Virtual fatigue, Zoom gloom… these are just two terms that capture the mental and psychological exhaustion triggered by stressful, unproductive virtual meetings. While these meetings have allowed us to remain productive during the pandemic, who among us hasn’t felt tense, drained or extremely low-energy afterward, or at the prospect of yet another meeting?
These meetings could be here to stay, suggests Linda Sukk, WSPS' Manager, Stakeholder Consultation. "If workplaces adopt a hybrid business model where some people are working from home and others are in the office, we’ll still need virtual meeting technology to bring people together."
Linda shares 10 personal best practices for creating low-stress, productive meetings:
- Understand what conditions may contribute to stressful and unproductive meetings. These may include meeting too often or for too long, having no clearly defined purpose, conflicting with other responsibilities and deadlines, having a negative tone, and offering limited opportunity to participate.
- Familiarize yourself with meeting platform functions beforehand, such as the raised hand, whiteboard, sticky note, chat and breakout functions. These functions all create opportunities to interact. For instance, keeping the chat function open allows participants time to think before commenting or to participate while others are speaking. Be prepared for technology issues. If the technology fails - it happens - be kind to yourself and others.
- Schedule time for participants to transition afterward. "I book meetings for 55 minutes or 25 minutes because even though we may be sitting at our kitchen tables or desks, we still need time to compose ourselves or get into the right headspace before moving on to the next thing."
- Conduct meetings within normal business hours. "At the beginning of the pandemic, it was tempting to devote what had been commuting time to work, but this so-called productivity is unsustainable and ultimately toxic. Some people may have additional challenges because they're at home - looking after young children, for example. These are responsibilities they wouldn't have had if they were in the workplace."
- Avoid meeting over lunch. "Just because we can eat at our kitchen table while in a meeting doesn't mean we should. It's important to have defined breaks in our day."
- State a clear purpose for the meeting in your invitation. If you can't, then perhaps you're better off emailing or making a phone call. "No one wants to think afterward, 'That's an hour of my life I'll never get back.'"
- Set out rules of engagement ahead of time and figure out how to let participants shine. "As a facilitator, it's my job to make sure everyone has their say, so I watch for visual clues that someone is ready to jump into the conversation."
- Begin the meeting a few minutes early. This invites participants to come in, say hello and get settled before the meeting officially begins. "The alternative is to click the button right on time, and suddenly we’re instantly in work mode."
- Kick off the meeting with a health and safety moment. It could be as simple as "Wear sunscreen," or "I saw this excellent app for mental health." It doesn't have to be work-related, but it's a way of grounding us every day.
- Inject fun and personality into the experience. "When you join one of my meetings, you'll see unicorns in my virtual background. And don't worry about environmental issues beyond your control. Tuesday is garbage day in my neighborhood. My dog loses his mind and no matter what I do everyone can hear him. Things like this give the rest of us permission to be human and help build relationships."
How WSPS can help
Productive, purposeful virtual meetings sustain connections and contribute to self-worth. The following articles and blog posts offer additional insights:
- 5 key components of a teleworking policy
- 5 ways to create a safe and inclusive workplace during the pandemic
- Burnout: What Leaders Must Know and What They Can Do to Support Employees
- Leaders Can Help Employees Reduce Their Risk for Mental Fatigue
- Help employees maintain positive mental health during the COVID-19 outbreak