Meeting fatigue is a mental exhaustion that stems from this new way of communicating, which makes the brain always highly active. Virtual meetings help to maintain a relationship with co-workers despite the distance.
In addition, it offers employees the flexibility of location and working hours. But the truth is that, while this may seem like a solution, virtual meetings are increasingly draining us. People who work from home are trying, but struggling, to find time to switch off and relax.
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- Virtual meetings are a common feature of all or most jobs, but they are very tiring for everyone. So it is important to improve them to avoid causing fatigue among employees.
- Both physical and mental exhaustion can be caused by having multiple virtual meetings on the same day.
- The coordinator or manager of the meetings must be able to differentiate between daily and monthly meetings and be able to eliminate those meetings that are unnecessary.
What you should know about meeting fatigue
Meeting fatigue became a common consequence of remote work in recent years and was further increased by the COVID-19 pandemic. Platforms like Microsoft Teams had a 53% increase since April 2020.
Read more about Microsoft Teams
Other apps like Zoom and Google Meet also noted growth, the former boasts 300 million daily meeting participants, compared to just 10 million in December 2019. On the other hand, Google Meet has 100 million participants starting meetings every day (1).
Read more about Zoom
What is the cause of meeting fatigue?
Meeting fatigue has been around since before the pandemic hit, but with social isolation, it intensified.
Meetings have always been somewhat annoying for workers for a long time, either because they are too many meetings per day, because they are long, or because they do not bring any value to their work.
The most common causes are associated with social, cognitive and behavioral activities.
The audio quality of online meetings, background noises, slow Wi-Fi, and all the technical glitches are the factors of stress and exhaustion, added to delays in responses and uncomfortable silence, interrupt the flow of dialogue and negatively affect social interactions.
All of these issues make the person feel a sense of anxiety about another meeting.
The success of a good meeting is to have clear communication, which sometimes gets more complicated in virtual meetings.
Fatigue in virtual meetings happens when communication gets a bit stiffer, as each person has to work harder to send and receive non-verbal signals. In virtual meetings, more signals are often used than would be necessary for face-to-face communication, such as speaking louder or maintaining eye contact for longer periods of time.
Another common situation that happens is that someone often tends to focus on their own image. Professor Jeremy Bailenson, the author of the Stanford research paper on Zoom fatigue, talks about this aspect of virtual meetings, saying:
“It’s exhausting for us. It’s stressful. And there’s a lot of research showing that there are negative emotional consequences of looking in a mirror.”
Being in virtual meetings requires much more concentration than face-to-face meetings. This puts a lot more pressure on the brain and you end up exhausted at the end of the meeting.
Additionally, it is very common to do other things in the background while we are in the videoconference, for example, to carry on with other work-related tasks. This is a major lack of attention and leads to exhaustion and frustration.
Face-to-face interactions are much better, more dynamic and increase people’s happiness, compare to virtual. Therefore, it is true that video call interactions have many negative aspects.
In virtual meetings, sometimes there is a visual interaction when participants turn on the camera, which can be overwhelming, as there is a lot of eye contact. Or in contrast, a member may not turn on the camera and this can be a sign of a lack of trust between a boss and an employee, for example.
What are the types of fatigue?
There are different types of fatigue that can lead to different diseases, so it is essential to be aware of your feelings and take care of both your physical and mental health.
Below, we will explain each type of fatigue that exists.
This fatigue is the most well-known, and it can be experienced after talking to one person, or many, for a long time.
Being on social networks, or answering messages, can also make a person feel fatigued.
Video calls, and virtual meetings, require a new level of energy and specifically for those who understand little about technology. Having to initiate a call, log in via a link, or having to enter a code or password can cause people a lot of stress.
Social fatigue can wear us out and stress us out, as it affects energy levels.
This type of fatigue involves emotions that we have felt at some point in our lives, such as sadness, anger and frustration.
These emotions can emerge from the tiredness of the working day and can be escalated during work meetings, whether virtual or face-to-face. The feeling that these meetings delay the tasks that we have to perform can create stress because we don’t achieve the goals of the workday.
This type of fatigue can be due to the physical activities that we do on a daily basis. And not only fun activities or those that we enjoy, such as going to the gym, dance classes, etc.
Having a physical place to go to work and getting up early, travelling to the office, and traffic, among others, are all activities that cause physical fatigue and can affect the working day.
When we talk about pain, we can talk about several pains, and they are different for each person. Trying to explain to another person one’s own pain can be exhausting.
Knowing that you have a work meeting can cause you to have a bad night’s sleep, which generates fatigue the next day. The performance of a person who did not sleep well probably won’t be that good, since he/she will not have the energy to be active during the meeting.
