How to Beat Virtual Meeting Fatigue

As the pandemic wears on, all of us have become well acquainted with virtual meetings. We appreciate their ability to help us stay connected, coordinated and in touch while working from home.

Yet at the same time, virtual meetings can feel tiring and draining. What is it about this wonderful technology that can go so awry, and how can managers ensure that virtual meetings are a positive part of everyone’s day?

The Causes of Virtual Meeting Fatigue

It comes down to face time: specifically, getting too much or too little.

On the “too much” side, the fact is that having a conversation with a grid of faces staring back at you is a form of overstimulation. It creates the illusion that everyone is staring at you even if their attention is focused on the person speaking while forcing you to see and process everyone else’s face at the same time.

Compounding this, watching your own face in real time causes a level of hyperawareness that interferes with how you naturally emote.

It takes a lot of effort to process that much stimulus while still thinking critically and communicating effectively, leading many to feel more tired after a virtual meeting than they would in person.

On the “too little” side we have meetings that are voice-only with no video chat component. While this addresses the issue of too much stimulus, it robs you of the visual cues you rely on to read the room, such as body language and facial expressions. This causes stress when trying to determine if everyone is on the same page or responding favorably.

No One-Size-Fits-All Solution

It should come as no surprise that different people have different preferences: some thrive in the more detached setting of a voice-only call, while others feel lost without some form of eye contact.

Divergent preferences even extend to how the meeting itself is conducted. Do you spend time on idle chitchat to give your team an opportunity to bond, or do you stick to the business at hand and make the meeting as short as possible? Is it better to hold meetings in the morning or the afternoon? Ask 10 employees and you’ll likely get a dozen answers.

Find out how your team is doing by completing our Virtual Team Performance Survey and receive a free 45-minute mentoring session.

Embrace Virtual Meeting Flexibility

Every team is different, and so will the types of meetings that work best for each unique group of people. A great place to start is to ask your team what their ideal virtual meeting looks like. Great questions include:

• How helpful are our meetings?
• What works well and what works poorly? What should we do differently?
• When would you prefer our meetings take place, and how long should they be?
• How often should we meet?
• Would you benefit from days or time blocks with no meetings?
• If you were to lead the meeting, what would you do differently?

You’ll likely get a variety of answers from your team, with no easy solutions. And that’s ok!

Look for patterns in their answers and experiment with different approaches. You may find that some types of meetings work better over video chat while for others, voice-only suffices. You may need to mix up different approaches to rotate which employees experience their ideal meeting, ensuring that everybody gets a break from meeting fatigue.

The most important thing is to solicit your team’s feedback and try new approaches until you find a formula that works. The very act of taking the time to do this shows your team that you care and bolsters their morale, making them more open to working with you to make your meetings a success.

Want to learn more about virtual meetings? Read our article on The Science of the Perfect Virtual Meeting to get started!