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Remote Meeting Fatigue: How To Help Your Employees

Remote Meeting Fatigue: How To Help Your Employees

2022-07-05

During the pandemic, knowledge workers had their professional environments turned upside down as millions left the office to work remotely. More than two years later, hybrid work has become a permanent fixture, with companies and their employees embracing tools for virtual meetings. However, many continue to experience remote meeting fatigue or what’s been popularly coined “Zoom fatigue.”

Globally, 40% of workers now spend more time on video calls than in 2021, with many feeling drained by the end of their workday. Symptoms of remote meeting fatigue include headaches, body pain, blurry vision, and mental and physical tiredness. These ultimately lead to a lack of motivation, low productivity, and reduced employee engagement, which are bad for business.

Leaders need to understand the cause and impact of remote meeting fatigue and how they can help their employees thrive in a world of hybrid work where video has become a vital tool for virtual collaboration. Let’s help you get started.

Common Causes of Remote Meeting Fatigue

According to a Stanford University study, there are four common causes of virtual meeting fatigue:

1. Excessive close-up eye contact: In a physical setting, meeting participants are usually seated at an acceptable distance apart and never rigidly maintain eye contact. However, in a virtual meeting, we appear to be sitting two feet apart and staring into each other's eyes for prolonged periods. This, on a psychological level, triggers an anxiety response.

2. Constantly looking at ourselves on screen: Spending a significant portion of our day on video calls has been likened to looking into a mirror for long spells. We not only feel constantly assessed by others in a virtual meeting, but we become hyper-aware of our appearance and posture, exhausted by a perceived social pressure to appear a certain way on camera.

3. Reduced mobility during video meetings: Because we need to stay in the frame of our webcams, we tend to move less during video calls, sitting upright and trying not to fidget so as not to appear distracted or bored. This immobility takes a physical toll on our bodies, adding to our exhaustion.

4. Exposure to excessive stimuli: Virtual meeting participants need to analyze more visual and auditory information. We must decipher who's speaking, watch for facial expressions and body language, and listen carefully for tone while also constantly noticing our colleagues' on-screen backgrounds. All of these factors can be mentally exhausting.

Supporting Your Employees in Tackling Virtual Meeting Fatigue

What can you, as a manager or leader, do to simplify virtual meetings for your employees? Here are a few tips:

Set Purposeful Meetings

During the initial introduction of remote work, many managers used video conferencing tools excessively, overcompensating for employees not being physically present at the office. Now that companies are aware of Zoom fatigue, they’re much more mindful of setting too many meetings.

Before scheduling a meeting:

  1. Consider whether it’s necessary to begin with.
  2. If it is, have a clear goal in mind when setting the agenda.
  3. Allow participants to help define and review it, so they’re well prepared to engage with the topic.

Shorter Meetings Are Better

Your meetings don't have to default to the 30 minutes or one hour set by our digital calendars. Try making them short, highly focused, and the pace natural – the discussion should move briskly while still allowing everyone to participate meaningfully.

Consider sharing a pre-meeting video or audio clip of your presentation and use the meeting as feedback or a Q&A session. This will ensure participants are well prepared and allow more collaboration time.

Keep Meetings Small and Assign Roles

Be deliberate when sending out meeting invitations. Include only those who need to attend and can contribute value to the discussion. Take minutes or record the session for other parties interested in its outcomes.

Participants are also more engaged when they’re assigned meeting responsibilities. For example, try rotating the role of facilitator for regularly held meetings and appoint note-takers and timekeepers.

Empower Employees Through Company Policy

No-meeting or no-camera days have become popular among companies working remotely. They allow workers to focus on productive work and help prevent meeting burnout or video-induced stress.

But before you start introducing similar policies, feedback from your team is vital. Discuss and evaluate their preferences and make an informed decision from there.

Stipulate Camera Etiquette

Give employees the option of having their cameras on or off during specific meetings and let them know your expectations beforehand. With the right virtual meeting tools, some meetings can be perfectly productive using audio-only.

Keep in mind, though, that a compromise needs to be made when it comes to cameras. For example, some people prefer to see those they're talking to; otherwise, presenters can feel as if they're speaking into a void. At the very least, participants should have a profile image set when they opt to have their cameras off.

Diversify Your Communication Style

Video meetings shouldn't be your default when you have an issue that requires input from your team. Asynchronous discussions allow participants to contribute in their own time using a preferred medium – adding notes to a cloud-based document, sharing an audio or video message, using chat or email. A more detailed record of the discussion is then available for reference at a later stage. These are great for meetings that require a status update.

You can also host more interactive meetings using tools like whiteboarding to boost creativity and enhance engagement. In addition, allow for varied interactions, like using the chat function, Q&A box, or raised-hand feature. Different response mediums, like images, text, and gifs, are also great at driving participation.

Invest in High-Tech Tools for Organic, Glitch-Free Meetings

Lastly, invest in high-tech tools for virtual meetings that simulate an organic, real-world feel. Technologies that support crystal-clear audio and visual clarity such as the MAXHUB UC BM35 speakerphone and the MAXHUB UC P25 PTZ camera can help ease some of the mental strain caused by disruptive noise and distorted picture quality.

All-in-one solutions such as those provided by MAXHUB also allow you to easily toggle between applications and tools, keeping participants engaged. Key features to consider include ease of use and seamless screen-sharing for enhanced collaboration. An improved video conferencing experience will, ultimately, go a long way in reducing virtual conferencing fatigue.

Today's leaders who are pioneering the hybrid work landscape have the added responsibility of ensuring their teams not only survive but thrive in this new environment. Luckily, they have all the necessary tools and technologies at their disposal for success.

Learn more about how MAXHUB constantly innovates through our continued research and development (R​&D) programs to bring you cutting-edge tools for virtual meetings.

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