Zoom or Microsoft Teams meetings are imperative when your team is remote (by design or by necessity). But anyone who has spent hours a day meeting online knows that online interaction can be exhausting. Online meetings require us to concentrate harder, with fewer nonverbal cues to help us contextualize information. Even accommodating the short delay between speakers takes energy, as we hyperfocus on ensuring that we aren’t interrupting each other or that we aren’t being interrupted by a zealous or impatient teammate.
Some team members will be well-equipped for remote meetings with the best hardware, a quiet office, and no children or family members to disrupt their online meetings. Others are facing unprecedented hardships as they attempt to navigate work in a less-than-ideal space. For those team members, paying attention to a remote meeting requires expending a lot more energy than they would in person.
As your team continues remote work, here are three ways to ensure that you aren’t burning them out with online meetings:
- Create detailed agendas with one specific objective per meeting
All good meetings require an agenda, whether the meeting is online or happening face-to-face. But a detailed and pared-down agenda is absolutely imperative for an online meeting. Your agenda should include only one specific outcome you hope to achieve. That outcome might be to make decision, complete a task, explain a complex process or idea, or gather information. Whatever your outcome is, be sure everyone knows what it is before you begin the meeting and be clear about how participants can prepare prior to the meeting.
2. Use other tools for holding complex discussions and making announcements
Video meetings are great for short discussions where the subject matter is not particularly nuanced, emotional, or complicated. If a discussion requires complex thinking, use other tools. You may begin with collecting email responses or starting threaded discussions, using a communication platform like Slack, after breaking down the subject into more manageable pieces. You might also do small-group phone calls (with no more than 3 people). Because your team may struggle to engage in deep thinking in a video meeting, assume that you aren’t ready for that meeting until all the most difficult thinking has been done using small groups and/or asynchronous channels.
If you have an announcement to make, do so using email, a newsletter, or Slack. Scheduling video meetings takes time. Don’t fill up calendars with meetings if you can find another way to deliver the information. Simple announcements don’t require a meeting.
- Make (most) meetings optional
It might be tempting to require your team to attend all meetings, but it’s worth considering whether everyone really needs to attend. Some people need (and even enjoy) meetings as a way to connect with each other. For those people, meetings are usually welcome and energizing. For other people, meetings suck time and energy. They can just as easily find the information they need (and remain connected to the team) using other methods. Make it easier for those team members to get information by posting meeting agendas and minutes, allowing everyone to work in whatever modality works best for them. Resist the notion that by requiring attendance you are building connection and organizational culture; instead, remember that a strong team culture is built upon a variety of connection points.
Whether your team is working remotely on a permanent or temporary basis, how you establish your video meeting culture can have long-lasting effects on efficiency and productivity. Online meetings can be exhausting in even the best of circumstances. Do what you can to eliminate stress and create a working environment that’s flexible, supportive, and productive.
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