At this point in the pandemic, every person working from home has spent at least 725 billion hours on virtual meetings. What started as a relatively novel way to connect during a pandemic has quickly turned into one of the most mind-numbing parts of the workday. We have all learned to respond in different ways. Maybe you’re the person who thinks you’re being sly but really we can all see that you’re checking emails. Maybe you have completely given up covert attempts and are blatantly texting or working on other things. Or, maybe you have reached the final stage where you don’t even show your camera anymore because you are sick of looking at yourself. Whatever the case – we see you, we hear you, we feel your mental fatigue and we want to help.
A well-known communication study conducted by Dr. Albert Mehrabian showed that 93% of what is communicated in conversation is non-verbal. When we can only see someone’s face and not read their body language or feel their energy, a lot of valuable information can be lost in translation. Relying solely on virtual communication can lead to a lack of conversational flow – talking over each other, awkward pauses, technical difficulties, etc. – that makes us feel like a meeting was unsuccessful or that we have been misunderstood.
As we have all experienced, it can be tremendously hard to focus and very easy to start another task while someone else is talking. This is something we would never do in an in-person meeting. Can you imagine how you would feel if you were talking to someone across a conference table and they opened their computer and started working?! This exposes yet another level of disconnection we can feel when conversing over a screen.
We definitely have some hurdles to overcome as we move towards a more virtual work environment, but it is not impossible to create a healthy balance as we adjust. Here are a few ways to provide some ease during your next virtual meeting.
- Stop Checking Yourself Out
- One of the most foreign things about virtual meetings is that you can see YOU! As humans, we can’t help but fixate on our appearance. This can cause additional stress and can trigger negative emotional responses like embarrassment, shame, or comparative thinking. Take away this added stress by hiding your self-view. You will begin to notice that when you aren’t focusing on your own face, you are able to focus on and listen to others in the meeting.
- Loosen Up
- When is the last time you stood up in the middle of a workday to stretch or take a walk? This is a key step in preventing mental meeting fatigue. How can you incorporate movement into every meeting? Maybe start off every virtual meeting with 10 jumping jacks, or have a different team member lead an exercise for 2 minutes at the start. Here are some great simple exercises to do at your desk if you need some ideas! If it’s possible, maybe you can take your meeting while you go for a walk. If you are looking to graduate to expert in the healthy work-life game, consider investing in a standing desk.
- Change Your Scenery
- When we meet in-person, it usually offers us a reprieve from our desk or computer screen, and allows us to move to a new location. The act of stopping one task, getting up, and physically moving to a new location for a new task allows our brain to reset. This can be difficult when working from home and virtually communing. The monotony of being in the same spot and staring at the same screen all day leads to reduced productivity and higher rates of mental fatigue. So, change it up! Designate a different space in your home to take your virtual meetings – take your meetings outside or in a different room. You can even light a candle or incense to create a different ambiance. Gift your brain the chance to refresh by resetting your environment. It’s also a great idea to take a 10 – 15 minute break before each meeting, where you shut your computer screen and rest your eyes and your focus.
- If you are interested in the science behind the important role our surroundings play on our work, check out Libby Sander’s Ted Talk.
- Short and Simple
- We spend 35% – 50% of our time at work in meetings. WHAT?! At that rate, you would think all of our problems would be solved and we would all be working as a well-oiled machine. But when it comes to meetings, less is more. Studies have shown that if you make as many meetings as you can only 30 minutes long, you will see an increase in productivity and focus. People are more likely to show up prepared, and be more economical with their time. We challenge you to try it! Make that weekly meeting 30 minutes instead of 1 hour. You can thank us later.
And last, but certainly not least:
- Can I just call you?
- Virtual meetings are a fantastic tool for networking, meetings, and socializing; however, as we have seen there are some downfalls. Next time you automatically go to set up a virtual meeting, consider going old school with a phone call. Unless you need to share a screen or documents, a phone call may be what you need to connect and share information. The same applies to your social and family life. Consider how many virtual events you have in your life as a whole, and see if you can reduce a few to protect your energy and your time.