This fatigue can be caused by many day-to-day situations. Having to solve problems, being involved in work problems, and answering questions, among others, can cause very strong mental fatigue. And it is very important to know that if these activities are performed late at night, it is very difficult for the brain to disconnect, therefore, it is difficult to have a good rest.
Lack of sleep and mental fatigue will cause fatigue the next day, and we will not have enough energy to be active in our work.
How to combat meeting fatigue?
There are different ways a company can combat meeting fatigue. Below are five ways to fight it.
Keep meetings short
The time of meetings should always be kept in mind. Nowadays, they are usually one hour long and there is at least one meeting per day.
It is recommended to shorten meetings to 45 or 30 minutes to give employees more flexibility and if you have another meeting on the same day, you can have a break between each meeting. Consideration should be given to holding shorter stand-up meetings for team discussions.
Reduce the number of meetings
Each employee usually has daily meetings that correspond to his/her area of work, and more general meetings also arise. Therefore, it is important not to have too many meetings on the same day, especially if the meetings are virtual, since they generate a great deal of mental and physical fatigue.
Using team collaboration software where everyone has access to keep track of the agendas of all participants and set up meetings when it is most convenient according to the agendas is recommended.
It is not always necessary for everyone in the meeting to have their cameras on, especially when there are a lot of participants.
You, as a meeting host, can tell employees to turn off the cameras if they feel tired, or want to walk around or eat something while in the meeting, but it is important that they participate by audio.
As mentioned above, you can have applications that allow you to view agendas and see when there is an overflow of meetings. When this happens, it is recommended to use breaks of 10, 15 or even 30 minutes between meetings.
This is recommended so that each individual can be 100% focused on the meeting. If they have one after another, they will be exhausted and will not participate in all of them.
Improve video experience
Technology is advancing all the time and there are always new features and applications being enhanced.
For an effective virtual meeting, it is recommended to:
- Use new features that appear in applications to reduce background noise and improve visual presentation.
- Use high-quality audio and life devices to improve lighting, acoustics, and framing, among others.
- Have good Internet so that software work in the best possible way.
Read more about How To Run Effective Virtual Meetings
Change of mentality to put an end to meeting fatigue
While you prepare for virtual meetings and make sure you have everything in order and make sure you have enough breaks so that participants are not fatigued, these are all temporary solutions. The quote from author Anthony J. D’Angelo describes it best:
Today, the Zoom platform is one of the best-known and most used by all those who have virtual meetings. And as we already know, these cause a lot of fatigue in team members. Below, we will explain how to avoid fatigue once and for all.
Make an overview of all Zoom calls
You need to go through your calendars and make an overview of all your video calls. Note how many calls you have in a day, a week, or a month. In addition, check whether there are daily or weekly calls that can be deleted completely.
While doing the call overview, keep in mind that if you are organizing a retrospective meeting, include a section on how to improve overall communication.
Use asynchronous communication
Asynchronous communication is recommended for avoiding too many virtual meetings, which can lead to burnout. This means data communication that is not synchronized in real-time.
Read more about Asynchronous Communication
Some examples of asynchronous communication
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Consider a position or career change
If you have already done everything possible to cut out virtual calls and you are using more asynchronous communications and are still experiencing meeting fatigue, it may be time to make another change. If you are someone who finds virtual meetings exhausting, you may want to check with your HR department to see if it is possible to change your role.
According to CNBC, “Some people have as many as 9 or 10 video meetings in a day”. This can happen to those in a senior position such as a CEO, a manager or or an employee from sales department (2).
The goal is to enjoy the work and not end up exhausted at the end of the day. Always listen to your body, take care of your mental and physical health and make a decision about it.
In this article we discussed meeting fatigue, how to deal with it and what are its main causes in the workplace. A manager needs to take into account the situation of the employees he/she interacts with and, based on this, make new decisions on the number of meetings that can be held. This will help employees to be more motivated and to meet their day-to-day objectives.
1. Hughes, O. (2020, October 28). Watch out Zoom: Microsoft Teams now has more than 115 million daily users. Retrieved September 16, 2022, from https://www.techrepublic.com/article/watch-out-zoom-microsoft-teams-now-has-more-than-115-million-daily-users/
2. Leswing, K. (2021, February 25). Why we’re experiencing ‘Zoom fatigue’ and how to fix it. TECH Why we’re experiencing ‘Zoom fatigue’ and how to fix it. Retrieved September 19, 2022, from https://www.cnbc.com/2021/02/25/zoom-fatigue-why-we-have-it-how-to-fix-it.html