We all know the pain of attending what seems to be an endless stream of meetings. And it’s even worse if those meetings are ones that do not bring in additional benefit and simply take our precious time away. With most of the teams working remotely these days, the issue of too many meetings has only grown stronger. So how do you keep up with your team without creating virtual meeting fatigue? Let’s see.
The issue with virtual meetings
Even before the global pandemic and the rise of remote teamwork, the issue of too many meetings was felt in many companies. According to a survey done by Attentiv, there are 11 million meetings held in the United States every single day and what is more worrisome, 33% of these meetings are wasted and considered unproductive. This is due to a variety of underlying issues like not setting a clear agenda, having too many people, taking too much time, or simply not facilitating a discussion between the participants.
According to GeekBot, these and other reasons result in disappointment, disengagement from employees, and reduced work-life balance. Which in turn means that future meetings become even more unproductive. No one wants to spend half of their workday listening to something that could have been sent as a memo or possibly does not relate to them at all. And once you get used to this type of meeting culture it becomes harder and harder to get hopeful about any other future gatherings.
Many companies have recognized and developed certain tactics to deal with these issues. However, with most teams moving to remote collaboration new challenges arise bringing forth virtual meeting fatigue.
Virtual meeting fatigue
The issues that companies previously had with the meeting culture have only been worsened by moving to a remote environment. Managers and stakeholders have lost the ability to see their teams in action and thus are trying to replace this by adding more and more virtual meetings. While keeping in touch with your team is great for the company and morale, there is a delicate balance that has to be struck for them to stay effective.
According to HR Executive, 38% of employees feel exhausted after a full week of virtual meetings and 30% end up feeling stressed. Which leaves them in no condition to perform and produce the desired results for their company. What’s worse, the average cost of each meeting is around 300 euros. Meaning the company is creating virtual meeting fatigue for their employees and losing money at the same time.
The good news is that this does not have to be your reality. By taking 5 simple steps, you can improve the virtual meeting culture and boost morale.
1 – Limit the number of people
When talking about meetings, it is important to understand that they can only be effective for a certain number of people. Jeff Bezos has a rule that two pizzas should feed everyone in the meeting. And this does not account for any diets certain team members might be going through. While virtual meetings are a little different, efficiency also suffers when there are too many people in attendance.
A good target number could be no more than 7 people in any meeting. Of course, the final count of attendees will depend on the type of meeting and the main goal. However, if you are unsure, it is better to include less rather than too many attendees.
Another good rule of thumb is thinking about what output you wish to get from each person in the meeting? Do they have to be there or can you simply send an e-mail updating on the outcome? To make the meeting interesting and engaging everyone present should be a part of it and not just an audience member.
2 – Limit the amount of time
Another common cause for meeting fatigue is the time it takes out of the people’s day. Having to sit in video conferences all day is draining even for the most communicative team members and should be limited to only what is actually efficient. Just like with regular meetings, we are too used to setting 30-60 minute windows for our video conferences. When the actual issues can be discussed in a much shorter time. So try and set your virtual meetings for 20-40 minutes and if you feel like the goal is reached – end them early.
Having shorter meetings will allow your team members to breathe in between and not to jump from one video call to another all day. Thus, letting them feel more productive and in control of their other responsibilities.
3 – Limit the topics
Since gathering your remote team may be somewhat of a bigger issue compared to when you were all in the same office, you may be tempted to discuss as many topics as possible. And as much as you would like to get everything sorted, putting too many things in can become a problem.
Instead of shuffling every little issue into one meeting, limit the number of topics to at most 3 per meeting. This will allow you to actually solve the three most important questions and then organize another meeting for the remaining topics. Limiting the issues discussed in a meeting will allow you to stay true to the set time. It will also let you invite just the right people each time and get a more productive outcome. Meaning your employees would have fewer meetings overall and would not be exposed to such high virtual meeting fatigue.
Using project management tools like Teamhood can help you determine which topics and people to include in each meeting. By checking who on the team is working on each specific issue.
4 – Stick to the agenda
One more thing most managers out there should note is that sticking to the agenda is crucial. Whether it is an office or a virtual meeting, veering off-topic can happen very easily. When it does, you no longer have control of what is being achieved and how long it takes. Surely, you have attended a meeting that should have taken 30 minutes and instead lasted 2 hours. Would you like to repeat it?
Sticking to the set agenda is even more important when we talk about virtual meetings since everyone is working on their own schedule. By going off-topic, you risk that the actual priority issues are not solved, time is wasted, and the project cannot move forward. This means the meeting just became pointless and your team members are left with a worse case of virtual meeting fatigue.
5 – Check-in individually
Lastly, virtual meetings are set not only to take care of business but to also check in on your team morale and spirits. Working remotely, especially if you haven’t before can feel lonely, and providing simple human contact becomes another task remote team managers have to keep in mind.
To help break up the pattern of the team meetings, organize quick weekly individual check-ins with your team members. 5-10 minutes on how they are doing, are they facing any challenges, and how can you or the company help them. Ask their opinion on how to beat virtual meeting fatigue and make sure this meeting is about them, not about the work they are doing. Setting such short check-ins will help your team members feel more appreciated and part of a larger goal the company is trying to reach.
Also, consider organizing fun meetings with the whole team from time to time. Here is a list of remote team-building games you can play over a video call.
As most of the teams continue working remotely, virtual meetings have become the new norm for communication. While this is a great tool to keep in touch and coordinate efforts, setting too many video conferences can start affecting your colleagues negatively. Attending long and numerous meetings start to feel pointless and the virtual meeting fatigue sets in.
Make sure you are not a victim of this by setting clear topics, and duration, and picking the right attendees. Make your meetings effective, keep to the rule of ‘Less is more’ and implement asynchronous communication practices to win against virtual meeting fatigue.
Passionate content marketer looking to bring better solutions to the project management space.
2020 - Present Marketing specialist at Teamhood.
2014 - 2020 Marketing manager for Eylean.