think a meeting might be counterproductive for you or that it will disrupt your workflow, politely ask your boss if you can sit it out and continue working on your project. The worst-case scenario is they’ll just say you have to attend.

Lead by Example

Perhaps the best way to combat meeting fatigue is to set some great examples for others, so here’s what you should do when it’s your turn to schedule a meeting. First, create a schedule for your meeting. In it, include all the topics that you plan to cover in chronological order, and make sure you notate a section at the end for questions. Attach the agenda to the invite and encourage the recipients to review it before the meeting.

Next, determine how much time your meeting requires. If you only have a couple of items on your agenda, you probably won’t need more than 30 minutes. When deciding who to invite, take the time to consider whether they really need to be there. Meetings can get long and exhausting when there’s too many people in attendance, and in many cases the information that’s covered isn’t relevant to everyone.

If constantly being on camera during meetings seems tiresome to you, you can bet at least some of your coworkers feel the same. If you’re scheduling a meeting, give attendees the option to turn their camera off. In addition to this, take notes or have someone else take notes during your meeting so you can send a wrap-up email afterward. This will help to eliminate any lingering questions that may arise once the meeting’s over.

If you’re consistent and successful with the ways in which you schedule meetings, it might cause others to follow suit. Lastly, make sure you give your eyes a rest. Between work, virtual meetings, and personal time spent on a variety of other screens, stress and strain have become the norm. Whenever possible, take a break from all the screen time—it will save your sanity. It’s true that remote and hybrid roles require more virtual meetings, but that doesn’t mean they have to be stressful.